Written by: Guest | March 23, 2023
By: Marisa Crowhurst, AFIA's communications intern, and Victoria Broehm, AFIA's senior directior of communications
If it were to enter the United States, “African swine fever (ASF) would be the most significant animal disease issue the United States has ever seen,” said Cassie Jones, Ph.D., undergraduate research coordinator in Kansas State University’s Department of Animal Sciences and Industry. This is because once the disease is found in feral pigs or ticks, it would be nearly impossible to eradicate, so the focus now, particularly for swine producers and feed manufacturers, should be on prevention.
Jones’s comment came as part of the recent American Feed Industry Association Purchasing and Ingredient Suppliers Conference (PISC), where nearly 600 animal food ingredient buyers and sellers came together to network, conduct business and listen to the latest issues impacting the animal food industry. Below, we break down some of the highlights from this year’s conference.
Jones provided an update on the ASF virus, vaccine research and the potential impact ASF could have on the industry if it comes to U.S. soil, saying it could be three times the economic disrupter as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Currently, the United States is in what Jones calls, “peace time,” but needs to prepare and implement a “wartime” biosecurity plan for if the virus is found in pigs here. Part of the wartime biosecurity plan would include obtaining a premises identification number for a feed manufacturing facility from state animal health officials and taking steps to develop contingency plans for how a facility should react if it is situated in a controlled area, particularly one with physical barriers. She said the industry can expect that there would be a national standstill on the movement of live pigs and germplasm for at least 72 hours, but it would be critical for feed manufacturers to continue servicing farms to ensure all pigs are fed to ensure animal welfare.
One of the challenges facing feed manufacturers is that there currently is no way of testing feed ingredients or identifying if feed is spreading the virus, so there is a hard degree of confidence of knowing what to do. The best thing feed manufacturers can do now, Jones said, is to develop multi-layered contingency plans, such as understanding what routes their shipments can take, if alternative ingredients or suppliers might be necessary, having a plan for the decontamination of trucks, etc.
Feed is not the greatest risk for ASF or highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) disease entry into animals (or humans in the case of HPAI), but it is a risk for the spread of the virus, and it’s the one risk that is within our sphere of influence or control, Jones said.
Later in the program, Chris Kankousky, general director of grain products with Union Pacific Railroad, and Caitlin Murphy, CEO of Global Gateway Logistics, discussed the past couple of years supply chain disruptions.
Kankousky talked about the issues railways are facing, with one of the main problems being understaffing, which primarily came from the COVID-19 pandemic. “I know everyone has felt this, trying to get the right people in the right places,” Kankousky said.
Union Pacific Railroad has been offering hiring incentives of $10K to $15K in some locations, promoting the better quality of life and offering employee referrals.
He also discussed that the railroad industry is “the second highest capital-intensive industry,” spending a lot of money each year to improve the safety and resilience of its rail network. New technology, such as Global IV Grain Transload and automated rail unloading, is in the works to help improve the efficiency of the railways and reduce the number of offline trains, which will benefit the supply chain.
Caitlin Murphy discussed the bottlenecks at U.S. ports and spoke about the Ocean Reform Act, saying that it is “the best thing to come out of the global supply chain crisis.” She said that none of her clients have ever lost a complaint on detention and demurrage contestations, suggesting to animal food companies that if they “push hard” against ocean carriers trying to exploit them, then they are likely to have a positive outcome.
She also spoke on strengthening intermodal hubs and ocean ports with new technology and equipment and described a recent visit to China’s ports, which were “shocking” in comparison to Los Angeles ports, given the technology there allowed for faster loading and unloading. She called for continued investments in equipment, chassis, secured storage yards and technology, and said it is critical we continue pressing for solutions to the labor crisis.
The Institute for Feed Education and Research’s (IFEEDEER) Executive Director Lara Moody and World Wildlife Fund’s Sustainable Feed Innovations Lead Specialist Ellen Dierenfeld talked about recent sustainability progress within the feed industry.
Moody discussed the importance of sustainability in the animal food industry and shared background on the development of WWF’s new report, which explains how the U.S. animal food industry and its supply chain partners can work together to decrease the environmental impact of feed and pet food production, leading to a more sustainable, climate-resilient global feed system.
“Leaders in the feed industry have been implementing innovative and environmentally responsible practices for a while, but they just have not been getting attention for it,” said Dierenfeld. “Now, we have the opportunity to elevate feed’s potential positive impact and show it can make a big difference, particularly for farmers and producers of livestock and poultry. We must consider the ingredients and also the technologies that will make it possible to reduce agriculture’s overall environmental impact.”
Animal Agriculture Alliance’s Emily Solis shared effective ways to communicate such messages about agriculture, particularly refuting misinformation coming from animal rights organizations, which are targeting all aspects of animal agriculture, from animal housing to growth rates to antibiotic use and greenhouse gas emissions. “Put a human face on agriculture” is one of the many communications “do’s” that she shared with PISC attendees, as well as suggesting not using technical jargon to help the audience understand the message you are trying to share.
Other highlights from the conference included market updates from Richard Brock, president of Brock Associates, Inc., and Joe Kerns, CEO of Partners for Production Agriculture.
PISC 2024 will be held in San Antonio, Texas, March 12-14.
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