How agriculture can navigate disruptions and changing policies for future growth

Posted on July 21, 2022 in Dairy Performance
The ping-pong game of Washington politics creates uncertainty as well as direct and indirect consequences for farmers across the U.S. During her presentation at the Vita Plus Midwest Dairy Conference, Constance Cullman, president and CEO of the American Feed Industry Association, highlighted some of the issues likely to affect dairy producers in the upcoming months.

At the time of her presentation on June 15, Cullman reported that President Joe Biden “has picked 526 nominees to fill key roles in his administration so far” and has another 101 positions yet to fill. She said she was happy to see two key agriculture nominations and anticipates both will be approved by the Senate. Alexis Taylor was nominated as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs while Doug McKalip was nominated as the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) chief agricultural negotiator. She said these roles will be critical in developing trade policies that benefit U.S. agriculture.

Cullman discussed the effects of supply chain stress on agriculture. She said the current crisis is the result of aging infrastructure, lean manufacturing models that favor just-in-time inventory, tariffs, the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing labor shortage (which started long before COVID-19), U.S. government intervention that had both positive and negative impacts, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to Cullman, to fix the supply chain issues, the government will need to address labor issues, reduce bottlenecks (especially at ports), help businesses and improve the long-term outlook for U.S. supply chains. As an example, Cullman said 70% of vitamins and minerals come from China; the U.S. needs to consider other sources for these products.

Cullman challenged MWDC attendees to explore how they can also battle supply chain issues within their own businesses via new technologies and software, data and inventory management, workflow optimization, third-party logistics, and streamlined supply chains.

Looking forward, Cullman emphasized that climate is a major priority of the Biden administration and said, “We are definitely on the hook to reduce methane emissions” as nations at the COP26 summit, including the U.S., pledged to reduce methane emissions by one-third by 2030.

Efforts to minimize climate change will be a part of numerous government departments and actions during Biden’s presidency, Cullman explained. Environmental actions are also an example of the back-and-forth nature of today’s politics. As of June 15, Biden has overturned 80 and targeted 91 of the Trump administration’s energy and environmental policies. Meanwhile, the current administration has added 50 of its own policies and proposed another 42 policies.

“It makes it so unpredictable for all of you,” Cullman said.

Cullman cited that 50% to 60% of dairy’s environmental impact is in feed, and animal feed’s position in the supply chain puts it in an important position to reduce the environmental footprint of downstream stakeholders. To support its member’s sustainability efforts, AFIA and the Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER), the organization’s public charity, have launched the Sustainability Road Map Project. Cullman said project goals include understanding the feed sector’s sustainability risks and needs, developing tools to enhance members’ sustainability programs, consistently and clearly communicate sustainability messages, and identifying specific sustainability research topics to fill gaps in understanding. This will all be used in developing a road map to help IFEEDER and AFIA connect the feed industry to stakeholders.

When it comes to sustainability on the farm level, Cullman reminded dairy producers that consumers want to see their values reflected in the products they purchase. She advised attendees to “pick YOUR sustainability story” and communicate the values inherent to your products while talking about the sustainability solutions you provide. She also encouraged them to leverage their associations’ resources. She said farms don’t have to solve every sustainability issue, but rather communicate with consumers about the things they are doing to promote sustainability each day.

Cullman said, “It really is a matter of ‘pick your horse and ride it’ or, in your case, ‘pick your cow and milk it.’”

Click here to download Cullman’s PowerPoint presentation from the Vita Plus Midwest Dairy Conference.

Category: Business and economics
Dairy Performance