WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) on May 21 said they were pleased the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee approved legislation that would reauthorize the U.S. Grain Standards Act for five years, through Sept. 30, 2020.

The act provides authority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish the standards under which grain is traded and marketed, and to provide mandatory official inspections of U.S. export grain.

Specifically, the groups said they were pleased the bill reinforces that USDA's Federal Grain Inspection Service has an unequivocal obligation to ensure that official grain inspection and weighing services at export elevators (where such official inspections are mandatory) are provided in an uninterrupted, reliable and consistent basis. This includes an obligation to step in immediately in instances when state agencies are unwilling or unable to perform, which unfortunately occurred intermittently but repeatedly at the Port of Vancouver, Washington, U.S., during 2013-14. 

"We also are encouraged that the bill contains further enhancements of the management of the national grain inspection and weighing system that were wisely included in similar legislation approved in April by the House Agriculture Committee. In this regard, both bills would make several significant improvements that will bring more transparency and accountability to the process USDA uses to delegate to state agencies its authority to conduct mandatory official inspections at export facilities,” the groups said.

“For the first time, these delegated state agencies henceforth would be required to undergo the same notice-and-comment rulemaking process that applies to domestic state and private entities that provide official inspection services in the domestic market. The bill also includes an important change to the flawed formula now used by USDA to set user fees charged to export elevators, which we estimate will result in up to $12 million in overcharges during the current and immediately preceding fiscal years.”

Further, both bills recognize the important role of the U.S. Grain Standards Act in providing the market with terms and methods used to make quality determinations, which is essential to maintaining an efficient and transparent system of price discovery for commodities covered by this law, and is a very important contributor, as are other FGIS activities, to the success of U.S. agriculture and its global competitiveness.

"The NGFA and NAEGA are disappointed that neither bill mandates that USDA utilize qualified inspectors employed by independent third-party entities to perform official inspections at export facilities subject to the same comprehensive licensing and oversight that applies to entities that provide official inspection services to domestic elevators,” the groups said.