Changing how animal ag trades with the world

Wisconsin State Farmer

Colorado Springs, CO - Simply put, it’s about how to keep product moving. 
As the National Institute for Animal Agriculture prepares to open the 2017 NIAA Annual Conference this April in Columbus, OH, keynote speaker Ambassador Darci Vetter, former Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, says “It is absolutely critical as supply chains are getting more and the US continues to be a surplus producer, that we are keenly engaged in what is happening in other markets.  We need to know where we stand competitively and how we are viewed internationally.” 
This year’s NIAA Annual Conference focuses on the globalization of food production, citing its theme as “U.S. Animal Agriculture’s Future Role in World Food Production: Obstacles and Opportunities.” Ambassador Vetter will talk about the importance of global trade to the animal agriculture industry, including current challenges and opportunities. 
Vetter was the lead negotiator of the Trans Pacific Partnership agricultural package. “One of the things to watch is that this Administration may really change the approach in place for the last several years, both in how we look at trade and how we negotiate with partners around the globe. 
“They have already pulled out of TPP, and they want to renegotiate NAFTA. New deals may be more bilateral, and not use regional or multilateral approaches,” she says. “What does that mean when the animal ag industry ships to multiple countries? What are the costs and benefits of these different approaches? There is currently lot of speculation and there is much to think through in the months ahead.”
Issues such as the demand for greater traceability and transparency are not going away, according to Vetter. “That’s because it is the consumer who is demanding the information, whether it is place of origin or nutrition, assurance about animal disease or value added labeling. Government is actually lagging behind industry, which is doing more to keep up with consumer demand.”
Vetter notes that traceability infrastructure will be needed for all species to be able to demonstrate safety or quality. This is something the whole of animal ag will have to wrap its head around quickly, and why organizations such as NIAA, which provide forums for dialogue for all elements of the industry, can provide an important perspective. 
“As a trade negotiator, it helps to have the perspective of the entire supply chain, so having a group where all those aspects are talking to each other means better information for everyone,” she says. “It means I get better advice on how to best negotiate for US agriculture.”
As supply chains become increasingly international and complex, coalitions and alliances are more important than ever. “The Industry has an opportunity to clearly state priorities, in order get the most advantage in these changing times and to forge new relationships, to help governments, or perhaps deliver results in spite of delays or challenges in making good policy,” says Vetter. “They can position themselves to both communicate important industry information and insulate themselves from whatever turbulence might come, to keep product moving.”
If there is a continuing theme to animal ag and globalization, it is one of engagement on many different levels. “The industry must continue engaging with government, with its counterparts in animal ag in other countries, and partnering with other a groups who have similar problems and solutions,” says Vetter. “Finding commonality with other providers dealing with the same issues, so they deal with the same issues in the same way, at the same, time facilitates doing business globally.”
Vetter served as Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at USDA, where she oversaw the department's international activities. She had key responsibilities in international trade negotiations and export assistance programs, and coordinated USDA's role in international food aid and trade capacity building activities. 
But, she points out that, though her career has been in the executive branch and on the hill, she grew up on a small farm which raised livestock, grains and beans, and her family has a food processing business. 
“I do understand the demands on small businesses, and how they have to stretch scarce resources. I always try to keep that in mind,” Vetter adds. “The opportunity to hear from providers as well as industry leaders, academics and other policy experts is so helpful because solving some of the biggest trade barriers and challenges often comes down to understanding priorities and practical realities.”
“I’m looking forward to a good conversation!” says Vetter. 
The NIAA Annual Conference will be held April 3-6, 2017 at the Renaissance Columbus Hotel Downtown, Columbus, OH.
After the Annual Conference closes, NIAA will host an added forum on April 6th, on animal well–being, "Animal Care Standards – How Laws, Company Commitments, and Public Perception Have Changed the Landscape.” Registration and a pre–conference Ag Tour will be offered on April 3rd.
For agenda information, speakers or to register, go to the NIAA website,

National Institute for Animal Agriculture