Thursday, September 21, 2023

Feed industry aims to help relieve ‘bird-ens’

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ARLINGTON, Va. — Across the U.S. agricultural community, rising inflation, ongoing supply chain disruptions and animal diseases are impacting us all, but one thing remains constant: Americans’ demand for quality animal protein. The animal food industry is working to reduce some of the strain poultry farmers are experiencing, while laying the groundwork for a thriving future.


Supporting animal disease mitigation research

Unfortunately, 2022 brought one of our country’s most devastating outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in modern history, with more than 53 million birds culled as of early December.

Our industry has been doing its part to reduce biosecurity risks at feed mills with lessons gleaned from recent research on how other viruses, such as African swine fever (ASF), can remain in the environment or in feed ingredients for extended periods, for example, on boot bottoms, feed equipment and delivery truck cabins.

Through the Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER), we are supporting an ASF research study at Kansas State University, which is evaluating cleaning and disinfection methods for feed equipment not designed to be disinfected, with results expected in early 2023. While the study, organized by the Swine Health Information Center, is specifically designed to keep ASF at bay, it is expected that some of the findings will translate to improved biosecurity measures for reducing other animal diseases as well.

The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) is also turning its attention to the next farm bill, which must be reauthorized in 2023, that includes critical funding for animal disease prevention and control. This is also our chance to increase funding dedicated to agricultural research and we anticipate making great strides in that effort next year.

Fixing a broken regulatory process

We are also committed to ensuring America’s poultry farmers have access to the feed technologies they need to care for their flocks effectively and be competitive globally. The AFIA is working to streamline and improve the efficiency of the feed ingredient review processes at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

For years, resource issues and bureaucratic red tape at the agency have made it so that feed ingredients take an extraordinary length of time to review. We are not asking for less regulation, rather, a more efficient and workable regulatory review process.

For more than two decades, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has also used a narrow policy interpretation for what constitutes a “food” versus a “drug” when reviewing and approving new animal food ingredients.

Currently, any animal feed ingredient that provides something other than taste, aroma or nutritional value are classified as drugs, despite the fact that they work within the gastrointestinal tracts or on the digesta of animal species. We believe the agency has the regulatory authority to correct this situation.

Last fall, the AFIA voiced its concerns to the CVM in a public listening session on the topic, and we heard overwhelming support for a policy change across several segments of the animal food and livestock and poultry community.

Updating the policy will allow feed ingredients to make accurate and truthful claims on their labels for improved animal production, animal well-being, food safety and the environment. This important update will put the United States on par with the European Union, Canada, Brazil, Australia and other countries that have already approved many of these safe products. Without these technologies, our country will find it difficult to make progress on its greater climate and food security goals.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has developed a proposed regulatory framework to reduce Salmonella infections linked to poultry products. A key component of the FSIS comprehensive effort is to incentivize the use of pre-harvest controls to reduce Salmonella contamination of birds coming into the slaughterhouse. Our members point to their European counterparts, which can effectively market feed ingredients proven to help in controlling Salmonella on the farm. The European Food Safety Authority recognizes that animal food ingredients are an important group of pre-harvest food safety measures across all livestock and poultry types, and yet, U.S. producers cannot use these products.

We anticipate the CVM’s ingredient review function to continue growing to approve new products as our understanding of animal nutrition evolves, and as such, we continue to push for the agency to have the congressional funding it needs to complete reviews in a timely manner.

In the last three years, at the AFIA’s urging, Congress has appropriated a total of $6 million in new money to the CVM so it can fully execute its mission, and we will continue to ask for increased funding to meet the review need.

Resolving supply chain bottlenecks

Being forward-looking means we must look at the road ahead of us and unfortunately, when it comes to the U.S. supply chain, at every turn we are seeing caution flares go up, reducing our ability to reliably keep farmers stocked with fresh feed for their flocks and herds. The latest fire, extinguished just a few weeks ago, prevented an all-out U.S. railway strike. We should not be in a situation where Congress and the president must step in to ensure the people responsible for keeping our food supply chain stable show up to work.

No one empathizes with the plight of maintaining a committed workforce coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic more than the U.S. animal food industry, but slowing or stopping the transport of goods, when we are already dealing with uncertainty in supplies abroad, threatens the livelihoods of all hardworking Americans and the health and welfare of our nation’s livestock and poultry.

The AFIA continues to support federal programs aimed at cultivating the next generation workforce, so that we have a steady pipeline of men and women looking to dedicate their careers to a cause bigger than themselves, as those of us in the agricultural community do every day.

While it seems like there is a never-ending list of challenges our industry faces, the animal feed industry is committed to providing safe and nutritious feed so that you can provide the world with safe and high-quality chicken and eggs.


Constance Cullman is president and CEO of the American Feed Industry Association, and president of the Institute for Feed Education and Research.

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