ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, US — Three individuals were recognized by the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) for their support of the animal food industry throughout their careers.  

Rurik B. “R.B.” Halaby, formerly with AgriCapital Corp., received the 2021 Distinguished Service Award; Bill McLean, of The Essmueller Co., received the 2021 AFIA-Kansas State University Feed Manufacturing Lifetime Achievement Award; and Steve Kopperud, of SLK Strategies, was posthumously named an AFIA Honorary Board Director.

The AFIA named all members as recipients of the AFIA 2021 Member of the Year Award.

“At every turn, this past year has tested our industry’s ability to perform our essential work of producing safe and nutritious animal food, but we have emerged more resilient than ever, thanks in part to the caliber of our people, several of whom we are recognizing today,” said Constance Cullman, president and chief executive officer of the AFIA, during the AFIA’s annual board of directors meeting held virtually on May 13. “We congratulate and thank Steve, R.B. and Bill for their dedication to the betterment of our industry throughout their careers and our over 650 member companies for their commitment and perseverance during these challenging times.”

In an unprecedented move, the AFIA named its entire membership as the recipient of its 2021 Member of the Year Award, for their essential work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Member of the Year Award is typically presented to an AFIA member who exhibits outstanding support in achieving the organization’s goals and objectives throughout the year.

“This year, all AFIA members went above the call of duty to identify challenges, share lessons learned and ‘lean in’ to support one another,” Cullman said. “We may be a small industry, but we are certainly a mighty one, and I cannot thank the employees at our over 650 member companies enough for overcoming the many personal and professional obstacles to see to it that the country’s domestic livestock and pets were fed and our grocery store shelves remained stocked. Not only that, their commitment to their local communities shined through as they found ways to give back through millions of dollars in food and pet food donations, support of health care workers and more.”

The AFIA honored Halaby with the 2021 Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to the feed industry. The Distinguished Service Award is AFIA’s highest honor and is given to the elite members of the US animal food industry who have provided outstanding support to the AFIA and the entire animal food industry throughout their careers.

Halaby has been involved in the AFIA and the Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER), serving on the AFIA board of directors and executive committee twice during his career, as well as on the planning committee for the 2010 Executive Leadership Summit. Halaby was one of the first individual gold-level donors to IFEEDER, as he understood how important it is to not only donate to the industry, but to have agriculture’s voice be heard in consumer conversations. He is known to be engaging and passionate about building bridges across various aspects of agriculture.

The AFIA honored McLean with the AFIA-Kansas State University Feed Manufacturing Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifelong support and advocacy of the feed industry. The award recognizes and honors US animal food industry retirees, or those who are no longer serving the industry or allied industries, who have made significant contributions to the animal food manufacturing business in the United States throughout their careers. Individuals are nominated in the areas of business, science and technology. The AFIA and KSU first presented the award in 1995 and only 21 individuals have received the award to date.

McLean spent his entire career at The Essmueller Co., starting with the company in 1971 as a member of the sales department to becoming owner and president in 1986. McLean has supported the industry for many years, serving on the AFIA Equipment Manufacturers Committee for over 25 years and on the AFIA board of directors. He is widely regarded as a mentor to many professionals in the industry, addressing graduating agriculture students on international business as a guest lecturer at KSU.

The AFIA honored Kopperud, who died in October 2020, as an Honorary Board Director for his service to the animal food industry over his 35-year career. This is the first time this honor has been given. Kopperud served as the senior vice president of legislative affairs at the AFIA for more than 20 years and as a government affairs consultant for almost 15 years, before semi-retiring in 2019. He founded the Animal Industry Foundation, now the Animal Agriculture Alliance, in the 1980s as a forum for producer and industry organizations, dedicated to providing information on the vital role ranchers and farmers play in promoting animal welfare and act as a unified voice for agriculture in advancing positive animal welfare policy to the public and other industries.

In honor of this award, the AFIA made a donation to a scholarship created in his honor at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication.