The National Grain & Feed Association (NGFA) held the 116th edition of its Annual Convention in Charleston, SC, March 18-20. The historic downtown Charleston Place Hotel proved a fitting backdrop for the three-day event that artfully balanced business, networking opportunities and leisure.
After the open-to-all-attendees committee meetings adjourned on the first day of the convention, attendees made their way through the exhibitors of the Ag Village and into one of two ballrooms where the afternoon’s concurrent sessions, “The Risk Management Committee’s MF Global Town Hall” and a “Workshop on Complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act,” were held.
David Fairfield, director of NGFA’s Feed Services, and Matt Frederking, Ralco Nutrition Inc.’s director of regulatory affairs and operations, led the latter workshop. The pair focused on two key concepts: compliance and HACCP.
In Fairfield’s presentation, he explored the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the practices and procedures a company needs to have in place to ensure the production of safe food for human and animal consumption. Fairfield later returned to the stage to present a tie-in by discussing “FSMA’s Impact on Rail Transportation.”
Frederking noted the adoption of a HACCP process is a good guide to be in compliance with FSMA regulations. “If your company hasn’t started a process to work toward compliance, you’re behind the eight ball. No matter what comes of these regulations, it takes time and resources to comply.”
He noted that in addition to a HACCP team, the maintenance department needs to be involved in hazard analysis and implementation of risk-based preventive controls.
Section 103 is a requirement, Frederking stressed: “No matter what industry you think you’re in, you’re in the food industry.
“FDA is not like OSHA. Every other year a state official will come to your facility, like clockwork, and the inspection will be extremely thorough.”
The FSMA workshop and the Rail Open Forum that followed reflected two themes revisited numerous times throughout the conference. The session, “The Impact of Increased Gas and Crude Oil Production on Rail Demand,” kicked off the forum with Lynn Hiser’s discussion of the growth in railcar demand influenced by the oil shale regions throughout the United States. According to Hiser, vice president-logistics, Fairmount Minerals and former vice president-transportation with Tate & Lyle, the increased demand for the oil tankers and the railcars to remove the sand byproduct will impact rail capacity and service; but, on the upside, it may increase rail and industry’s investment in new lines and terminals.
Paul Titterton, vice president and group executive, GATX Corporation, focused on how these unconventional energy markets have and will have an effect on available railcars and tank cars in the years ahead. Asserting that rail remains the most efficient means of transport, Titterton offered this advice: “There is a risk on not getting long enough on leasing railcars; but the risk of shutout outweighs it getting loose if the market opens up.”
Grand Opening General Session
Much of the excitement surrounded the industry-relevant topics presented by high-profile speakers, such as Hon. Senator Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Ag Committee, who started off the second day’s sessions with a discussion about ag policy, the Farm Bill, putting money back into research and opening up conserved lands for production.
“The Farm Bill is a jobs bill,” Stabenow declared as she reasserted her dedication to streamlining the Farm Bill, noting that politicians are careful to get it right by reaching out to industry stakeholders. She closed soon after citing Dwight Eisenhower’s quote: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn fields.”