Written by: Victoria Broehm | May 21, 2020
Last week, the American Feed Industry Association’s Board of Directors met to gavel in the new chair, induct new Board members as well as set the association’s legislative and regulatory (L&R) policy agenda for the next AFIA fiscal year, which runs from May 1, 2020-April 30, 2021. These policy priorities dictate how the eight-person L&R team will spend their time for the next year representing the animal feed and pet food industry before Capitol Hill, the White House and domestic and international regulatory bodies. The association is always nimble to adjust to the immediate policy need, like with the response to COVID-19, but these key priorities guide the association’s strategic activities to benefit the industry.
As expected, one of the top areas of focus will be expediting feed ingredient approvals. Animal food companies lose an average $1.75 million annually in revenue per ingredient when waiting on approval for use, which takes anywhere from three-to-five years navigating the Food and Drug Administration’s rigorous review process.
Last year, AFIA advocated for, and was pleased to see included in Congress’ 2020 fiscal year appropriations package, an additional $5 million for the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) to hire new ingredient review staff. The FDA has told the industry that despite the coronavirus pandemic, it is moving forward with hiring new staff as part of this mandate. Now, AFIA’s focus will turn to ensuring the agency cannot only maintain this funding, but continue to improve its main ingredient review processes – the Food Additive Petition and Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) notification process – so that American companies can begin counting on an understanding of the requirements and expected review times. In addition, AFIA will continue its work on improving the ingredient review process at the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which sets the definitions for feed ingredients the states will accept.
On the topic of ingredients, AFIA is also monitoring rulemakings at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to ensure there is a fair marketplace for the purchase of commodities for manufacturing feed and pet food. Price and availability, especially in today’s volatile marketplace, are two important factors that drive animal food manufacturers’ purchasing decisions.
Being competitive in global marketplaces is essential for our industry since much of the growth will come from an expansion of exports of feed, feed ingredients and pet food to other countries. The association will continue looking for opportunities to expand trade in priority markets.
AFIA is pleased to the see the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which preserves the tariff-free access the industry has benefited from over the past 26 years, progressing toward implementation this summer. U.S. animal food exports to the North American countries has quadrupled since 1993, growing from roughly $669 million to over $3.2 billion today. While it was a policy “win” to see this major agreement ratified by all three countries, now the focus turns to ensuring the agreement goes into effect smoothly without any hiccups.
You can’t talk about trade without talking about China, the U.S. animal food industry’s fifth largest export market. The tit-for-tat trade war between the U.S. and China caused much consternation among AFIA members over the past couple of years, but we are finally seeing progress after the recent passage of the phase one trade agreement. Since 2011, new U.S. animal feed additives, premixes and compound feed facilities have been stuck in China’s bureaucratic red tape, unable to export products that could improve the nutrition and wellbeing of the Asian country’s livestock, poultry and pets. Now, these facilities have a process for registering with the FDA to meet China’s standards, and AFIA will continue to ensure the phase one agreement is implemented and work with our members over the next year to ensure their facilities are registered and ready for export.
AFIA’s International Trade Committee will also continue identifying new markets where AFIA’s members stand to benefit, including Vietnam. Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, maintaining an average 6% annual GDP growth over the past 10 years. With a growing middle class and a need for imported agricultural products, the country presents a unique opportunity for the animal food industry. Last fall, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service awarded AFIA funds through its Emerging Markets Program to conduct a market assessment in Vietnam to identify opportunities and barriers for the animal food industry. This will make it possible for AFIA to identify ways it can effectively troubleshoot regulatory barriers and export U.S. products to Vietnam.
The association also monitors international standards that could pose problems for trade. AFIA will make it a priority this year to stay engaged with feed machinery standards being proposed at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). AFIA has been working in ISO/TC 293, a technical committee of international leaders, to focus on writing reasonable feed machinery standards, ensuring industry equipment manufacturers are not beholden to one country’s interests or overly burdensome and duplicative standards. The work here has been successful so far, but continued dialogue and U.S. leadership is essential for allowing American manufacturers to continue exporting feed equipment and machinery abroad.
Now that all-sized manufacturers must be in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act, most of AFIA’s efforts on this front will be geared toward seeking clarity on the regulations and communicating with members on inspection results and offering training courses, where appropriate. However, AFIA will continue promoting its Safe Feed/Safe Food (SF/SF) third-party certification program, which is an excellent way for manufacturers to go beyond existing FSMA regulations to maximize food and feed safety at their facilities. The program is voluntary and independently certified and offers four different types of certifications, some of which are benchmarked against internationally accepted standards for food safety within the food retail industry.
Other priorities the AFIA staff will focus on this year include:
While the agreed-upon policy priorities are not an all-encompassing list of all the ways AFIA serves its members throughout the year, such as through conferences, educational opportunities and communications, it serves as a good guide for how AFIA’s resources will be spent for the betterment of the animal food industry.