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Interview with Betsy Flores

Senior Vice President of Public Policy, Pet Food Institute, USA

betsy flores

Betsy serves as the senior vice president of public policy for PFI. In her role, Betsy guides PFI’s legislative, regulatory, trade and market access strategies, as well as manages the association’s government relations and regulatory staff. Prior to joining PFI, Betsy served as the director of research and promotion programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), where she was responsible for directing and managing the full range of activities for oversight of six checkoff programs for the Livestock and Poultry Program. She also worked as a deputy director in the office of agricultural affairs at the United States Trade Representative, where she was involved in issues such as biotechnology, new technologies, the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement and technical barriers to trade.

Betsy holds a master’s degree from John Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from the State University of West Georgia. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and dog. Beyond work, Flores and her husband foster dogs and kittens through the Wolf Trap Animal Rescue.

You have a rich career in the industry, what initially lead you to get into this field?

I have spent my whole career in agricultural policy, mainly in plant and animal commodity agriculture. I spend my personal time fostering dogs and cats for a local rescue organisation. When the opportunity came along to advocate for the pet food industry, it seemed like the perfect fit. Pet food’s close association with the U.S. agricultural community and pet food makers’ strong supporter of pet adoption made the decision very easy.

What in your opinion is the worst impact the pandemic had on the industry?

The biggest issue was the increase in demand for pet food due to pet owners spending more time with their pets and likely feeding more, extra food stocking and supply chain disruptions. Every node in the supply chain was impacted and this led to a lack of supply to feed the demand and empty store shelves for a while.

What are the most critical technological developments taking place in our sector in recent years from your perspective?

For PFI and pet food makers, we are continuously looking at ways to use the latest, science-based innovative ingredients in pet food. For example, sustainability is a key priority in our country, and pet food makers are looking at ways to produce pet food using nutritious and novel ingredients that use less natural resources like insect proteins.

The war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia will have an additional impact on pet food ingredient availability in the United States. What advice would you give to those looking to solve this crisis?

The key here, I think, is to make it easier for pet food makers to substitute alternative ingredients into pet food. Currently, the process of getting new ingredients approved can take as long as five years. That is an untenable situation when a pet food company has to look at emergency ingredient substitutions due to supply chain issues and inaccessibility of an ingredient.

Do you think standards of pet nutrition are met in developing countries? If no, what actions could possibly be taken by the industry in bringing a change?

The U.S. exports US$2 billion in dog and cat food to other nations annually. This is because the superior quality and safety of U.S.-made pet food is recognized worldwide. As USDA’s Market Access Program cooperator for U.S. pet food, PFI communicates with pet owners in key emerging foreign markets about the benefits of U.S. pet food to drive demand and aid U.S. pet food exporters in entering the market. This provides the opportunity for pet owners in other countries to purchase safe nutritious, and complete and balanced pet food for their cats and dogs.

Going forward, what aspects of nutrition and production would you like to see addressed and why?

Innovation and the ability to use novel products in pet food is critical to providing the best, scientifically researched, nutritious ingredients for cats and dogs, as well as to offer more sustainable ingredients. The regulatory framework for the ingredient approval process needs to be updated so that pet food makers can provide pet owners with the latest in pet nutrition quickly.


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