OPINION  The American Feed Industry Association applauds the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine for achieving a long-awaited major milestone that will bring about improved trade for U.S. animal-food products abroad. It will start issuing Current Good Manufacturing Practice certificates to animal-food manufacturers looking to export feed, feed ingredients and pet-food products. That will make it possible for facilities located across America to obtain those certificates for export where and if required. It will also eliminate inconsistencies in state regulations.

With an increasing number of international regulatory bodies requiring Good Manufacturing Practice certificates from manufacturers to document their compliance, it was imperative that the United States establish a mechanism for obtaining such a certificate. The American Feed Industry Association has been pushing for the process, which will allow the continued flow of animal-food products to our international buyers and stem the ongoing loss of millions of dollars in missed trade opportunities. Thanks to the hard work of the staff at the FDA-Center for Veterinary Medicine, animal-food manufacturers in all 50 states – not just the dozen states that already had processes for issuing Good Manufacturing Practice certificates – will have the ability to obtain the certificates.

Brazil has required Good Manufacturing Practice certificates for more than a decade. Without a mechanism in place for a U.S. federal authority to issue Good Manufacturing Practice certificates, only manufacturers operating in 12 states with state-based Good Manufacturing Practice-certification programs could export their products to Brazil. Inconsistencies across the state-issued certificates also caused confusion and highlighted the need for a federal program as more countries begin requiring certification.

Mexico, the feed industry’s largest export destination, is expected to implement a Good Manufacturing Practice certificate requirement soon. Without the new program more than $1.6 billion in exports to Mexico would be at risk.

The Food Safety Modernization Act gave the FDA the authority to issue and charge fees for export certificates for animal food. But the agency opted to delay issuing the certificates until all-sized manufacturing facilities were required to be in compliance with Food Safety Modernization Act’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations and could be inspected. As of this past October all-sized facilities must comply with the regulations and inspections are ongoing. Once all facilities were in compliance, the American Feed Industry Association sent a letter urging the FDA to move forward on the process.

The Current Good Manufacturing Practice-compliance language will be added to the Certificates of Free Sale through the Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Export Certification Application and Tracking System. Step-by-step instructions for submitting an application for a Current Good Manufacturing Practice certificate into Center for Veterinary Medicine system are listed on the FDA’s website. Visit www.fda.gov/media/138851/download to view the instructions.

Constance Cullman is the president and CEO of the American Feed Industry Association, an organization devoted to representing the business, legislative and regulatory interests of the U.S. animal-food industry and its suppliers. Visit afia.org for more information.