A History of Service to the Poultry and Egg Industry

The first USPOULTRY Executive CommitteeU. S. Poultry & Egg Association is people, people who have recognized through the years that mutual challenges of the poultry and egg industry can best be met by joining together in association.

The fledgling poultry industry in the southeastern United States was facing a variety of issues in the 1940's. Among them was how to feed and water live chickens en-route to New York by train. New York was the major market, and getting birds there in good condition was one of the challenges. Additional concerns were poultry health, breeding, production and processing techniques, economics, government relations - these and many other issues faced the emerging young industry. And while the details of these concerns might have changed throughout the existence of the association, some of them continue to challenge the industry.

Seeing an opportunity for collective action to address problems too large for one person to solve, a group of poultry and egg dealers met in Louisville, Kentucky, in March, 1947. They were part of a Kentucky-Tennessee group known as the Southern Poultry and Egg Shippers Association. As they gathered around the conference table, the vision of Southeastern Poultry & Egg Association was born. That meeting was followed by a larger one in May of 1947 in Atlanta to develop plans for the new association. It was decided at the May meeting that the bylaws would be based on those of the National Poultry, Butter, and Egg Association, a group that largely represented produce companies. It would be an "all-feather" organization, representing broiler growers, turkey growers, egg producers, hatcheries, processors, and feed and allied firms. From today's perspective, the poultry industry was not a vertically integrated industry like today. Albert Mott, of Nashville, Tennessee, was named the first executive secretary, serving out of Nashville on a part-time basis. The original states comprising what later became known as simply "SOUTHEASTERN" included Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The membership would eventually expand to include Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas; these 13 southeastern states that would make up the organization for many years.

Plans were made for a "poultry convention" in January, 1948. Approximately 200 people from around the Southeast came together at the convention at the Ansley Hotel in Atlanta. The original officers were elected, including the first president W.W. Durham, a Kentucky turkey producer with a hatchery and feed mill. Other leaders elected to the original executive committee included first vice president J.D. Jewell (later often referred to as the father of the modern poultry industry since he played a major role leading to vertical integration), Gainesville, GA; second vice president Vic Pringle, Broadway, VA; secretary Ralph Jean, Memphis, TN; and treasurer Leon Carter, Atlanta. Vice presidents were also named to represent member states. Frank Frazier, who was serving as executive secretary of the Virginia Poultry Federation, helped organize the convention and gave the keynote address. In April of 1948 Frazier was named the executive secretary of the new association, and the headquarters was re-located to Richmond, Virginia, sharing office facilities with the Virginia Poultry Federation.

In August of 1948, a program committee met to plan the first "real" Southeastern Poultry & Egg Convention, since the first meeting was primarily organizational in scope. It was set for January 15-17, 1949, again at the Ansley Hotel in Atlanta.  Registration was $2, and more than 600 people attended. The three-day event consisted primarily of speakers, panel sessions, and separate meetings for the various member groups. Ads were sold for the convention directory, and it was reported that several companies set up table-top displays in the hotel lobby. A similar convention was held again at the same location in 1950. Then, the first actual exposition was held the following year, in January, 1951 when 67 firms exhibited and approximately 2000 people attended. Thus the exposition began its phenomenal run of steadily growing and expanding year after year to become what is today the annual International Poultry Expo. It features the world's most extensive display of equipment and supplies used in the production and processing of poultry and eggs, and is the largest gathering of poultry and egg industry leaders.

In 1953 SOUTHEASTERN's broiler promotion committee approved plans for a Broiler Institute to develop a broiler promotion program to increase chicken consumption throughout the nation. It later was spun off as the National Broiler Council, now the National Chicken Council. SOUTHEASTERN executive secretary Frank Frazier was granted a leave of absence in 1955 to head the staff of the new Broiler Council. Paul Williams, then editor of the association magazine, moved up to acting executive secretary. Later that year Williams became permanent SOUTHEASTERN executive secretary when Frazier was named executive vice president of the then independent National Broiler Council. In 1954 Harold Ford, a native of Kentucky, joined the SOUTHEASTERN staff as director of organization. He had previously served as assistant commissioner of agriculture in Kentucky.

In October, 1957, Ford was named executive secretary of SOUTHEASTERN, and the headquarters was moved to the Atlanta area, in Decatur, GA. Paul Williams remained in Richmond where he continued to represent the association in legislative matters and serve as editor of the association magazine. He also served as executive secretary of the Virginia Poultry Federation.

In 1961, Harold Ford resigned as executive secretary to join Mar-Jac Poultry Company in Gainesville, GA.  Bob Martin, of South Carolina, was named to replace Ford. Martin had previously managed the Columbia, South Carolina State Farmers Market and managed a produce market in Baltimore before joining SOUTHEASTERN.

After several years in the industry, Harold Ford returned to replace Bob Martin as association executive secretary in 1967. Ford guided SOUTHEASTERN to prominence as one of the most effective and influential trade associations, not only in the poultry industry, but throughout the United States. He retired in 1992.

