WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) said on Sept. 17 that it has urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recognize the transportation capacity constraints confronting U.S. agriculture when implementing the Safe Food Transportation Act.

In a statement submitted recently in response to FDA's advance notice of proposed rulemaking on implementing the law, the NGFA stressed that it is the transportation provider's legal responsibility to supply clean, appropriate and safe conveyances suitable for transporting food and agricultural commodities.

"This legal obligation is reasonable because it is the carrier or other provider of transportation vehicles that knows the contents of the previous load(s) and is responsible for implementing prudent and effective clean-out procedures to preserve product safety," the NGFA said.

But the NGFA also emphasized the already-heavy demand for conveyances needed to transport food and agricultural products — including grains, oilseeds, feed and feed ingredients. And it noted that transportation demand from U.S. agriculture is forecast to increase exponentially, given the growing demand for food, feed and biofuels in domestic and export markets. Concerning that observation, the NGFA cited a major study conducted jointly by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Transportation (DOT), published in April, that projected overall freight demand could double by 2035.

That study also showed the competition for finite transportation resources is intense, with U.S. agriculture already constituting the single largest user of freight transportation — accounting for 22% of all tonnage and 31% of all ton miles in the most recent year (2007) for which data are available. The study also showed that between 2002 and 2007 the value of all U.S. transported products (agricultural and non-agricultural) grew by 41%, while the tonnage hauled increased by 12% and ton-miles transported increased by 11%.

"In this environment of constrained transportation capacity and expanding demand from the U.S. agricultural, food, feed and other nonagricultural sectors for transportation of all modes — truck, rail, barge and vessel — we urge FDA, whenever possible, to recognize existing cleanout procedures that are appropriate and suitable for conveyances transporting food and agricultural products for their intended uses, rather than banning the use of certain conveyances that have dual uses in hauling other products," NGFA said.

Congress first passed the Safe Food Transportation Act in 1990 and delegated the responsibility for developing and implementing regulations to DOT. But DOT subsequently said it did not possess the necessary expertise to implement the law's provisions. Congress subsequently passed a new version of the law in 2005 and directed FDA to develop regulations implementing its provisions.

The NGFA's statement to FDA also cited the NGFA's major initiatives on food and feed safety pertaining to transportation, including the inclusion of provisions in the Association's Trade Rules that require shipments to be free of objectionable extraneous material and that buyers/receivers verify the condition of inbound shipments to ascertain they conform with contract specifications, including for product safety and wholesomeness. The NGFA's Trade Rules are incorporated by reference into the vast majority of commercial U.S. grain and feed transactions.

The NGFA also noted it had incorporated product-safety provisions that apply to transportation conveyances in its Model Feed Quality Assurance Program, which was developed in 1994 as the first such feed industry trade association program. In addition, the NGFA's statement cited its development of model procedures in conjunction with FDA to safeguard against residues of prohibited mammalian material in conveyances in response to the agency's regulations designed to prevent bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Further, the NGFA referenced the release in September 2009 of an updated and expanded version of its Facility Risk Assessment and Security Guide for Grain Elevators, Feed/Ingredient Manufacturers, Grain Millers and Oilseed Processors, which includes suggested receiving and shipping procedures to protect against intentional contamination incidents.

Concerning other aspects of FDA's advance notice of proposed rulemaking on implementing the Safe Food Transportation Act, the NGFA:

  • Provided extensive data, much of it derived from the comprehensive USDA-DOT transportation study, on the types of conveyances used to haul bulk grains, oilseeds, feed, feed ingredients and other agricultural products, as well as the quantities transported.
  • Discussed transportation sanitation practices typically used in the grain, feed and processing industry, including sweeping, vacuuming and washing.
  • Noted that shipments of bulk grains, oilseeds and grain products, as well as bulk and bagged feed and feed ingredients, typically are transported in full-lot quantities in conveyances that haul only those types of products in the same shipment.
  • Cited the current requirement under the Bioterrorism Act that facilities establish and retain for one year records of transporters used for commercial shipments.

FDA is expected to develop proposed regulations implementing the law sometime during 2011, on which the NGFA also plans to comment.