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AFIA holds 1st executive leadership summit

At its first-ever Executive Leadership Summit on Oct. 19-20, the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) brought the industry's most influential leaders in the industry together.

The Honorable Bruce Knight, undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs at USDA, keynoted the event by focusing on the Department's "Vision for U.S. Agriculture." He provided an optimistic perspective on the U.S. Farm bill , saying that he has never seen "a better climate for meaningful reform." "These reforms," he indicated, "are required to provide the new policies that will lead us into the next century." The undersecretary complimented AFIA on input it provided toward composing the new farm bill. "What we must do is to find the right balances between feed and fuel that will benefit everyone."

On the subject of trade, Undersecretary Knight also applauded AFIA for contributions to recent free trade agreements. These involved Columbia, Peru, Panama and Korea. "These are extremely important to agriculture," he said. "Exports can never guarantee prosperity; but you can never have prosperity here without exports."

Bio fuels
A blue ribbon panel followed on "Bio-Fuels Effects on Global Food Production" featuring Dr. Dermot Hayes, professor, pioneer chair in agribusiness, Department of Economics, Iowa State University.; Bill Jones, chairman of Pacific Ethanol, Inc.; and Richard L. Bond, president/CEO, Tyson Foods . Panel members agreed that the nation's oil policy must be aimed at reducing dependency on foreign supplies. But, the U.S. still needs an agricultural policy that generates all food necessary for human consumption.

Tyson President Bond stated that the nation must keep its "playing fields level and still look at all ways of reducing our dependency on foreign oil. Yet, we must be very careful in the kinds of demands government places on the industry. We cannot afford to lose our crop advantage; otherwise we will end up importing food."

Trends in food
A second panel focused on "Trends Driving the Food Business." Larry DeVries, vice president concept and menu development, McDonald's Corporation said that "glocal" is the term he used to describe the world as becoming one interconnected neighborhood. The changes that drive the corporations are consumer trends and concerns. He underlined three Ts that will determine the food manufacturer's future as being: time, taste and trust. DeVries singled out "traceability of products" as a crucial issue. "Sustainability is critical for us: assured supply, brand trust and doing the right thing. We must continue to supply high quality ingredients; but, need your (the feed industry's) help."

Melamine crisis
At the second day of the summit, Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director for the Center of Veterinary Medicine, FDA reviewed the recent melamine crisis and lessons learned from it. He noted that 60% of all imports FDA regulates are in the form of feed or food. This translates to over 10 million entries per year. Sundlof stated that his agency needs good scientific support from industry, like that which was provided in the melamine crisis, and lots of help from stakeholders in those issues.

He noted that a new food protection plan is due out soon containing changes to deal with a variety of food safety issues and that the resulting effort will need cooperation from the private sector to facilitate this plan. A lot of these issues, he reported, are consistent with those AFIA identified in its Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification Program . "AFIA is ahead of the curve in this crucial area," he stated.

Bioterrorism
Deborah Stafford, supervisory special agent, joint terrorism task force, Federal Bureau of Investigation closed the summit. Stafford covered past terrorists' acts, commenting on a number of issues and possible scenarios involving such concerns as Avian Influenza, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and Food and Mouth Disease. She complimented AFIA on development of its Bioterrorism Guidelines which were the first presented by industry to the Department of Homeland Security's forerunner agency within USDA.

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