News | July 30, 2023

Q&A with Mark LeBlanc

Why did you first get involved with AAFCO?

In 2008, I took over the feed program in Louisiana and had little to no knowledge about the feed regulatory world and had no one to mentor me. Once I became aware of AAFCO, I started attending meetings and was quickly taken under the wings of several kind and generous feed control officials from around the country. Their advice and support allowed me to be successful at managing and modernizing Louisiana’s feed regulatory program. Without the regular AAFCO meetings, it is hard to imagine how I would have been able to manage on my own.

How has AAFCO played a role in your career?

AAFCO has provided a venue for myself and many other new control officials to learn and build relationships that have been crucial to making good regulatory decisions and build a more consistent and predictable regulatory environment for the feed and pet food industry. In 2020 when I was considering an offer to take over as the Indiana State Chemist and Seed Commissioner, I had the luxury of having a working relationship with 6 current and former employees at the Office of Indiana State Chemist. The relationships I built through participation with AAFCO allowed me to be confident that if I accepted the job, I had a great team to work with. Relationships built through AAFCO meetings have benefits far beyond the practical support they offer to overcome day to day challenges feed control officials face. They can also provide opportunities to improve more subtle skills like relationship building and leadership.

What was your greatest achievement or memory from your time as president (or greatest memory in general, if it wasn’t during your presidency)?

I am most proud of AAFCO’s transition from a single person supporting the organization to the hiring of FASS to manage the organization’s day to day business as well as establishing the Executive Director role. While I cannot take credit for these moves, I am proud to have been a part of the board while these efforts were underway and eventually adopted. Several AAFCO presidents and boards that preceded me deserve a great deal of credit for their forward thinking and determination. I would call out Chad Linton for his wisdom and determination during his presidency that allowed the organization to move forward at a difficult time.

What’s one thing you’d like to say to encourage members to get involved? 

Participation within AAFCO has been the equivalent of a graduate degree (credit to Shannon Jordre for that analogy) for me. At any given meeting, there is an opportunity to absorb an incredible amount of information and wisdom during the meeting sessions, but more importantly during breaks and receptions. The relationships that you build at AAFCO meetings can be an invaluable tool that can be used when you return to your jobs between meetings. AAFCO provides a venue to build an extensive support team for control officials that cannot be replicated with any kind of formal training.

What do you hope to see for AAFCO in the next 5 years? 

AAFCO has accomplished an incredible amount since I left the board. Projects that I might have written off as unrealistic, like ODI and Common Food Index have been implemented in a relatively short timeframe considering their complexity. The implementation of PFLM will be a long time coming and will require a great deal of work. I am optimistic that AAFCO will continue to identify solutions to challenges that control officials have faced for many years.

View past president spotlights with George R. Ferguson and Erin Bubb.