In this episode, Leah Wilkinson, vice president of public policy and education for the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) discusses the upcoming International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) 2024 and highlights educational opportunities at the event, including sessions on regulatory issues, sustainability and international trade. Wilkinson also provides insights into the Innovative FEED Act, explains how it aims to improve the feed ingredient approvals process in the U.S. by establishing a new category for certain feed ingredients and shares her optimism about its legislative progress.
Transcription of Feed & Grain Chat with Leah Wilkinson, vice president of public policy and education, AFIA:
Elise Schafer, Editor, Feed & Grain: Hi everyone and welcome to Feed & Grain Chat. I'm your host, Elise Schafer, editor of Feed & Grain. This edition of Feed & Grain Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and FeedandGrain.com. FeedandGrain.com is your source for the latest news, product and equipment information for the grain handling and feed manufacturing industries.
Today I'm joined on Zoom by Leah Wilkinson, vice president of public policy and education for the American Feed Industry Association. She's here to give us a glimpse into IPPE 2024 and share regulatory insights for the feed industry. Hi, Leah, how are you?
Leah Wilkinson, vice president of public policy and education, AFIA: I'm great, Elise. Thanks for having me today.
Schafer: Absolutely, Thanks for joining me. Now, as feed industry professionals prepare to gather at IPPE, how can attendees use their time at the show to learn about regulatory issues and changes impacting their businesses?
Wilkinson: Well, thanks for asking that question. Because while attendees are busy walking the trade show floor and doing their business, we do have some opportunities for them to get educated on what's either happening in Washington, D.C., or at the state level. And we have several different events for them to attend throughout the week. We start off on Tuesday with our full-day Pet Food Conference. So those that are in the pet food industry, suppliers or customers of that industry, can attend that all-day meeting and learn about what's facing that industry on the regulatory side, legislative side, as well as industry challenges. So that's always a great opportunity for attendees in that space. And something that maybe people don't associate with IPPE is the pet food side there.
On Wednesday, we have a free Feed Education Program that takes place in the morning. And that's where you can come learn everything about feed manufacturing, what you're facing regulatory-wise with OSHA, EPA, FDA — all of those updates will be there, as well as announcing our commercial dry Feed Facility of the Year winner. Later that morning, we have another session that focuses in on your sustainability journey, so the Feed your ESG that will bring together some experts to talk about nutrition, sustainability in the feed industry. And for those that are interested in in the international world for imports and exports, we have a session that goes on with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, so we bring in those experts that can help and we'll talk through how to facilitate your export certificates and the certification of your facilities for exports. And so that's a hands-on type of event that we are providing.
We also have a couple of TECHTalks that go on throughout the week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday that you can look for the AFIA staff. We have three of us that will be presenting, so I encourage you to come learn from Lara Moody about sustainability. Louise Calderwood is going to talk about the ingredient approvals and what we're working on in Capitol Hill, as well as pet food label modernization that's happening. And then I'm on Thursday going to give an outlook of what to expect in 2024 with all the elections that are happening and what's going to happen in Washington, D.C.
Schafer: Great, there's certainly a lot of education opportunities. Can you give us a preview of what you'll be covering during the AFIA's Feed Education Program on Wednesday, January 31?
Wilkinson: I will be giving a quick update of that landscape of what's happening with the Food and Drug Administration. So, FDA is our federal regulator for our industry and so we'll talk through what we're seeing and expecting on inspections, how those comprehensive inspections are going, where they're stacking all of those inspections into one, so where that's going on — timeframe, numbers of inspections that have happened, as well as what we're seeing for some of the citations that are happening just to help our industry get better and keep in compliance with those regulations. So that's what I'll be focusing on in that session.
Schafer: Excellent. Now, the Innovative FEED Act was introduced in the House last month. How would this improve the current feed ingredient approvals process in the U.S. and what's the legislative status of that bill right now?
Wilkinson: That's a top priority for the American Feed Industry Association and something we've been working on for many years and has come to this culmination where we're working with Congress now. So, the American Feed Industry Association asked FDA to modernize their policy of how they have regulated certain animal ingredients that want to make claims in the animal production. The whole microbiome space of the animal human food safety. And in the environment right now, their policy says those have to be regulated as animal drugs and we want them to be regulated as animal feeds because they're more appropriate as a feed ingredient. That's what they are — they work within the digestive tract. And it's more appropriate to be regulated as a feed ingredient.
And so, FDA looked at that policy and came back and told Congress, “We need some authority, we want to clear authority to be able to regulate these products as feeds.” And so, the legislation, there was a bill introduced in the Senate last summer. And now we have the House companion bill. And what that does is establish a new category of food additives, that for products that are not nutritive — so they don't provide taste, nutrition or aroma, but they work within the digestive tract.
And they want to make label claims for the health of the animal, the microbiome space, the food safety, as well as the environment, that would be considered a food additive and they would go through the food additive petition process. That's what it does. Those products will still go through and get that safety and efficacy review, just like we do for any nutritive ingredient right now, we just are clarifying that clear regulatory pathway to have those ingredients go through. That would allow our industry to have that innovative path to bring these products to market that we don't have in the United States right now because no one is going through that drug approval process because it's cumbersome. And it's just not appropriate for these types of ingredients.
So, we're really excited. The energy’s there. We're getting co-sponsors every day that are added to that bill. We have over 180 different associations at the national and state level and companies that are supporting this effort. And we're just really working with Congress to have them understand why we need this and to hopefully get this included on some legislative package that will move this year.
Schafer: Well, Leah, thank you so much for that update and your insights today.
Wilkinson: Thank you for having me, Elise, and I hope to see everybody at IPPE.
Schafer: Absolutely. To register online or learn more about IPPE, taking place in Atlanta January 30 to February 1, go to IPPExpo.org.
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