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Petfood manufacturer executive discusses importance of USDA

In a recent webinar series, Paul Hughes, an executive with petfood manufacturer Nestle Purina PetCare, discussed the importance of the US Department of Agriculture in the petfood industry, amid concerns over budget cuts for the department.

Hughes provided an analogy relating the importance of an umpire in the game of baseball to the importance of USDA in providing information to the commodity market, on such things as petfood ingredients. “The USDA is the global unbiased umpire of the grains and oilseeds markets,” Hughes said.

Hughes' example referenced Don Denkinger, a major league baseball umpire who admittedly made a bad call in the 1985 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals. Hughes said that in commodity markets, USDA is looked upon to give quality, unbiased information, but, like Denkinger, sometimes only gets attention when the reports are controversial or unexpected.

Hughes worries that if USDA is not able to provide the reports due to possible budget cuts, the information might instead only come from parties with vested interests in the outcomes. “What this does is leave the market ripe for all sorts of manipulations by those with the best independent information.” USDA's reports, he says, level the playing field for all manufacturers, regardless of the size.