2022 Chairman’s Report

John Sessler
JCS Tradecom

AFI, its various sections and, of course, its members have had a turbulent past 12 months. The reports from the chairs of the various sections that appear a few pages past this one outline some of that activity, which include things such as antidumping duty filings, standard setting and industry outreach.

A measure of a successful organization is a strong team focusing on preparedness and response when confronted by unforeseen events in the marketplace. Our industry has faced unprecedented challenges from the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, triggering mass fiscal spending, overwhelming global supply chains and infrastructure, leading to skyrocketing inflation. The ongoing crisis has revealed the value our organization as a vital trusted partner during these turbulent times.

There’s one common thread: companies in the industry – any industry – are better off working together than trying to handle issues independently. The advantage created by having an established association in place helps an industry nimbly navigate and oftentimes anticipate important issues.

An example of being nimble: two years ago when the pandemic hit, AFI constantly alerted members to trade-related impacts, including changes in Food and Drug Administration and Customs and Border Protection policies. The pandemic forced the cancellation of the in-person AFI Convention that was scheduled a month later but AFI was still able to offer the industry the important information to be presented at the convention via a series of weekly webinars featuring the same speakers slated to speak in-person.

AFI President Bob Bauer, in his report in this publication, outlines the steps AFI took when the shipping/supply chain issues became an issue. As noted in that report, while many other associations watched from the sidelines, AFI dove right in, being in many cases the fist entity to contact a government official or member of Congress about the problem. In fact, access for mobilizing elected government officials and regulatory bodies remains a key function of our organization.

To that end, the AFI Board of Directors, led by the Executive Committee, is investing time and other resources to ensure the association is positioned to continue to thrive. AFI has been a valuable resource since 1906 and the board and staff are committed to taking the association to an even-higher level.

One of the best ways to do that is via numbers. As the saying goes, there’s power in numbers. So, the AFI Board of Directors is adopting a strategic plan that includes several initiatives geared to adding to the approximately 1,000 companies already members of AFI. Board members and staff are committed to all facets of plan, much of which centers around adding to that already impressive membership figure and further enhancing AFI’s presence.

Why are numbers important? When an issue comes up and AFI staff contacts someone, one of the first things asked is “how many companies are making this request?” AFI has a reputation for having excellent speakers at its meetings. One of the first things those and other speakers ask: “how many companies will be represented at the meeting?” When industry coalitions are formed regarding specific issues, partners ask “what is AFI bringing in terms of numbers?”

We need to ensure regulators, politicians and even others in the food business are fully aware that there’s a vibrant, professional food import sector that’s a key component of the overall food industry – suppliers of safe, quality product from around the globe and U.S. importers ensuring those foods meet U.S. food safety regulations and customers’ quality parameters.

That’s more readily achieved through numbers, so on behalf of the staff and board, I’m asking members to ensure others in the food import sector – importers, foreign suppliers and those who provide services to us – are aware of how AFI already helps them and how it can do so even more with their active participation.

Additionally, we need to educate all involved in the sector about the need to ensure food imports are safe and of good quality; we can’t let a few create problems for the many. That’s why AFI’s approach has always been to conduct as much industry outreach as possible to help bring companies up to compliance. That’s one of the reasons a speaker from AFI is often among the list of presenters at conferences around the world.

Participation is key for members to get the most from their membership. AFI memberships are company memberships, which means anyone at a member firm can receive information the association sends out and anyone from a member firm can serve on AFI committees.

If your firm isn’t a member, tell us what we’re missing. Tell us what would help you to see the value of AFI membership. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit the AFI website – www.afius.org – and see what AFI has to offer.

Association of Food Industries: Serving the U.S. Food Import Trade Since 1906
3301 Route 66, Ste. 205, Bldg. C • Neptune, NJ 07753
(732) 922-3008 • Fax: (732) 922-3590 • afius.org • info@afius.org