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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the wake of rising gas and food prices impacting the restaurant industry, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) is calling on Congress to revisit food-to-fuel mandates proposed in the last year that promote the use of recyclable restaurant oil, while safeguarding against price distortions in the food supply.
The association said its most recent monthly survey of restaurateurs showed that operators are greatly worried about increasing wholesale food and commodity prices, with 21 percent of respondents identifying food costs as their top challenge.
According to the NRA, several factors are contributing to the dramatic rise in food costs, including higher oil and energy prices; the growing global demand from rapidly developing economies; a weak U.S. dollar; and the diversion of a larger share of the grain market into fuel production. Federal government policies encouraging the diversion of food to fuel is the only factor the U.S. government can change, the NRA stated.
In an effort to encourage Congress to revisit these policies, the NRA announced it has joined the Food Before Fuel Campaign -- a partnership of more than 20 environmental, retail, hunger, Hispanic and food industry groups created to urge public officials to revisit and restructure mandates, subsidies and tariffs to reduce dependence on food as an energy source, and to accelerate the development of alternative fuels that do not pit the nation's energy needs against the needs of the hungry and the environment.
"America's restaurants are facing a sluggish economy, high gas prices, and skyrocketing food prices -- now regarded by many of our members as the No. 1 threat to their businesses," said Michelle Reinke, director of legislative affairs for the NRA. "Food and beverage costs account for 33 cents of every dollar in restaurant sales. In an industry operating on slim margins, these drastic price increases are a real challenge."
The NRA said it supports the development of efficient renewable fuels, including promoting the use of recyclable restaurant oil, while safeguarding against price distortions in the food supply. Before Congress passed and the President signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the association expressed deep concern that the rapid increase in the renewable fuel standard would have unintended consequences on food prices and suggested that a more cautious approach should be pursued.
The NRA is comprised of 945,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets.