As we begin 2018 I believe the outlook for the independent processor and AAMP continues to be one of opportunity. Members I have spoken with continue to report strong sales and increasing numbers of opportunities to grow. I believe that there are still some obstacles we will face when it comes to regulatory issues, but I also feel that we will continue to have a more business-friendly atmosphere in the coming year. I have listed below some of the areas I feel will directly affect you in your business in the coming year.

1.  The local food movement continues to be a great thing for our members as people continue to look to buy local and go to small butchers for their protein needs. They desire to know where their food comes from, and they’re feeling more comfortable buying from someone local they can talk with rather than a big store. Right or wrong, they feel they get a higher quality of meat or protein from the small processors versus the larger ones. This opportunity continues to grow because of the hard work you have put in to give customers a quality product at a good price; consumers see that and become repeat customers.

2.  I think the new administration has driven a more pro-business agenda in Washington, and this is good for our members. The newly passed and signed tax bill should benefit each of you not only in your business, but also personally. The new tax bill will lower corporate tax rates to 21%, and for those who are smaller private companies like LLCs your rate for deduction is now up to 20%. Lowering business taxes and regulations will allow businesses to grow and keep more of their profits in the business to invest in new equipment and employee benefits.

3.  AAMP is still very interested in who will become the permanent appointments with in USDA by the new administration and the affects they could have on the industry.  Currently both the Under Secretary for Food Safety and the FSIS Administrator have titles of Acting, which means they are not permanent as of this writing and could be replaced by someone else at any point. Our hope is that the new undersecretary would work with FSIS to focus on regulations that affect food safety rather than regulations that have nothing to do with food safety. Our meeting with FSIS in the fall laid the groundwork for future discussions and involvement in the regulatory process, but we have not seen much done since the meeting. We will reach out to FSIS again as the New Year begins to express our desires to be involved and discuss current issues that need to be changed.

4.  There is also a good opportunity for a strong voice on Capitol Hill as we continue to work with members of Congress on new legislation that will hopefully strip away some of the burden placed on small processors as well as open new opportunities. AAMP has established a good relationship and open dialogue with some Congressional members and their staffs this fall, and we will continue to keep the lines of communication open as we work to give small processors a stronger voice.

5.  We continue to face challenges on the state level, and I feel this will be one of our greatest obstacles moving forward in 2018. There is a lot of work to be done in individual states with their meat inspection programs to ensure that members are being treated fairly and not singled out and made examples of by state program personnel. There is a lot of good work being done by most state inspection programs, and we have a great relationship with them as we work together to ensure the success of processors in those states, but there are some we will continue to reach out to make sure we see positive change taking place.

In conclusion, I believe 2018 offers tremendous opportunity for Independent Processors and members of AAMP and we are excited to represent such a great group of businesses. The association continues to grow in numbers and influence and will be here for you when you need us.