Grain News

American Feed Industry Association Holds First Executive Leadership Summit in Dana Point, CA

Date Posted: October 29, 2007

Arlington, VA--The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) attracted top industry executives from around the nation and internationally to its first-ever Executive Leadership Summit, Oct. 19-20, at Dana Point, CA, to hear invaluable insights on feed industry issues.

AFIA President Joel Newman presided over the Summit.

“This conference represents an unparalleled forum for bringing together the industry’s most influential leaders on the industry’s most pressing developments, not only to address those crucial topics but also to look ahead to where those developments may lead and how we may impact them today,” he said in opening the meeting.

Initial feedback from registrants has been outstanding, echoing the sentiments of AFIA Chairman Jim Sullivan who stated, “With the importance of the topics, the quality of speakers and the group discussion, the Executive Leadership Summit provided me with the most take away value of any conference I have attended.”

October 19

The Honorable Bruce Knight, undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs at USDA, keynoted the event by focusing on the Department’s “Vision for U.S. Agriculture.”

He provided an optimistic perspective on the U.S. Farm bill, saying that he has never seen “a better climate for meaningful reform.”

“These reforms,” he indicated, “are required to provide the new policies that will lead us into the next century.”

The undersecretary complimented AFIA on input it provided toward composing the new farm bill.

“What we must do is to find the right balances between feed and fuel that will benefit everyone.”

On the subject of trade, Undersecretary Knight also applauded AFIA for contributions to recent free trade agreements.

These involved Columbia, Peru, Panama and Korea.

“These are extremely important to agriculture,” he said.

“Exports can never guarantee prosperity; but you can never have prosperity here without exports.”

AFIA’s leadership in the food safety area was also acknowledged by Undersecretary Knight, one of several summit speakers to do so.

“The Association’s emphasis on food safety and employing voluntary measures to reinforce the nation’s safety effort and working with the Food and Drug Administration are exemplary,” he stated.

A blue ribbon panel followed on “Bio-Fuels Effects on Global Food Production” featuring Dr. Dermot Hayes, professor, pioneer chair in agribusiness, Department of Economics, Iowa State U.; Bill Jones, chairman of Pacific Ethanol, Inc.; and Richard L. Bond, president/CEO, Tyson Foods.

Panel members agreed that the nation’s oil policy must be aimed at reducing dependency on foreign supplies.

But, the U.S. still needs an agricultural policy that generates all food necessary for human consumption.

Tyson President Bond stated that the nation must keep its “playing fields level and still look at all ways of reducing our dependency on foreign oil.

Yet, we must be very careful in the kinds of demands government places on the industry.

"We cannot afford to lose our crop advantage; otherwise we will end up importing food.”

A second panel focused on “Trends Driving the Food Business.”

Speakers included Larry DeVries, vice president concept and menu development, McDonald’s Corporation and Allan Noddle, executive vice president, Royal Ahold.

Peter Richter, vice president, Cargill’s McDonald’s Business Unit, served as moderator.

Larry DeVries reported that McDonald’s today serves over 50 million consumers around the world.

“Glocal” is the term he used to describe the world as becoming one interconnected neighborhood.

"The changes that drive the corporations are consumer trends and concerns.

"He underlined three Ts that will determine the food manufacturer’s future as being: time, taste and trust.

DeVries singled out “traceability of products” as a crucial issue.

“Sustainability is critical for us: assured supply, brand trust and doing the right thing.

"We must continue to supply high quality ingredients; but, need your (the feed industry’s) help.”

Allan Noddle put food safety at the top of the list of consumer concerns.

He mentioned certification as a potential solution to the import situation and predicted that the future of food retailing will see only four or five major surviving global players.

Noddle provided a detailed “state of the industry” perspective on food retailing including the trend of consolidation, the growth of the discount sector, massive investment in technology, sustainability and food safety, nutrition and health as well as his predictions on what the future holds.

Noddle concluded with a look at what all the above means to the feed industry.

He provided several tips and insights, just a few of which included (1) product innovation is key to growth; (2) fund research for better products; (3) be proactive on the industry’s significance to the food chain; (4) invest in employee education; and (5) read Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

October 20

AFIA Chair-elect Donald Orr, Jr. president of JBS United, presided over the second day of the summit.

The session began with Gene Gregory, president, United Egg Producers, discussing “A Pro-Active Approach to Food Safety and Consumer Confidence.”

Gregory addressed the tremendous threat that animal activists pose to his organization and modern agriculture overall.

He outlined steps that UEP was taking to combat the challenge and warned that industry can never let its guard down as the activists’ trend is spreading across the nation.

He emphasized the importance of food safety and doing everything possible to maintain consumer confidence and choice.

Under the same heading, Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director for the Center of Veterinary Medicine, FDA, provided his perspective.

He reviewed the recent melamine crisis and lessons learned from it.

He noted that 60 percent of all imports FDA regulates are in the form of feed or food.

This translates to over 10 million entries per year.

Dr. Sundlof stated that his agency needs good scientific support from industry, like that which was provided in the melamine crisis, and lots of help from stakeholders in those issues.

He noted that a new food protection plan is due out soon containing changes to deal with a variety of food safety issues and that the resulting effort will need cooperation from the private sector to facilitate this plan.

A lot of these issues, he reported, are consistent with those AFIA identified in its Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification Program.

“AFIA is ahead of the curve in this crucial area,” he stated.

He spoke of a memorandum of agreement that will put greater safeguards on Chinese imports.

Dr. Sundlof mentioned traceability as being extremely important and the necessity of collaboration with industry to make that emphasis successful.

He also predicted that the future of food safety initiatives within the feed industry may require more reliance on third party sources for input, and noted that AFIA has good ideas and programs in place along those lines.

“This direction simply makes sense since FDA cannot do it alone,” Dr. Sundlof concluded.

A subsequent two-man panel featured Dr. Robert A. Easter, dean, college of ACES, Univ. of Illinois and Dr. Terry Coffey, president, Murphy Brown Eastern Operations.

They addressed “Ag Industry Workforce Concerns.”

Dr. Easter stated that this period is the most exciting timeframe for the livestock industry since the 1960’s.

The U.S. domestic market for animal products is strong and global demand is growing at an unprecedented rate.

He addressed several challenges including the world’s meat supply, successful business models and people resources.

He covered in detail the land grant universities system and the concerns and opportunities surrounding it.

Dr. Coffey provided a workforce overview, labor pool trends, immigration challenges and possible strategies for the future.

He noted that nearly 75 percent of ag companies estimate that they will have up to five percent of their employees retire in the next two years.

Over 12,000 professionals and skilled labor will need replacing.

Competitive forces he foresees for the ag job market include the evolving business structure of the U.S. food production, public policy choices, food system safety and consumer preferences.

Closing out the Summit was Deborah Stafford, supervisory special agent, joint terrorism task force, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Agent Stafford covered past terrorists’ acts, commenting on a number of issues and possible scenarios involving such concerns as Avian Influenza, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and Food and Mouth Disease.

She complimented AFIA on development of its Bioterrorism Guidelines which were the first presented by industry to the Department of Homeland Security’s forerunner agency within USDA.

For additional information, contact Rex Runon at 703-524-0810.

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