Written by: Mallory Gaines | February 1, 2023
If you or your customers export animal-based feed or pet food, you know how heavily the industry relies on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). In many cases, you can’t export a feed or pet food without some form of APHIS health certificate or approval. In recent years, getting the documentation needed to export has been more than a headache due to ongoing agency staffing and funding issues, the pandemic and the ongoing highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) crisis.
American Feed Industry Association members know that if they are having a hard time communicating with APHIS, it is time to reach out to Gina Tumbarello and Mallory Gaines, AFIA’s Team Trade, but there comes a point when the tangled web between industry, AFIA and APHIS becomes just too much.
No one likes to get caught up in a tangled web of delays, misunderstandings, changing regulations or miscommunication. To address this, the AFIA, along with the North American Renderers Association and Pet Food Institute, started working to get APHIS the tools it needs to succeed while strengthening AFIA’s partnership with the government agency. The three associations meet monthly with APHIS to discuss the agency’s priorities, staffing changes and new developments, facility inspection issues and market access negotiations for specific countries. Now, APHIS is in a better position to hire new staff, update its technology for better transparency on export packages internally and externally, and standardize its staff training.
Another outcome of the productive conversations was the recently held Facility Inspection Package Training hosted by APHIS, AFIA, NARA and PFI at the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) last week. Over 75 feed, pet food and rendering industry members participated, hearing directly from several APHIS staff on how they could better complete their company’s export packages, learn about the common mistakes to look for and receive tips on the do’s and don’ts of the paperwork and process.
Keith Wiggins, D.V.M., the national director of the APHIS animal products export and import division, opened the session by welcoming the collaboration between APHIS, the associations and industry. Mark Remick, D.V.M., national director of veterinary export trade services, followed Dr. Wiggins and gave enthusiastic remarks on moving forward to enable the industry and field staff to work smarter together, and mentioned the new hires and new technology innovations in APHIS’s future.
Deborah Langford, D.V.M., APHIS’s import/export coordinator, and Katrina Fox, D.V.M., APHIS’s veterinary medical officer, led the morning session, providing an overview of what the APHIS veterinary services department does to facilitate trade and the relationship between APHIS’s headquarters and field staff. Then, they trained attendees on how to best prepare their facility packets for export, reviewed the timeline for completion and challenges that can hold up the process, their suggestions for how industry can review packets and some of the little mistakes that can delay packets and cause the dreaded back-and-forth between APHIS staff and industry.
In the afternoon, Drs. Langford and Fox led a tabletop exercise, allowing attendees to work in groups through a mock scenario to identify mistakes in an export packet for submission to APHIS. An industry panel discussion followed the session.
All in all, this meeting was the beginning of breaking down the tangled web between the industry, APHIS and AFIA! The AFIA has been asking for more transparency for its members and for the export process to make sense, be efficient and effective. APHIS enjoyed getting to interact with members of these regulated industries, and there is already talk of continuing this type of interaction between the agency and industry in the future.