Feed Bites

A Reflective Conversation With Bill Barr

Written by: Sarah Novak   |   September 29, 2022

Guest perspective

Talking with leaders in the animal food industry has always been one of the things I love about my job. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Bill Barr, president of Bill Barr & Company. He is also a past chair of American Feed Industry Association (2011-12), served on the Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER) Board of Trustees, and won AFIA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2019. He has also been very involved in the industry through many other organizations and a strong supporter of Kansas State University.

Q: Through your years of being involved in the animal food industry, what has changed the most?

Barr: I think through the years, the biggest change I have seen is the consolidation that has taken place in all the elements of our industry. Feed manufacturing has become more consolidated with ownership, fewer and larger feed mills, as well as our poultry, swine and pet food manufacturing.  All of these have not only grown, but have increased the emphasis on feed and food safety, quality as well as sustainability.

Q: What has not changed?

Barr: What hasn’t changed are the people. People whom I came into contact with played a very important role in my career, as I have wanted to do for others. We are still an industry that has survived on the ability of people working together for common goals, that hasn’t changed and hopefully never will. 

Q: Looking into a crystal ball, what do you think the top challenges will be for the animal food industry in the next 3-5 years?

Barr: Some of our biggest challenges to feeding a growing number of people with our resources will be our need to communicate with consumers on what we are doing right and not let regulators or regulations, or popular opinion, dictate how we farm or raise livestock and poultry. We are a huge part of the solution and not the problem, and helping the world understand that is a challenge.

Q: Looking back, what is something you would have done differently?

Barr: This is the hardest to reconcile because our rear-view mirrors are smaller (but more focused) than our windshields. Other than doing about 100 things differently, I think Dr. Stephen Covey’s explanation of finding your True North in his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” helps us find “our” direction and allows us to more easily adapt to a changing world. 

If I narrow it down, I think I would have tried to find mentors earlier in my career instead of thinking I needed to reinvent the wheel. I found that people truly want to help and all we need to do is ask. 

Also, I'm a firm believer in giving back and helping the next generation of leaders; we should not hesitate to be that mentor to someone else.

Q: What is your favorite memory of being part of animal food industry for many years?

My favorite memories throughout my career include the friendships I have developed, not only from business relationships, but as importantly, those in my association with the AFIA, my church and my community. 

Q: When you are not in the office, what do you enjoy doing?

Barr: When I am not in the office, I enjoy playing golf, traveling and spending time with friends and family (obviously, this includes our nine “perfect” grandchildren). Additionally, giving back to our industry, our educational system and our community are important ways of saying thank you to all the people who play important parts in our lives and to whatever successes we enjoy.

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