A barometer of change: What is the current state of the US feed industry?

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/clu
© GettyImages/clu

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The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) has released a review of the US feed and pet food industries, recent challenges, along with potential growth opportunities.

The idea of the AFIA report​, which is an annual publication, is to give an overview of those sectors’ impact on the US economy, its efforts to promote feed safety and worker health and safety, and the initiatives in play aimed at boosting those industries’ global competitiveness and environmental sustainability programs.

Global, and sometimes unexpected, turmoil continued throughout 2021 and into 2022, but through it all, our industry stayed strong, worked together and formed new partnerships,”​ said AFIA CEO, Constance Cullman.    

Disruptions in the supply chain will inevitably continue throughout 2022 and unfortunately into 2023, she said. “But so too will our commitment to work with industry partners and governments around the world to resolve bottlenecks, identify new opportunities and navigate the global uncertainties posed by pandemics, production shortages and political unrest.

Transportation hurdles 

The review, which concentrates on work completed during AFIA’s fiscal year from May 1, 2021, through to April 30, 2022, discusses the business climate for US feed manufacturers, including how they are managing problems with shipping delays and maintaining a stable workforce.

Problems shipping via the nation’s highways, railways and ports have increased feed manufacturers’ costs for doing business and delayed essential feed deliveries, in some cases at the risk of farm animal welfare, noted the trade group.

Over the past year, the AFIA joined other food and agricultural associations in communicating these challenges to the Biden administration as part of President Joe Biden’s directive on America’s supply chains. These efforts successfully led to the Federal Maritime Commission gaining greater authority to crack down on bad foreign actors that are imposing hundreds of millions of dollars of punitive charges on US agricultural commodity exports from US ports and increased funding to support domestic infrastructure revitalization.”

The American Trucking Associations estimates that the trucking industry will need to hire 1.1 million new drivers over the next decade – an average of 110,000 annually – to replace retiring drivers and keep up with economic growth. The AFIA’s report outlined how it fought hard for establishing a pilot program within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration aimed at allowing employers to create apprenticeship programs for 18-20-year-old drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.  

Feed legislation 

The report also documents efforts to remove regulatory hurdles slowing the approval of new feed ingredients or ones that could stymie trade of feed-based products.

In addition, the overview noted how the AFIA joined 15 industry organizations and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to implore state agricultural leaders and policymakers to cease and desist enacting a hodgepodge of state regulations on the use of hemp in feed until the proper federal regulatory reviews are completed to avoid confusion and restrictions in interstate commerce.

The review evaluates best practice in terms of management of feed safety and animal health risks as well, including the return to in-person, routine regulatory reviews:

“The AFIA has been communicating to members about the ways they can improve compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements, including preparing for the Food and Drug Administration’s new comprehensive inspection approach, where state and federal inspectors cover multiple inspections at once, improving efficiency and reducing facility down time.”

Disease threats 

The trade representatives have also been engaging in ways to improve how disease threats are mitigated:

Working with the pork industry and the Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER), the AFIA said it commissioned a study to evaluate methods for disinfecting feed manufacturing facilities, particularly equipment that is not meant to be disinfected. “Efforts are also underway to work with the federal government to minimize trade disruptions in the event of an ASF outbreak.

US industry competitiveness

The trade group also highlighted the work done to maintain US competitiveness amid global pressures, including the industry’s response to the Russia-Ukraine war, the priorities for US agricultural trade policy, including identifying areas where the Biden administration should focus, such as increasing market access in China, Vietnam and Brazil and the industry’s stance in international dialogues, to ensure these fora prioritize science and innovation and do not unnecessarily restrict consumer diet choices.

The US Congress and administration took notice when farmers, ranchers, agribusiness and environmental groups joined us in calling for much-needed regulatory improvements and modern trade policies to ensure they are not left behind as other countries move forward with new feed technologies,”​ Cullman said. “The UN took notice when the US food and agriculture supply chain was joined by its counterparts around the world in calling for a positive dialogue about sustainable agriculture production, one that discussed real solutions and challenges and valued innovation, instead of one that looked to undo years of scientific progress.”

Data disclosure 

The Biden administration is focusing on climate change, and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) recently released a proposal to require publicly traded companies to disclose certain climate-related information, including corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) data.

That proposal followed an executive order US President Biden issued, which aims to integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) reforms throughout the federal government to address climate change. The AFIA revealed its concerns, though, about some aspects of such data disclosure requirements.

“While our industry is working diligently to decrease its environmental footprint, substantiation for ESG claims and emissions targets are difficult to quantify and companies may face potential liabilities if such disclosures are false or misleading to investors or consumers. The AFIA has voiced concerns to the SEC to evaluate the burdens and costs it could place on non-registrant, value chain participants, who may not currently have the resources to provide robust emissions data.”​ 

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