Written by: Constance Cullman | March 15, 2021
It is often said that the strongest steel is forged by the most intense fires. In an adversarial dance, it is pounded and struck repeatedly before it’s plunged back into the molten fire. The fire gives it power and flexibility, and the blows give it strength. Those two things make the metal pliable and able to withstand every battle it’s called upon to fight.
We’ve just passed the one-year mark of living through the coronavirus pandemic. It’s hard not to reflect on where we have been during this challenging time, from canceling in-person events to adapting to a virtual environment to rethinking how we conduct our businesses to keep our employees safe and customers satisfied. Despite these blows, I’m inspired by the many ways we, as a member-driven organization, have been able to use this time to think about how we can work smarter and more efficiently to ensure our members come out the other side even stronger than before.
At our Board of Directors meeting last week, we discussed many ways we can be more effective as an organization. We will be adjusting our policy priorities to more nimbly improve the business climate for animal food manufacturers, promote the safety of animal food and our diverse work environments, support innovation that allows us to be competitive at home and abroad, and double-down on demonstrating our sector’s solutions for meeting the country’s climate goals.
While we will stand committed to representing – one of our Four Promises of membership – our members on legislative and regulatory issues that fall within these areas, we will also look for ways to amplify our advocacy efforts. Our Board members told us that the virtual environment has provided a new opportunity for more voices, from plant employees to committee members, to get involved and share their stories. These essential workers have been carrying the torch for our industry for over a year, and it is time their elected officials hear about their needs to help our industry recover from this economic and public health crisis.
This is particularly important as federal agencies move forward with new workplace standards emerging from pandemic experiences. While many of our Board members shared with us that they are confident the measures they have put in place will better protect the health of their employees and improve biosecurity, they voiced their concerns over ensuring any new regulations put in place are necessary for improving safety. They also said they should be flexible to allow our over 5,800 U.S. animal food manufacturing facilities the ability to adapt to what works for their unique business environment.
After many months of work gathering input from members, our team also discussed the association’s ambitious global strategic plan to open and maintain access for animal food exports as well as create new trade opportunities. With the change in presidential administrations, we have a fresh opportunity to engage with leaders abroad and prove the value of American-made feed, feed ingredients, pet food and equipment.
Last, but not least, the American Feed Industry Association Board discussed a project I am very passionate about. In partnership with the Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER), we will be working with The Context Network to create a sustainability road map for our industry. This means that no matter how big or small a company is, or where they are on their sustainability journey, they are positioned for success. Moving forward, sustainability will become table stakes for operating in this dynamic business climate; we are committed to helping companies identify their sustainability stories and engage their suppliers and customers to communicate their sustainability value proposition while striving for continuous improvement.
As the rollout of vaccines brings hope for returning to a new normal, we recognize that the coronavirus pandemic has caused us to take a pause on some things, but it has also provided us an invaluable opportunity to take stock and lay the groundwork for future success. Our association is stronger, our members even more committed and our staff focus sharpened. Our industry is positioned to tackle both the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead.