It is hard to believe that 2018 is behind us, and 2019 is here in all its glory. AAMP membership saw growth again for the fourth year in a row. Our association also saw a lot of expansions in our efforts on behalf of the members. We accomplished a considerable amount of work in representing the interests of the small processor, both individually and collectively, in front of state and federal inspection agencies.
The outlook for small processors in the industry continues to be strong. In my travels this past year, the processors I have spoken with tell me that sales are still strong, and in many cases, are still growing. I have visited a number of members this past year who are either adding new equipment to automate, are building additions, or doing both.
The demand for high quality and specialty items continues to drive consumers to the local small processor. We must be prepared to meet the demands of a growing consumer base. One of the biggest challenges facing processors today is finding and keeping employees. It has been difficult to find people to employ in this industry, as it is not easy work. Now that the economy has changed, there are a lot more non-industry related jobs available for them to choose from.
I encourage you to look to AAMP Supplier Members and see what type of equipment they offer that could potentially take the place of an employee. Don’t entertain the idea that it is “too expensive.” You may be surprised on what your return on investment (ROI) would be if you take a close look at the numbers. Hiring and maintaining a capable workforce will continue to be a big theme this year.
We have seen our activity and influence in Washington, as well as our state capitals, grow as we continue to build strong partnerships and relationships in these areas. It is going to be a busy 2019, as we set our goals to be even more involved in legislation and regulatory reform. We will focus on the foundation laid in prior years and continue to push forward for the small processor.
As a top priority, we will continue to build relationships with people of influence and let them know that we are here to work together to build a stronger industry for the future. That future must be one that recognizes the importance of small processors and their influence on the industry. New regulations must work to protect consumers without overshadowing the processors trying to provide them with the goods and services they desire.
In 2018, a large focus remained on the revised Appendix A & B. AAMP will resume work on the revised Appendix A & B until there is a document that is practical for small processors. We were successful in getting the enforcement of the new documents delayed, and are working with other industry groups, including a team of meat scientists and industry experts, to present FSIS with alternative solutions that are best for small processors. AAMP also worked with the United States House of Representative’s Agriculture Committee on language for the Farm Bill, which should bring benefits to our members.
I will be traveling to several states in the late spring with acting FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker and some of his staff. We will be hosting town hall style meetings for our members to offer them a chance to speak with the people managing FSIS. We have enjoyed a good working relationship with FSIS recently, and we want to continue to give our members an opportunity for their voices to be heard.
Label approvals and humane handling
We will continue to work on the development of label approvals in Washington, as well as with some of the state inspection agencies. Label approvals need to become timelier and more consistent between reviewers.
Humane handling has moved back into focus, and we will be unrelenting to see changes in how this is enforced in plants; we need to stop the number of processors closing their slaughter floors. This can only happen with sensible enforcement of the regulation. Too many small processors feel like they are working under a microscope, as there is often more emphasis on humane handling, rather than on food safety.
Training and development initiatives
AAMP has a number of training opportunities that we will be working on this year. We will continue to work on developing a class that will teach how to butcher an animal, all the way from slaughter to fabrication. In addition, we will be producing more training videos. Our newest training video on knife safety is available on the AAMP website under the ‘Education and Training Videos’ resource tab. Please feel free to send us any new video ideas. We would love to hear from you.
AAMP members will be competing in the DFV-AAMP International Competition for Sausage and Ham, as a part of our partnership with the German Butchers’ Association and the IFFA show in Germany. The competition took place in January in Madison, Wisconsin. AAMP will also be presenting a two-hour seminar each day at IFFA in May in Frankfurt, Germany. We have been asked to do presentations on the production of jerky and snack sticks, as well as American steak cuts and trends.
80th Convention, July 25-27
This year is our 80th anniversary, and you will not want to miss the show in Mobile, Alabama, as the Convention Planning Committee has done a fantastic job of putting it together. There will be great seminar topics and speakers with one of the highlights being an all-day pre-convention workshop, put on by the German Butchers Association.
It looks to be a good, but busy 2019 for small processors and the association. We will continue to work on behalf of our members around the country on issues that matter the most. Stay tuned for more information on new services and projects to benefit members of the American Association of Meat Processors.