NGFA president and CEO Michael Seyfert provides his take on what the US$1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill may mean for US feed producers
On August 10, 2021, the U.S. Senate approved a historic $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The bill will address the dilapidated New Deal Era lock-and-dam systems on the nation’s waterways, crumbling bridges, roads in severe disrepair and many other upgrades agriculture and rural Americans have requested for decades.
Michael Seyfert, NGFA president and CEO, joins the chat to discuss what the infrastructure bill will mean for the U.S. grain and feed industries.
Video transcript: Feed Strategy Chat with Michael Seyfert, president & CEO, National Grain & Feed Association (NGFA)
Jackie Roembke, Feed Strategy editor: Hello everyone and welcome to Feed Strategy Chat. I am your host, Jackie Roembke, editor of Feed Strategy magazine.
This edition of Feed Strategy Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and FeedStrategy.com. FeedStrategy.com is your source for the latest news and leading-edge analysis of the global animal feed industry.
Today we’re joined on Zoom by Mike Seyfert, president and CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA). Hi, Mike, how are you today?
Mike Seyfert, NGFA president and CEO: I’m great. How are you, Jackie?
Roembke: I’m doing well. Thank you so much. So how are you settling into the relatively new position?
Seyfert: Settling in great. My six-month anniversary is coming up here pretty quick. And you know, it’s been unique coming on in the middle of a pandemic. But NGFA has held a successful convention in that timeframe and several other meetings. And you know, I’m very lucky in that we’ve got great membership, great volunteer leaders here at NGFA — and we’ve got a great staff. And my predecessor, Randy Gordon, who had been here for 43 years, left me a very steady ship to take the helm of, and it’s been a wonderful first six months here, and I can’t thank everyone in the industry enough for the warm welcome they’ve given.
Roembke: Excellent. Glad to hear that. Well, let’s talk about one of the hot topics of the day, infrastructure. In your opinion, what is the most critical infrastructure issue facing NGFA members?
Seyfert: You know, the thing we have heard from a number of our members in particular, are the inland waterways issues, and many of the locks and dams on the Mississippi River have been there since the 1930s. And so that is obviously a key issue in the infrastructure legislation that’s moving through the Congress right now. The bipartisan [infrastructure] bill, which was about US$1 trillion, does a lot to to address those lock-and-dam issues.
There’s about US$17.5 billion in that legislation aimed at ports and waterways, US$2.5 billion of that would be geared specifically towards locks and dams upgrades, in particular on the Mississippi and some of the other key waterways. But there’s also, you know, the overall crumbling infrastructure.
The highway issue is a key one as well. There’s US$110 billion in there for roads and bridges. And I think if you look at what happened with the I-40 bridge [fracture] earlier this summer, and the impact that had with shipping down the river for a few days, it showed the importance of this entire system and making sure that it works.
And I think, obviously, there’s some significant funding for broadband in that legislation as well. And I think we all learned the importance of broadband this past year during COVID — particularly if you were in a situation out in rural America, where you couldn’t do business because you didn’t have a high-speed internet connection. Or your kids were sitting in the parking lot at McDonald’s or another fast food restaurant because that’s where they could get a wi-fi connection to be able to go to school.
And, you know, I’m from rural Kansas. And if I was home at the farm in Kansas today, you and I would not be able to do this Zoom meeting. And so that’s certainly a very important priority for our members as well.
But you know, this is a bipartisan bill. And it addresses a number of priorities that NGFA has been working on — not just this year — but quite honestly for decades. And so we’re really excited about the possibilities and potential that it offers.
Roembke: Very good. And tailoring the response more to the benefits to the U.S. feed industry, what can feed producers expect from the bipartisan bill?
Seyfert: I think the same way. The ability to move and transport product is going to be important.
There’s a couple of key provisions in there that we’ve really been pushing as a priority from the feed industry side here at NGFA. One of them is a pilot program that would allow 18- to 20-year-olds with a commercial drivers license (CDL) to be able to cross state lines. Right now, 18- to 20-year-olds can get CDL licenses, but they’re not allowed to cross state lines, or in most instances not allowed to being able to cross those state lines for that pilot project. And if it’s successful, it can be expanded, would do a lot to try and bring more in to the trucking industry and more drivers to get more availability of trucks because that has really been a key priority.
There were also proposals to raise the limits of liability insurance that would be required for those running trucks. We were able to defeat that. That’s something that really would not have addressed any safety issues, but would have added some increased and significant cost to the feed industry. And so we were happy that we were able to keep that out.
Roembke: What other pressing issues should the U.S. feed industry keep on its radar moving into the second half of the year?
Seyfert: I think there’s two of them. Obviously, we’ve got African swine fever (ASF), which has been a big issue in China for about three years now. And there has always been a keen emphasis on biosecurity in the feed industry. But I think, with dealing with that the last three years, it raised the importance and the significance. And I think now that we have ASF in the Dominican Republic, that is certainly raising the attention, I think, in the industry here in the U.S. and a number of government agencies to try and make sure we can keep it out. But maintaining those biosecurity protocols, making sure we understand any way that feed might be able to be a vector for animal diseases, is something that’s really important. And then also not just for feed, but I’d say the industry as a whole, grain and feed, are COVID and some of the labor issues.
Same as you’ve been hearing, if you’ve tried to go get a table or restaurant lately, you may have had a hard time, you may have waited a while or you may have had a hard time getting waited on. You know, we’re hearing from a lot of our members having difficulties as well. What you’re hearing across the whole economy, filling positions, keeping workers and I think that’s going to continue to be an issue for the rest of this year.
And also, with [the] Delta [variant of the coronavirus] and all what’s going on with it, now I think that’s created some additional uncertainty as to what that may mean in terms of both labor, and also additional requirements that might be coming down out of (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) potentially further into the year.
And so I think those are all things that I think are important for both the feed side and the grain side of the industry to to be monitoring. And we’re certainly going to be monitoring for them over the rest of this year.
Roembke: This year NGFA celebrates its 125th anniversary. To view some material surrounding this milestone, and also updates to its firefighting guide, please visit www.ngfa.org.
Thank you, Mike, and thanks to you for tuning in.