When organizers and founding members of the American Feed Manufacturers Association headed home from their first convention, they carried their shared mission with them.
“First activity of the young association was in the field of feed control relations,” reported AFMA in its Golden Anniversary banquet program. “Work of the original committee, the Feed Control Relations Committee, has continued uninterrupted since 1909. Perhaps this committee has done more than any other to establish close harmony, honest manufacture and intelligent regulation.” The new association also aimed “to help correct some of the evils of the feed stuffs industry,” reported AFMA Agricultural Services Division Director W.T. Diamond in a presentation to the 1948 AFMA convention. “Accomplishment of this task centered around the ability of its members to put aside personal feelings and work determinedly to place the feed business on a higher plane.” Nearly 100 years after AFMA formed, association leaders would cite members’ ability to focus on the overall good of the industry as a key to the organization’s longevity and credibility.
The feed industry in 1909 centered on hay and grain merchants, flour millers, brewers, ingredient blenders and even specialty products companies.
In 1909, agriculture was about to break out of a rut. Ford Motor Company had started production of its Model T in 1908. Trucks were not far in the future. Horse power – fueled by grain and hay – was approaching its peak before machinery moved into agriculture. In response to public concern over U.S. agriculture’s inability to produce enough wheat to feed the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledged scarcity but predicted rising production to meet the country’s needs.
Meanwhile, World War I provided a huge boost to the feed industry. Agriculture in general benefited from the Emergency Food Production Act of 1917, which stimulated war-time production of agricultural commodities and put more Extension agents to work across the country. And the U.S. Army required millions of tons of horse and mule feed for the cavalry’s animals. As late as 1919, 60 percent of feed tonnage went to horses.
The feed industry grew rapidly, and the young AFMA grew with it. After operating for several years with part-time and volunteer staff, AFMA hired Louis F. Brown, a New York state feed control official, as its first full-time executive secretary at offices established in Milwaukee.
“Between 1910 and 1920, our greatest concern, of course, was World War I, and the obligations we had to the world in providing food and fiber, and fighting manpower,” noted Diamond in his 1948 presentation. “However, it was during this period that protein supplements came into being – an important development in industry from the standpoint of producing more meat, milk and eggs.”
AFMA’s first ‘Sunshine Hour,’ 1909. The ‘Sunshine Hour’ was a tradition for many years. Photo: From the AFIA Archives.
AFMA Board of Directors in 1910. Photo: From the AFIA Archives.