Leah Wilkinson Talks About Legislation and Regulations at IPPE [VIDEO]

Leah Wilkinson, vice president of Public Policy and Education for the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), sat down to talk with Feed & Grain at IPPE 2022 about what's happening in Washington, D.C., with regards to legislation and regulation impacts to the animal feed industry.

Retiring representatives, midterm elections and COVID-19 make for an uncertain future in Congress this year, especially with 2023 being a Farm Bill year.

Wilkinson gives advice on how feed manufacturers can inform their representative, or future representative, about the importance of their business and the industry overall to rural economies and the food supply chain. Wilkinson also talks about the Biden administration and its first year in office, along with what we could see coming over the next year.

Transcript of Feed & Grain's interview with Leah Wilkinson:

Leah Wilkinson
Hi, I'm Leah Wilkinson, vice president of Public Policy and Education for the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA). I work for the association and the industry and represent you in Washington, DC, and at the state level on all things legislative, regulatory and international trade.

Feed & Grain

What topics are you speaking on at IPPE this year? Can you tell us about them?


Here at IPPE, we're really trying to bring forward some of the cutting-edge topics that we're concerned about. We have presentations on African Swine Fever and what it means for trade.

I'm specifically talking about Congress and what we can expect from Washington, D.C. here and 2022. It's a mid-year election year, so it's going to be full of interesting activity and things to watch that will be impacting agriculture.


Why should we care about what’s happening in the federal government in 2022?


2022 is going to be a year full of activity in Washington, D.C. It's an election year, and the midterm elections means that everyone in the House of Representatives is up for reelection, so all of those congressmen are going to have to go back and justify why they should be reelected.

We have a record number of congressmen and senators that are retiring this year, and that's going to have a big impact on agriculture, especially because all of those folks are sitting on the Agriculture Committee right now; they will be replaced. We're going to have to educate them.

Next year, in 2023, is a farm bill year, so there's going to be a quick and short amount of time to get those new congressmen and senators educated, once they do come in after the election next year. This year is also there's lots going on with the pandemic still, and how do we get back to business with COVID-19 still here?

Watching what the administration is doing on their different policies, the focus that they have on climate change, and where things are on food safety, those are things that we're watching this year.


What are your thoughts on the Biden administration after their first year? Has that changed from what you thought?


Anytime there's a change in administration, things are always different. You don't know quite what to expect.

With the Biden administration, you know, dealing with the pandemic, we knew that that was going to be operation number one. We've seen that through his first year in office, as we go into this year, I would expect more of the same.

We're going to focus domestically in his policy priorities, looking at things like the environment climate change issues, as well as how can we get our businesses back up and running at full capacity. Addressing the supply chain issues that we're having, that's another area of focus that I expect that the administration will be working on as well.

What policies can feed manufacturers still help move the needle on?


We've tried to engage our members on some advocacy efforts as the issues come up. One of the ones that is affecting everyone right now is the issues that are ports, and the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4996, the Ocean Shipping Act of 2021.

They passed it in December, and now we're working on a Senate companion bill. in order for that bill to become law, we need the Senate to act as well, as so we're going to be opening up an advocacy campaign here shortly and encourage all of the industry to engage in that and contact your senators to support that legislation once we get it introduced. And work for passage of that.

We can help provide some mechanisms to address the issues at our ports, and that's related to demurrage fees and the container issues. It's not a silver bullet, unfortunately, but it does contain items that will help make things hopefully go smoother.

We can continue to make some progress on our issues at the ports. That's just one example of areas that can be worked on and advocated for.

We also encourage our members to get to know your members of Congress. Since it is an election year, offer to host them at your facility, let them learn about our industry, how you're important, how many employees that you have, how you can drive the rural economy or your local economy, with your business. Get to know them, let them be a resource for you, but you also a resource for that member of Congress.

If there's anything that we can do to help support you in offering up that information or those tours, please get in contact with us.


What are you most excited about at IPPE this year?


The thing I'm most excited about for IPPE 2022 is that we're here. We're getting to see people and we're doing business, and we're doing it in a safe manner. We're able to share our education and topics with the industry and to see people and really, you know, maintain those relationships. I'm very thankful that we were able to be here in Atlanta and hold the show for everyone.