NAMA decries lack of action on wheat standards

by Josh Sosland
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WASHINGTON — The North American Millers’ Association said wheat quality standards proposed April 11 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture were “too modest and represent a missed opportunity to improve the competitiveness of U.S. wheat in world markets as well as here.”

In the proposal, published in the April 11 Federal Register, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration proposed revising the grain and grade requirements for wheat to reduce the grading limits for shrunken and broken kerns to 2% and 4% for No. 1 and No. 2 graded wheat, respectively.

First established in 1917, the wheat standards were last revised in 1993. GIPSA solicited comments in November 2009 as part of a periodic review of the standards. NAMA’s recommendations included:

• develop a flour yield test that can be incorporated into the official wheat standards;
• develop a rapid, precise and reliable test for protein quality;
• develop a rapid alpha amylase test for detecting sprout damaged kernels;
• address the issue of insect-damaged kernels; and
• increase the allowable level of hard red spring or hard red winter wheat (Wheat of Other Classes) found in hard white wheat from 3% percent to 5% percent for grade U.S. No. 2 to encourage the production of hard white wheat that has struggled to gain acceptance by growers and the marketplace.

James Bair, vice-president of NAMA, said only the wheat of other classes recommendation was included in the GIPSA proposal.

“U.S. millers buy more U.S. wheat than all export customers combined, but our recommendations would have made U.S. wheat more attractive to all buyers,” Mr. Bair said. “GIPSA missed an opportunity by overlooking our recommendations, particularly in areas that would have addressed flour functionality.”
In only proposing limited change, GIPSA suggested it may have been swayed by another trade group’s comments.

“One comment from a trade association representing approximately 1,000 grain, feed, processing and grain-related firms comprising more than 6,000 facilities that handle more than 70% of U.S. grains and oilseeds urged GIPSA not to propose any major changes to the wheat standards that would adversely impact the marketing system or current priorities and operations of GIPSA,” GIPSA said.

Without citing NAMA by name, GIPSA’s filing referenced a number of the millers’ proposals. For instance, GIPSA expressed the view “the market deals effectively through contract specifications with live insects, and accordingly, will not propose revising the wheat standards regarding the live insect tolerance.”

Regarding the proposed flour yield test, GIPSA said the recommendation was “beyond the scope of this rulemaking.” “Therefore, GIPSA will not propose any revisions to the wheat standards based on this comment,” the administration said.

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