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Paths to the present. (Career Tracks).

Editor's Note: Dennis L. Erpelding is the manager of government relations, public affairs and communications for Elanco Animal Health, Indianapolis, a division of Eli Lilly and Company. Erpelding coordinates Elanco's global strategy for government relations, public affairs and communications with primary responsibility for North America, Europe and the Middle East areas. He also serves as Elanco's media spokesperson.

How did you become interested in the agriculture industry?

I was raised on a diversified dairy, swine, poultry and crop farm in Whittemore, Iowa, and valued the farm life and being a part of the food production sector. My college education provided a broad perspective on agriculture. Additionally, excellent college advisors encouraged me to seek summer interns outside of Iowa and to look at non-farm opportunities upon graduation.

What are the key stops you have made in your career path?

First, excellent college intern experiences at dairies in Illinois and Colorado provided an introduction to the purebred cattle business. Second, upon graduation from Iowa State University, I accepted a position with the American Jersey Cattle Club working with three dairy breeds; but most importantly working with a group of dairymen--businessmen--in Hilmar, Calif., that ultimately built Hilmar Cheese Company. Third, after getting a master's degree from The Ohio State University, the global government relations experiences with Elanco Animal Health have provided first-hand knowledge, understanding and success working with governments in the United States, the European Union, Japan and several key countries around the world.

Next, the dairy breed association experience provided exposure to farms that operated as businesses, to free marketplace pricing vs. government pricing programs and for extensive travel throughout the U.S. Finally, the global role has provided extensive lobbying experiences, significant global networking and cultural awareness. These roles have provided in-depth knowledge of how to work government systems, leverage ally support and position major issues with the media.

What has been the most fulfilling position?

The global government relations, public affairs and communications position has been the most fulfilling. First, successful lobbying in the political arena, second the successful public affairs initiatives for a new product launch and third media interviews providing perspective on key issues --including one live interview on BBC TV from Brussels. The political knowledge, product positioning, global networking and cultural exposures have been unique and excellent career experiences.

Additionally, this role has provided organization leadership opportunities such as serving as president of the National Agri-Marketing Association, on the executive committees of the U.S. Meat Export Federation and the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and in leadership roles within the Animal Health Institute.

What is your advice to achieve success?

First, be open to new opportunities and challenges. Also, seek roles that provide transferable skills, ones that broaden your horizon and positions that expose you to different business aspects both internally and externally. Finally, develop and maintain a broad network so that you can seek input and benchmark ideas with the best.

Flow would you promote ag to someone considering that career path?

Agriculture is a primary component of the U.S. economy and a lead sector of our international trade. The need for increased protein production will grow with the global population and the aligned business sectors will provide great opportunities for individuals seeking a long-term career. Agribusiness provides numerous roles from line management to staff support, and the career opportunities will grow with a more globally integrated, consumer-oriented food chain.

Is this the direction you originally thought your career path would take?

Upon college graduation, my goal was to be in the agribusiness sector. The exact path has been more varied and exciting than planned. Thinking back to the days of looking out the barn door in Whittemore, Iowa, the path has been adventuresome. My travels have been worldwide from Tokyo to Bangkok to Sao Paulo to Brussels and Geneva. The business dialogues range from the President of the European Union Parliament, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and writers with the Financial Times, to leaders of producer groups and agribusiness.

In summary, the direction of my career path has varied and the industry focus has changed, but the change has yielded a fruitful and magnificent pathway!
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Title Annotation:Dennis L. Erpelding interviewed
Comment:Paths to the present. (Career Tracks).(Dennis L. Erpelding interviewed)
Publication:Agri Marketing
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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