Policy changes proposed to foster the competitive position of US grains and oilseeds

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Nordroden
© GettyImages/Nordroden

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The US National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) has proposed revisions to the US grain inspection law to make it more reliable, transparent and cost-effective.

The US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry had a hearing with feed and grain industry stakeholders to gather perspectives on reauthorizing the US Grains Standards Act (USGSA) on July 31.

The NGFA said its recommendations were developed in collaboration with the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA). 

As lawmakers consider reauthorizing the USGSA, the associations said they looked to see what was working and what areas could be improved.

Bruce Sutherland, president of Michigan Agriculture Commodities, who testified​ on NGFA’s behalf, said the proposals suggested by the NGFA and the NAEGA would strengthen the official inspection and weighing system, foster the competitive position of US grains and oilseeds in world markets, and maintain the integrity of official inspection results.

The hope is that the revision and reauthorization process can be finished as soon as possible, said Jess McClure, vice president of safety and regulatory affairs, NGFA. 

“We want to do whatever we can to help expedite that process – the grains standards act is a vehicle that can help us move forward."

“For the feed side it’s just as important,” ​he told us. “A lot of feed manufacturing facilities voluntarily use Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) officially designated grain inspection [and] weighing agencies.”

NGFA's suggestions focus on ensuring that there is a timely and cost-effective application of the services established through the act, he said.  


The NGFA and NAEGA proposed that the FGIS should prohibit the inappropriate and misleading practice of using grain standard quality factors as an indicator of plant health risk on phytosanitary certificates issued by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

APHIS inappropriately and unwisely in our view acquiesced in late December 2017 to Chinese officials’ requests that foreign material (FM) content — a grain quality factor — be used as a proxy for weed seed content in US soybean export shipments,”​ Sutherland noted.

What's more, the resulting market uncertainty led to a sharp reduction in US soybean exports to China months before the advent of tariffs, said the NGFA.

The associations said delegated states should be required to notify users of official inspection or weighing services at least 72 hours in advance of any intent to discontinue service.

They said that the FGIS should conduct a detailed review of the current geographic boundaries for each officially designated agency operating in the domestic market, something that has not been done since 1976.

FGIS user fees paid by those obtaining inspection and weighing services should be directed solely for that purpose, not for developing the US grain standards or for compliance and enforcement activities, which have broad societal benefits to producers and consumers, they added.

The reauthorization period for the USGSA should be extended to somewhere between five and ten years, versus the current five-year schedule, they argued.

The FGIS should be required to report to Congress and the public the number of and specific type(s) of waivers from official inspection and weighing service being requested and granted, the number of non-use of service exceptions requested and granted, and the number of specific testing services requested, while preserving confidential business information, they suggested.

The FGIS Grain Inspection Advisory Committee should be reauthorized, they said.

The NGFA also said that reauthorizing the Grain Standards Act on time — or even a bit early — would provide continued certainty to grain handlers, farmers and global US grain and oilseed customers.

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