ORLANDO, FLORIDA, U.S. — The American Feed Industry Association Purchasing and Ingredient Suppliers Conference (PISC) offered approximately 650 attendees discussions on what’s happening in the animal food industry and networking opportunities between feed ingredient buyers and sellers.

“PISC attendees had the opportunity to hear from experts on many hot-button issues in the animal food industry, such as sustainability and African swine fever,” said Veronica Rovelli, senior director of meetings and events for the AFIA. “Not only did they get an update on current issues, our members had the opportunity to foster and deepen relationships with their suppliers and clients.”

The three-day event’s educational program featured several experts who spoke on topics such as: a keynote about “the battle to do good” on incorporating sustainability practices into corporate programs; an update on current research on African swine fever; the future of the agricultural industry and its impacts; an outlook on the political landscape; and discussions on the economics and trade environment for the U.S. feed industry.

Speaker Bob Langert said businesses should not underestimate how important it is for overall brand health to incorporate sustainability.

“People care about the issues of sustainability,” said Langert, president of Mainstream Sustainability and retired vice-president of sustainability from McDonald’s Corp. “It is important for them to know where their food comes from, what’s in it and how it’s processed. I can’t over emphasize that of all 42-key metrics on brand health that McDonald’s had, the one on ‘do I feel good about the food I’m eating at McDonald’s?’ was probably the most important.”

Conference attendees also had the opportunity to meet with 10 members as part of the PISC Suppliers Showcase and participate in other networking activities. The event also raised $1,300 to support research and education projects through the Institute for Feed Education and Research.

During the conference the AFIA recognized two members with awards.

T.J. Biggs, director of technical services and quality assurance at Global Animal Products, was honored with the Member of the Year Award.

The Member of the Year Award is presented to an AFIA member who exhibits outstanding support in achieving the organization’s goals and objectives throughout the year. With the exception of the 83 members of the Food Safety Modernization Act working group who received the award in 2014, only 39 individuals have been honored prior to this year.

“With his gentle demeanor and sense of humor, T.J. aided in a staff contact transition and ensured that the committee’s business continued efficiently and effectively,” said Paul Davis, director of quality, animal food safety and education at the AFIA. “T.J. is an excellent recipient for this award and we thank him for his contributions.”

Biggs is the immediate past-chair of AFIA’s Liquid Feed Committee. Together with the committee’s leadership team, he helped assemble a slate of speakers for the 2018 Liquid Feed Symposium. He worked with the various subcommittees to make contact assignments, assuring sponsorships and contributions to the Kenny Berg Research and Education Fund were secured.

AFIA’s distinguished Service Award was given to Bill Barr, president of the Bill Barr & Company, for his life-long contributions to the feed industry.

The Distinguished Service Award is given to members of the U.S. animal food industry who have provided outstanding support to AFIA and the entire animal food industry throughout their careers.

“Bill has embraced every project with enthusiasm and a can-do attitude,” said Sarah Novak, vice-president of membership and public relations at the AFIA. “If he did not have the resources to make something happen, he knew who needed to be included in the conversation to accomplish the goal. He is more than deserving of this award.”

Barr has been a dedicated member of the AFIA since 1977. Barr’s father formed the company in 1956 as a sales representative agency for manufacturers of ingredients used in the production of animal feed and companion animal food and treats. In the 1950s, nutritionists searched for ingredients that could best balance the nutritional components of the commodity ingredients in use. As the industry grew and these feeds and foods became more sophisticated, the level of nutrition improved, and Bill Barr & Company expanded its service to customers to include the distribution of ingredients and their representation.

During Barr’s AFIA board chairmanship (2011-12), the association created its Sustainability Oversight Committee, finalized the Pet Food Certification program and strengthened the foundation for AFIA’s public charity, the Institute for Feed Education and Research. Barr served as a trustee for IFEEDER and remained on the board until 2015.

“We’ve transformed AFIA into a member-driven organization,” Barr said. “We take the ideas and needs of our members as a group and push them forward and that’s great. It really starts with saying ‘yes’ to being on a committee and getting involved. It’s been amazing to see what we can do as a group that starts with individuals.”

Next year’s conference will be held March 17-19, 2020, in Seattle, Washington, U.S.