What has the pandemic taught us about agriculture?

What has the pandemic taught us about agriculture?

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American Feed Industry Association President and CEO Constance Cullman says leaders understand how important the industry is

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic showed that the U.S. supply chain is strong but needs more flexibility, and leaders now have a better understanding of the agriculture industry, according to Constance Cullman, president and CEO of the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA).

Cullman spoke July 24 during AFIA’s Purchasing and Ingredient Suppliers Webinar Series.

“When we think about COVID and we think about what ag has learned from this whole experience, I think we really have learned that the supply chain is very strong. We have some flexibility issues in our supply chain,” she said. “I am relieved to see that a lot of federal and state leaders better understand our industry, what we do, why what we do is important, that we’re important in international trade, that we’re an important part of the economy and that food supply – and a secure food supply – keep people feeling secure. The leaders and the public also have heightened awareness of the importance of agriculture as a functioning system.”

As the country moves forward, Cullman said the industry’s challenge will be to remind leaders and the public about that importance.

“Can we reinforce our presence and can we reinforce our commitment? That’s something that’s going to have to be talked about,” she said. “Right now we’re in that lull: They recognize we’re important, but if we don’t come back in behind that and drive that message home and remind them of that, that will be quickly forgotten as we go back to some sort of a normal.”

Additionally, in the future, the supply chain may be viewed differently than it has in the past.

“Will certain sectors become essential, or a matter of national security? I think you will see that not just for the U.S. but across the globe,” she said.

Another lesson learned during the pandemic has been the importance of diversification in import and export markets.

“If we want to minimize risk of not being able to get product from a major import country where we get a lot of supply, is there a way to diversify that risk by diversifying our sourcing?” she asked. “Certainly, having China as a major market for some commodities has been very painful for them when that market gets shut off.”