Don Dalton succeeded Harold Ford as staff head (now designated as association president). He had joined the staff in 1989 as exhibit manager and director of government relations. Dalton had a long relationship with the association. As an industry leader in the 1970s, and then general manager of Valmac Industries, a broiler processor in Arkansas, he served on the association board of directors, and in 1978 was chairman of the board (then designated as president). Under Dalton's tenure the association name was changed to U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, now referred to as USPOULTRY, to reflect the organization's growing national scope, since the membership now includes states and companies from coast to coast. Headquarters was moved to nearby Tucker, Georgia in 1993, into larger facilities in order to accommodate the growing staff.

Don Dalton retired in December, 2007. John Starkey was named association president. An industry veteran also, Starkey had been an environmental engineer with several poultry firms before joining the association staff in 2000 as vice president of environmental programs.

From its inception, the ultimate goal of USPOULTRY has been to serve the poultry and egg industry and its members. The cornerstone has been the committee concept, small groups of industry representatives providing direction and counsel to the association leadership on issues and challenges that confront the industry. A new issue arose in the mid-1950s - federal government inspection of poultry processing plants. The association board of directors named a Grading and Inspection Committee in 1956 to ensure that the industry had a voice in the bills that were being introduced in Congress calling for "mandatory inspection of poultry for wholesomeness." After months of debate and a series of proposed bills and amendments, a final version was passed and signed into law in the fall of 1957. Following the drafting of regulations, a "permissive" date was set for January 1, 1958, and a "mandatory" effective date established for January 1, 1959. The industry was represented throughout the process by a diligent Southeastern Poultry & Egg Association. It was just the beginning of a long and continuing working relationship with government agencies on behalf of the poultry and egg industry.

SOUTHEASTERN leaders recognized early the importance of continuing education. They realized that managers in their companies must keep up with the rapid changes and advancements beginning to occur throughout the industry. The very first seminar sponsored by the association was the Egg Quality and Grading School in June of 1956. It was later picked up by egg industry organizations. The next year, the initial SOUTHEASTERN School of Management was held "for company officers and management personnel to enable them to study common problems under the guidance of skilled leaders." The oldest still-running seminar is the Poultry Processor Workshop for plant managers, established in 1958. The schedule grew into today's comprehensive list of annual conferences, workshops, and clinics to keep every segment of poultry and egg management informed and up to date.

Association leaders also understood early how vital young people were to the future of the industry. As early as 1950, SOUTHEASTERN sponsored a trophy for each of the three winning teams in the Southern Collegiate Poultry Judging Contest. That same year, the monthly association magazine The Southeastern Poultryman printed the photographs and brief resumes of all the college poultry department graduates in the southeast. A regional broiler production program for area Future Farmers of America was adopted in 1956 by the board of directors. An award of $100 was made to the best FFA young poultryman in each southeastern state, with a $500 prize to the regional winner "to further his education or establishment in farming." Financial support for FFA, 4H, and collegiate poultry judging continues today. What is now the College Student Career Program was initiated in 1967. Held in conjunction with the annual International Poultry Expo, several hundred students from universities throughout the United States gather in Atlanta every year during the Expo to interview with industry and allied firms. Another youth initiative, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Harold E. Ford Foundation, named for the long-time executive secretary, was established in 1994 and allocates funds to university poultry science departments to be used for recruiting students and faculty.

The first "Workhorse of the Year" was awarded in 1962 to recognize an industry leader who worked tirelessly on behalf of the industry and the association. The initial recipient was Marvin Johnson, a turkey producer in North Carolina.

Poultry health concerns were on the rise in the early 1960s. In 1962 the association appropriated funds for gumboro research and worked to obtain funding from the federal government to study leukosis. SOUTHEASTERN funded research, conducted primarily at universities around the nation, expanded over the years into what ultimately became a comprehensive program studying every aspect of poultry and egg production and processing, including poultry health, breeding, processing techniques, human health issues, and environmental management, to name a few. Millions of dollars are reinvested back into the industry in the form of research grants. The research program leads the industry in searching for answers to the challenges facing poultry and egg firms today and looks for new ideas and methods for continued progress tomorrow. The program provides an unbiased procedure for funding through a Research Advisory Committee, comprised of industry technical experts in a variety of disciplines. The committee evaluates hundreds of research proposals for merit and value before making recommendations to the association board of directors for funding.

A new dimension was added in 1984, when SOUTHEASTERN accepted the sponsorship of the industry's world market development program, the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council. It had formerly been managed by the Poultry & Egg Institute, which had earlier closed its doors. Jointly financed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agriculture Service, the goal was to promote poultry and eggs produced in the USA to consumers worldwide. Late in 1985, USAPEEC was spun off as an independent organization and the initial board of directors meeting was held in January, 1986.

Under Don Dalton's leadership, the association continued to expand its services in the 1990s. A food safety department was established to work more closely with government agencies in human health. An environmental program was formed to assist industry firms with challenging environmental issues. The education department was expanded into the new Poultry & Egg Institute to include more extensive training and education opportunities for poultry and egg industry managers.

U.S. Poultry & Egg Association continues to be as dynamic as the changing industry it serves, meeting the needs of its member companies and always ready for the new challenges that will come in the future.

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