ARLINGTON, VA. — The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) recently published its “2022-23 State of the US Animal Food Industry Report,” detailing several challenges currently impacting the US animal feed and pet food industries, and how the association will continue to provide support.
“To be recognized as the leading animal food industry association providing legislative, regulatory and policy representation, the organization will advocate for a more efficient and modern regulatory review of animal food ingredients, support the resiliency of the US animal food industry through customer and supplier market diversification, and facilitate industrywide solutions for a more sustainable animal food and livestock production sector,” wrote Constance Cullman, president and chief executive officer of the AFIA.
The animal food industry has an extremely significant impact on the US economy. According to the AFIA, nearly 5,650 US animal food manufacturing facilities will generate total sales of $267.1 billion this year. This includes value-added contributions of $98.4 billion, $55 billion in wages, and $18.5 billion in local, state and federal taxes. The industry directly employs 80,000 people.
Additionally, US pet food manufacturers are contributing even more to the economy. According to the AFIA’s 2019 data, $6.8 billion worth of farm products sold to US pet food manufacturers was used to produce 9.8 million tons of dog and cat food, which then generated $30.3 billion in pet food sales.
The estimated value of the animal food industry is set to reach $48.8 billion in 2025, if business continues without any future COVID-19 disruptions, according to the AFIA.
Despite this growth and high contributions to the overall economy, several challenges are still plaguing the animal feed and pet food industries.
The lengthy regulatory process for reviewing and approving new animal food ingredients has stymied many processors and hindered product innovation, according to the AFIA. The association has long been advocating for a more efficient review process by working with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM).
“Our members have been caught between the devil and the deep blue sea over the past few years, having difficulty exporting animal feed, feed ingredients and pet food products that their foreign buyers need, while battling the undercurrent of exorbitant rate and fee increases for containers and logistical nightmares for both imports and exports,” Cullman wrote.
The association has worked to increase resources at the CVM that would help accelerate the new ingredient process, and has also supported the creation of the Division of Animal Food Ingredients. The new division brings an intense focus on completing reviews more quickly. To help continuously improve this process, the AFIA plans to continue to work with the CVM, as well as the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
A volatile supply chain
Alongside ingredient approval issues, persistent supply chain disruptions have long impactedindustry processors, including bottlenecks on US highways, railroads and ports.
To help the industry battle these issues, the AFIA has supported the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which was signed into law in June 2022 and addresses maritime disruptions that halted the movement of products at ports. The association has also called upon the Biden administration to intervene and broker deals regarding rail and port labor issues.
Pet food labels
Following AAFCO’s passage of Pet Food Label Modernization (PFLM), the AFIA has already begun working alongside state and federal regulators on adjustments under PFLM. The association plans to support its members as they comply with state-by-state adoptions of the changes.
In addition to AAFCO’s PFLM initiative, the AFIA has also been supporting the industry regarding non-nutritive ingredient claims on labels. In 2020, the association originally alerted the CVM about a policy which has prevented animal food manufacturers from identifying the non-nutritive benefits of animal food ingredients on product labels.
This year, the CVM began working with Congress to modernize its policy on non-nutritive ingredients and is currently considering the Innovative FEED Act. The act would establish a new category of animal food additives that do not provide nutritional benefits, but instead offer gut health benefits to animals, reduce environmental emissions, or address human food safety issues. Under the act, these substances would be regulated as food additives instead of drugs.
In supporting the industry and its members, the AFIA has worked to block several bills that may prove harmful to the animal food industry.
In Maryland, the association helped change a bill, SB 158, that limited the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in pesticides and those used in animal feed. It also lobbied for the state to fund spay, neuter and other pet wellness services to avoid increasing fees on pet food products proposed through HB 3266.
In South Carolina, the AFIA blocked a bill that proposed increasing fees on equine feed and custom blends to fund an equine promotion board, which would not be involved in the regulation of equine feed products.
In collaboration with the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois, the AFIA is currently pushing back on HB 1290. This bill alleges pet food labels are misbranded if they do not disclose the presence of major food allergens, despite the fact that animal food is exempt from the federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act.
The association plans to continue to fight state mandates on various items, including PFAS and packaging.
Though African swine fever (ASF) is ravaging its way through several countries, the disease has yet to enter the United States — and the AFIA intends to ensure it never does. To support the industry, the association provides input to the US Swine Health Improvement Program, a voluntary program for pork producers that intends to demonstrate pigs’ health status throughout farms, supply chains, states and regions in case an outbreak occurs.
The AFIA is also supporting research at the Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER). Current research is evaluating methods for disinfecting feed manufacturing facilities during an outbreak, with a special focus on equipment not meant for disinfection. The AFIA plans to continue its work with partners to help promote biosecurity and prevent the spread of foreign animal diseases.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently made moves to ban the manufacture and use of formaldehyde, a primary ingredient in antimicrobials. According to the AFIA, formaldehyde has been used safely in animal food for over 40 years to help control pathogens, including Salmonella and E. coli.
The AFIA is currently working with an animal agriculture coalition to protect formaldehyde’s use, as well as communicate its importance in regard to food safety. It has also called upon the EPA to engage in discussions with the FDA and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the topic.
Read more news from associations and agencies in the pet food sector.