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Letter from Senator Rockefeller

United States Senate
WASHINGTON, DC 20510-4802
September 12, 2002

Dear Robert,

     Thank you for being in touch with me about my work to protect small businesses in West Virginia that make and distribute pepperoni rolls. I always enjoy hearing from fellow West Virginians.

     Though it has been over a decade ago, I'm still very proud of my role in helping to save several family-owned businesses through aiding this small, yet incredibly important industry. West Virginians are hardworking, strong people, who consistently generate fresh and innovative ideas. The pepperoni roll was born in our state because of these virtues.

     My role in assisting the industry began in 1987 when, I was contacted by several pepperoni roll producers concerning a notification sent to them from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The notification was to inform them about a rule change the USDA was implementing that would re-classify these mostly small, family-owned bakeries as meat packers. This change in designation would require them to meet the more stringent safety and sanitation standards that meat processing businesses must follow.

     You may already know that the pepperoni used to make a pepperoni roll is already certified by the USDA before the bakeries slice it for their rolls. Regardless of this point, many costly changes would have been necessary in order for the pepperoni roll producers to be able to adhere to the sanitation standards imposed by the USDA. For instance, any facility that used pepperoni in their baked products would have had to install concrete floors with drains for hosing down the surfaces. Costs associated with meeting the new classification requirements were estimated to exceed $100,000 or more, potentially delivering a devastating blow not only to the future existence of the West, Virginia pepperoni roll, but more importantly, to the family-owned businesses that produce them. Because of the proposed classification, the pepperoni roll may have ceased to exist.

     After learning of this development, I personally contacted the then-Secretary of Agriculture Richard Lyng to let him know that this decision would severely affect their ability to continue to operate. I subsequently requested a meeting to further discuss the decision's impact. Soon afterward, I received word from the Secretary that he understood the concern about the proposed classification and as a result, had decided that the USDA would hold bakeries that produce pepperoni rolls accountable only to existing inspection standards. This enabled the bakeries to continue making their signature product which accounted for much of their revenue - signifying a big, victory for these small businesses in the state.

     Country Club, Tomarro's, and Chico's Dairy are only a few names that may not have been in business today if the proposed change had been implemented. I was proud to have had the opportunity to be involved in such a huge victory for pepperoni roll makers in the state. Today, the pepperoni roll is as popular as ever, and is enjoyed everyday throughout West Virginia and the states to which are bakeries presently supply.

Thanks again for being in touch. As always, my best wishes to you.

John D. Rockefeller IV

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