Given the critical importance of the United States’ grain weighing and inspection system to competitiveness in the world market, U.S. farmers and grain users received welcomed action Wednesday as the House of Representatives passed S. 4054, the United States Grain Standards Reauthorization Act, by voice vote. The Senate previously advanced the bill, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Federal Grain Inspection Service establishes official marketing standards for grains and oilseeds under the authorization provided by the U.S. Grain Standards Act, which was first signed into law in 1916. The existing authorization law, which was enacted in 2015 and included provisions to ensure uninterrupted export inspections, expired Sept. 30.
The inspections provided by FGIS define and classify grains as well as assign grades to specify weight and quality requirements, and these inspections provide a gold standard assurance backed by the Federal Government to both grain buyers and sellers. The grain inspection system assures overseas buyers that an independent agency has certified shipments to their contracted specifications.
“The Grain Standards Reauthorization Act lays the foundation for grain and oilseed marketing benefiting the entire agricultural value chain. Passage of this legislation delivers regulatory stability and certainty for farmers, handlers and processors,” says Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, who serves as the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, R-Minn., adds, “American grain farmers participate in a very competitive world, and foreign grain buyers should be confident in the process that we have in place to ensure our exports are adequately inspected.”
The passage was praised by grain users, including the National Grain and Feed Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates.
“With our farmers facing tough economic challenges, including several years of low commodity prices and headwinds blowing against overseas demand, it is critically important that we at least maintain a smooth grain inspection system. We applaud Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate for working together to get this piece of legislation passed by the end of the year,” says NAWG President and Cass City, Mich., farmer Dave Milligan. “To maintain a properly functioning grain inspection system, NAWG encourages the President to sign this bill into law before the closing of 2020.”
“This law and our system of standardized, independent grain inspection makes U.S. wheat more valuable,” said USW Chairman Darren Padget, a wheat farmer from Grass Valley, Ore. “The proof of that came this year when many of our overseas buyers expressed a real concern that the pandemic would interrupt our supply chain and FGIS inspections.”
NGFA President and CEO Randy Gordon says the “legislation provides certainty while improving the official inspection and weighing system by providing more transparency, information-sharing and better data.” He adds, “Ultimately, this law benefits U.S. and global consumers by enhancing the utility and efficiency of the grain marketing system.”
The U.S. Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020 also includes several improvements advocated by NGFA and North American Export Grain Association that they said will promote increased data and information-sharing to benefit the system and its users, including:
• Requiring delegated state agencies to notify users of official inspection or weighing services at least 72 hours in advance of any intent to discontinue such services;
• Ensuring FGIS user fees are directed solely to inspection and weighing services;
• Reporting requests for waivers, exceptions and intrinsic quality and food safety factors received and granted by FGIS; and
• Directing FGIS to complete a comprehensive review of the current boundaries for the officially designated grain inspection agencies in the domestic marketplace.
During the reauthorization process, NGFA and NAEGA also highlighted their concerns about ongoing non-tariff trade barriers that periodically have created uncertainty for exports of U.S. grains and oilseeds, noting that the reauthorization bill retains a provision that prohibits the “use of false or misleading grade designations” on official grade certificates for U.S. grain exports.