Feed Bites

Plane Hopping for AFIA

Written by: Louise Calderwood   |   October 5, 2021

Member value, Pets

During my frequent business travels in 2019 I developed a rating system for airport bathrooms that ranked stall size, placement of hooks and shelves, accessibility to soap, hand drying features, cleanliness and décor. Southwest Regional ranked top of the list, Dulles a dismal bottom. Recently, I had the opportunity to dust off my scoring system as I travelled, fully masked and vaccinated, through five different airports in six days in service to our members.

The week of Sept. 19 started with a trip from Burlington, Vt., to Louisville, Ky., to attend the annual meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). I opened my stay with a trip to Churchill Downs on Sunday to watch a few races and then it was time to settle down to work. While working the halls of the historic Seelbach Hotel, I connected with several commissioners and secretaries on state issues impacting the feed industry, including hemp regulation and fees imposed on our members. Highlights of the NASDA meeting included ushering through an AFIA-drafted policy statement in support of modernization of food additive reviews by the Food and Drug Administration and having lunch with Ted McKinney, the former undersecretary for trade at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and newly minted chief executive officer for NASDA. McKinney shared that he looks forward to reaching out to the AFIA as a resource for increased understanding of our members’ challenges with state regulations.

After a productive NASDA meeting, it was back to the airport and another set of planes to head west to Kansas City, Mo., for the first face-to-face American Feed Industry Association Pet Food Committee meeting in 19 months. Committee members tackled a dense agenda that included many topics being addressed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials and the FDA. AFIA’s Leah Wilkinson and Mallory Gaines joined the meeting virtually to share updates on trade and goings-on on Capitol Hill. We easily filled a three-hour meeting and it was good to be (mostly) back together, seated around a table.

Many of our members were in Kansas City to attend the Petfood Forum, which provided opportunities to learn about consumer purchasing behavior, product trends and manufacturing innovations coupled with a trade show featuring all types of pet food ingredients, industrial tools and services. The forum gave me the opportunity to make connections with many of our members, some of whom I only know through email or phone calls (and stock up on tradeshow booth trinkets, including dog themed socks!)

After miles of tradeshow steps, I set off once again to the airport for a late-night flight home and was back in my own bed by 2 a.m. Five airports, six planes, three events and countless new connections. It’s good to be “back on the road again” for the AFIA. And the high scoring airport bathroom for this trip? Good ol’ BTV in Burlington, Vt. –  there is no place like home!

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