NAFTA revamp, regulations top US feed industry concerns for 2018

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/alex_skp
© GettyImages/alex_skp

Related tags Feed industry North american free trade agreement Regulation Better Afia

Trade deals, regulatory revisions and consumer outreach top the list of priorities for US feed industry organizations over the next 12 months.

Representatives of the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and the US National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) talked to us in December about the challenges and opportunities the US feed sector can expect in 2018.

This year is expected to be an active one, said Joel Newman, CEO of AFIA.

On the economic side, there has been an uplift, he said. “We’re ending the year [2017] on a high note in that perspective."

In terms of regulation, he was clear about AFIA's objectives.

“We’re supportive of regulation that is effective, meets its objectives and assures the safety of food is something that [consumers] can depend on,” ​he said. “But what we’re working toward is trying to change or adapt regulations that are impractical.”

There are elements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that the association would like to see addressed that it claims do not provide greater benefit or safety to consumers but result in increased process steps and expenses.

David Fairfield, senior vice president of feed services with NGFA, said that trade group is also looking for FSMA revisions: “As an association that represents grain handlers, we would like the FDA to take another look at those [areas] that should apply to grain elevators,”​ he added.

Some of the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) and preventive controls outlined in FSMA are being applied in an inconsistent manner when it comes to grain operations, and are creating economic burdens for that sector, he said.  

Looking forward, the association wants to see some changes regarding issues related to transporting feed and grain within the US, said Randy Gordon, president of NGFA. On the infrastructure side of that effort, the association has been pushing for increased work to modernize transportation routes and is awaiting moves by the Surface Transportation Board.

“NGFA has been very actively involved in working to try and advance the deteriorating locks and dams on the Illinois and Mississippi river systems,” ​he told us. “The unplanned stoppages have expanded 700% in the last decade we’re really sitting on a ticking time bomb.”

NAFTA and trade

Looking at the ongoing process of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation, the AFIA is adamant that any revisions would benefit the country, the feed industry and consumers – it does not want to see the administration walk away from that agreement.

“It’s extremely important to this country – it [involves] our number one and number two trading partners in the world and they are our neighbors​.

The hope is that the NAFTA negotiations will be completed in the coming year in a manner satisfactory to all three countries, he said. Looking forward, the AFIA is hoping to hear more about how to improve trade in the future in regions once covered by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

NAFTA could look to improve regulatory acceptance systems across countries, said Gordon.

Antibiotic alternatives

The regulatory process used to approve feed ingredients could be improved, said Fairfield. 

It is important to find additional alternative products to the use of medically important antimicrobials in livestock production, he said. The industry understands the need for judicious use, but one of the obstacles to adopting new technologies is the regulatory process.

“Technology is improving, and there are additives that could be made available – 2018 will be another year where advancements are made in technology,” ​he said. “We hope that there’s an avenue to gain recognition to come to use [them] in the industry.”

Consumer outreach

Newman said the AFIA is focusing on the role of the consumer and ways to optimize industry’s outreach approaches.

“We’re concerned that there is a lot of messaging out there to consumers that is inaccurate and is quite disparaging to the food industry in total, and we’re part of that,” ​he said.

“We’re working on a strategy that will encourage maintaining choice for all consumers, whatever choice they’d like to invest their food dollars in, and maintaining the acceptance of safe and tested new technologies,” ​he added. “Continue the progress and bring in new and different choices and environmental sustainability, and to do a much better job as an industry in telling our side of the story – we’ve let too many other people speak up on our behalf.”

The industry needs to do a better job of explaining how it operates, he said. That way consumers can better understand the positive changes that have been made to improve the feed sector’s interaction with the environment, including air emissions, land and water use.

The NGFA has recently finished writing its new long-term plan which includes a section on improved consumer outreach, said Gordon. The issue is one of increasing importance.

“One of the major thrusts in the long-range plan is to get more involved in consumer outreach,” ​he said. “Talking about modern agriculture practices that hopefully will resonate.”

Similarly, the NGFA has started an alliance with the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), said Gordon. The program is looking to improve industry outreach on safety and employee training.

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