Do you want a consumer advocate at the annual Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Conference? If you do, there’s only one way that’s going to happen, and that is if you pitch in to help get me there. It costs money to go to these meetings – a lot of money – and I can’t afford to go if I don’t have you help.
Even though I spend every waking hour doing this work, I derive no income from it. I guess that’s what you call a labor of love. I do this job because I care about what you feed to your pets, because, let’s face it, most commercial pet food isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Most of it is downright awful, in my opinion. But my job is to make it better. So, twice a year, I ask for donations to send me to AAFCO to their conferences. It costs about $4000 a year – money I just don’t have.
POOR AS A CHURCH MOUSE
Maybe you’re thinking – why bother; I’m sure she gets enough, right? Well, not exactly. I wish I could say that people have stepped up and chipped in, but so far, they haven’t. And I’m getting worried, because time is running out to reserve my spot, and I simply haven’t received enough to go – yet. But, if everyone who visited Poisoned Pets chipped in just $1, I could raise funds in two seconds flat. Yup, just that fast, because I get a lot of visitors. But, only a handful have taken the extra step to say, “Thanks, Mollie, we appreciate your hard work, and we want you to go to AAFCO for us and our pets.” The folks who made their donations outside of the campaign drive (below), amounted to $200.
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
Why does going to AAFCO matter? It matters because AAFCO is where all the state and federal agencies who regulate the sale and distribution of animal feed meet and AAFCO are where the model bills and regulations are written, changed and where new ones are created.
DAVID v. GOLIATH
Even though the role I play at AAFCO is a small one, it’s an important one. You see, long before I came along, the pet food industry pretty much had the run of the show at AAFCO. And, over the years, only a handful of consumer advocates have ever come to AAFCO, and most of them dropped out and never came back. Aside from Dr. Jean Hofve, who’s been going to AAFCO on and off since 1999 and more recently, Susan Thixton of Truth About Pet Food, the industry didn’t hear from the consumer side of things for many, many years. Consequently, since 1909 when AAFCO was formed the work was exclusive to federal and state feed control officials and feed industry representatives. And they had no input from consumer stakeholders.
AND THEN THERE WERE THREE
All that has changed. Today, there are three consumer representatives at AAFCO: Susan Thixton, Dr. Jean Hofve and myself. Now, consumer representatives have been given the opportunity to be a part of this important process where we play a role in creating meaningful changes for consumers at AAFCO.
Why do we go? Because, at AAFCO regulations, standards, definitions, and enforcement policies are developed for regulating the manufacture, labeling, distribution, and sale of animal feeds – regulations that will be adopted by every State in the nation, in whole or in part, in the context of their State’s law. AAFCO is a forum for these regulatory officials to come together and create model guidance to ensure that the regulation of animal feeds is as uniform as possible from state to state.
It’s hard work, though, and everyone there is on a voluntary basis. All of the state and federal agencies that regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds meet twice a year in person. All of us schlep to some distant city, lugging our laptops, our luggage, and our papers to meet at these AAFCO conferences. But it doesn’t end there, in between the conferences, we attend frequent meetings in select committees where we hammer out issues in teleconferences.
But, not everyone who attends AAFCO can be an advisor; it is at the discretion of the President of AAFCO and its members of the board to decide if they feel that person will be an asset to the process or a liability. So, just being a pain in the ass, and a thorn in the industry’s side, isn’t good enough – that person has to be a member of an association that represents a stakeholder group. More importantly, I can’t do my job if I’m not there. So, come on-chip in – and “put a cat among the pigeons” at AAFCO. Don’t wait, because the deadline for me to register for the conference is a little more than two weeks away!
2016 Annual AAFCO Conference
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Date: Monday, August 1 – Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Registration Information: Deadline July 1, 2016
Hotel Reservations: Deadline July 9, 2016
Meeting Material: Draft Agenda
Committee Draft Agendas:Ingredient Definitions Committee and Pet Food Committee
Find out more about the 2016 Annual AAFCO Conference by visiting AAFCO’s website.
UPDATE: I have no association with Susan Thixton of Truth About Pet Food, either personally of professionally, or the Association for Truth in Pet Food.