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April 02, 2012 | By Jackie Roembke
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NGFA’s 116th Annual Convention

The associations 2012 event featured high-profile speakers, timely topics

The National Grain & Feed Association held the 116th edition of its Annual Convention in Charleston, SC , March 18-20. The historic downtown Charleston Place Hotel proven a formidable backdrop for the three-day event packed with the perfect balance of 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, lead the latter workshop. The pair focused on two key aspects: compliance and HACCP.

[About HACCP] Fairfield also presented a tie-in with “FSMA’s Impact on Rail Transportation” at a later session.

FSMA workshop and the Rail Open Forum that followed reflected two themes revisited numerous times throughout the conference. Titled “The Impact of Increased Gas and Crude Oil Production on Rail Demand,” the forum was kicked off by Lynn Hiser, vice president - logistics of Fairmount Minerals and former vice president-transportation with Tate & Lyle, as he discussed the growth in rail car demand influenced by the U.S. oil shale regions throughout the United States. Ultimately, the increased demand for the oil tankers and the containers to remove the sand byproduct will impact rail capacity and service on the downside as it congests the systems; but on the side 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 rail car and tank cars in the years ahead. According to Titterton, rail remains the most efficient means of transport, he offered this caveat: “There is a risk on not getting long enough in leasing rail cars; the risk of shut out outweighs it getting loose if the market opens up.”

Grand Opening General Session

Much of the excitement surrounded the industry-relevant sessions presented by high profile speakers, such as Hon. Senator Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Ag Committee, who lead the morning’s events 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 stakeholder. 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.”

John Koraleski, acting president and CEO of Union Pacific Railroad, offered an overview of the investment the railroad has but back into infrastructure serving agriculture in six key regions in an attempt to stay ahead of the capacity curve, noting the rail’s commitment to agriculture as “an important part of the franchise.”

NGFA also bid farewell to its long-standing president Kendell Keith, who after 25 years has retired.

Additional speaker: Terry Barr, director of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Group, delivered an update on the economic state of agriculture, which he reports has a bright future considering global demand for animal protein and the strength of export markets. Marc Freeman, executive director of Labor Law Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, discussed the reach of regulation and what “the fourth house” of the government is doing to lessen the blow to agribusiness.

General Industry Session

Bunge’s CEO Soren Schroder opened the general industry session with a technical overview of Bunge’s projections for growth forecasts for the year ahead and the future.

“By 2020, global trade will be 500 million tons,” Schroder says. “Most of the growth has been and will continue to be in China and Asia.” He notes that part of the challenge will be maintaining and growing “what we have and not falling behind” as farming is profitable anywhere and there’s no shortage of competition. While domestic markets are not growing fast, increased yield are important in fueling global export markets.

Additional speaker: Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods, USDA, spoke about the FDA’s Implementation of FSMA and the implications for grain, feed and trade. Rounding out the conference, Eric Conn, head of OSHA practice with Epstein Becker Green tackled the recent OSHA trend for heavy enforcement of violations (more on this topic in the Editor’s  View column on page 6) and presented tips for what to do during an OSHA inspection.

NGFA members who could not attend the convention can access the event’s presentations by logging onto NGFA.org.

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