Written by: Constance Cullman | October 29, 2020
As a child, I would frequently get frustrated when the world (or in this case, my parents, teachers or siblings) dictated what I couldn’t do. I had plans! One day, my favorite fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Underwood, suggested that instead of thinking about what I can’t do, that I should think about what I can do. Turns out, there was a lot!
In addition to the tragic toll COVID-19 has taken on our country and our lives, it has also meant that we at the American Feed Industry Association haven’t been able to proceed with our normal meetings, events and activities. However, when the leadership and staff thought about what we can do, we found a full docket!
At the October AFIA Board of Directors meeting, the leadership took care of its required duties, stopped to honor three outstanding industry leaders, explored the impact of this election cycle on the animal food sector and took a deep dive on three strategic initiatives – emerging policy issues, AFIA's international engagement and our sector’s human resource response to the pandemic. During these strategic discussions, the Board leadership provided valuable direction on several key fronts.
While taking a look around the corner at emerging issues, leaders identified several topics requiring proactive positioning by the industry, such as: increasing pressure on policymakers to improve infrastructure, including broadband; harmonizing feed safety standards; global threats to biosecurity; the microbiome; sustainability and environmental targets; and the development of a digital strategy for the sector. Discussions of the AFIA’s future international efforts touched on identifying potential high-value export opportunities for the animal food industry and exploring major obstacles and opportunities for growing exports and stabilizing import supplies. These insights are valuable for shaping the ongoing AFIA strategic planning exercise on trade that will conclude at the end of this year.
The coronavirus’s impact on our industry’s human resources has been significant. The AFIA recently conducted member roundtables to discuss how members have responded to the pandemic. The AFIA Board examined the preliminary results, including the ways AFIA’s members are working to assure employee safety, clearly communicate to teams, invest in essential workforces, balance work and personal needs, and collaborate with governmental leaders and customers to navigate these challenging times. The AFIA leadership reinforced the importance of sharing these insights across our membership to provide ideas and fresh approaches to keeping our teams safe, engaged and prosperous and will be using it to guide our conversations with members of Congress, the regulatory agencies and the administration in the coming months.
A common theme among the strategic discussions was that we can’t make the necessary progress alone, but we can with strategic partnerships and collaboration – with government, educational institutions, industry colleagues and non-traditional allies around the globe. The AFIA team remains committed to doing just that and will be reaching out to members regarding their coronavirus needs and international priorities.
Of course, partnerships and collaboration are nothing new to three outstanding individuals who also are tasked with answering the familiar question “What can we do?” The AFIA honored Keith Behnke, Ph.D., with the AFIA-Kansas State University Feed Manufacturing Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifelong contributions to the feed industry through business and education. William (Bill) Braman, Ph.D., PAS, formerly of Chr. Hansen Animal Health and Nutrition, received the 2020 Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to the feed industry and Cassie Jones, Ph.D., an associate professor in animal sciences and industry at Kansas State University, was named AFIA’s Member of the Year.
These individuals stand as examples of looking at what can be done and doing it and we thank them. We may not be able to gather in-person yet, but we continue to advance our policy goals, share information and resources and strategically position our industry to meet tomorrow’s issues head on. Thank you for the advice, Mrs. Underwood.