Health care costs could put strain on smaller processors    

Manufacturers are cautioning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to rethink the direction of the current health care reform debate. The National Association of Manufacturers says 97 percent of its members currently provide health benefits to employees and have expressed a desire to continue doing so.

“Unfortunately, the Senate bill released by Majority Leader Reid and the bill passed by the House of Representatives add massive additional financial burdens to businesses that are already struggling in this recession,” said NAM President John Engler.

Engler said placing a new surtax on wage income in excess of $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples, proposed as a means to help pay the costs of the program, would place a huge burden on small businesses that are organized as “S” corporations. Engler said nearly 70 percent of all manufacturers are organized as “S” corporations or other flow-through entities and pay income taxes at the individual rate.

“The creation of a new surtax is very troubling for these business owners,” he said.

Food safety updates pass both Houses of Congress    

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 retained the support of broad segments of the food industry as it passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in late November.

Fourteen industry groups praised the bill and the lawmakers who made revisions to the measure in response to testimony at hearings.

“It reflects broad input from the food industry, consumer groups and many other stakeholders,” said Ruth Saunders, an executive with the International Dairy Foods Association, one of the industry groups supporting the bill.

There’s one significant difference between the Senate version of the bill and the House version of similar legislation that passed in July.

The House bill would increase funds for food safety measures by assessing fees on food companies. In the Senate bill, the costs would be paid by taxpayers. The full Senate is expected to act early next year.