WASHINGTON — Government actions head a list of topics that will affect the baking industry in 2023, according to the American Bakers Association. Industry also should be ready for supply chain hurdles, workforce issues, consumer perceptions and regenerative agriculture.

Several government rulings could come during the year. Congress will debate the farm bill in 2023. It will address federal feeding programs, the Conservation Reserve Program, sugar reform, wheat quality issues and regenerative agriculture. A proposed rule from the US Environmental Protection Agency on the 2023-25 Renewable Volume Obligation levels for biodiesel and renewable diesel will impact the availability of vegetable oils for the food industry. The US Food and Drug Administration’s proposed definition for “healthy” will impact labeling and formulations of baked foods.

“It will be more important than ever for ABA and the baking industry to be focused on our messaging to Congress and federal agencies to paint a picture of how policy initiatives will impact bakers, workers and consumers,” said Lee Sanders, senior vice president, government relations and public affairs for the ABA.

Supply chain challenges are being exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, weakness in the US wheat crop, and the diversion of agricultural land for soybean and corn for biofuels.

“The industry should take opportunities to educate consumers about the reasons for supply problems and higher prices and engage in 2023 farm bill discussions to make progress with commodities and other areas,” said Robb MacKie, who closed out his tenure as ABA’s president and chief executive officer at the end of 2022.

Workforce issues include the Biden administration’s proposal on independent contractors. The ABA will comment on the proposal, said Lauren Williams, director, government relations. A new overtime proposal could be issued in 2023 as well. The ABA plans to focus on DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), NextGenBaker, and expanding the pool of workers through outreach and messaging, said Christina Donnelly, ABA’s director of industry relations and strategic initiatives.

Consumers view baked foods as affordable indulgences even in the face of higher food prices, according to a study called “Life through the lens of bakery,” which the ABA unveiled through a partnership with 210 Analytics and was made possible by Corbion. The baking industry should consider how to reach consumers in ways that drive penetration into the foodservice and grocery channels, including through online shopping, Ms. Donnelly said.

Regenerative agriculture centers on the need for growers to take up practices that leave the soil in better condition. An educational session by Ardent Mills covered the topic at the International Baking Industry Exposition held in September in Las Vegas.

“There’s an opportunity to come together, find synergies and determine what role each part of the baking sector — from grower to miller to baker — can play,” said Rasma Zvaners, vice president, regulatory and technical services for the ABA, at the Ardent Mills’ session.

The ABA is surveying its members to determine how to enhance industry sustainability efforts.