ARLINGTON, VA. — The National Grain and Feed Association this week urged the House of Representatives to pass a bill renewing the expired grain standards law that governs how grain and oilseeds are marketed. The NGFA praised Senate passage of the legislation, which includes tweaks to improve data-sharing sought by the grain group.
The US Senate unanimously approved the U.S. Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020 on Nov. 16. The bill was shepherded through challenging pandemic-related circumstances by Senators Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, ranking member.
“This legislation provides certainty while improving the official inspection and weighing system through more transparency, information-sharing, and better data,” said Randy Gordon, NGFA president and chief executive officer.
“This legislation is foundationally important in providing for official grain inspection and weighing services through the US Department of Agriculture’s Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), as well as that agency’s maintenance of the US grain standards that are relied upon by buyers, sellers and end users to merchandise grains and oilseeds in domestic and international markets.”
The US Grain Standards Act was first signed into law in 1916, twenty years after the NGFA was founded. The act authorizes the FGIS to establish official marketing standards for grains and oilseeds. The previous reauthorization bill, enacted in 2015, expired Sept. 30. It included provisions to ensure uninterrupted export inspections.
The NGFA has been involved with crafting the latest reauthorization bill for more than a year. During a Senate agriculture committee hearing on reauthorization in 2019, the grain association was represented by Bruce Sutherland, president, Michigan Agricultural Commodities Inc., Lansing, Mich. Mr. Sutherland is a member of USDA’s Grain Inspection Advisory Committee.
In a June 23 letter, the NGFA teamed with the North American Export Grain Association in support of reauthorizing all expiring provisions of the 2015-2020 law for another five years.
The provisions include: the ability for Congress to appropriate funding for standardization and compliance activities that have broad societal benefits, including to farmers and consumers; USDA Grain Inspection Advisory Committee authorization to continue operating, and statutory limitation on the amount of money FGIS may spend on administrative costs not associated with direct inspection and weighing activities.
The Senate agricultural committee voted in June to pass the US Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020 to the full body. The bill includes several improvements sought by the NGFA and NAEGA, including:
- Requiring delegated state agencies to notify users of official inspection or weighing services 72 or more 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.
- Directing FGIS to complete a comprehensive review of the current boundaries for the officially designated grain inspection agencies in the domestic marketplace.
The groups’ communique to Congress also noted that the reauthorization bill retains a provision that prohibits the “use of false or misleading grade designations” on official grade certificates for US grain exports. Their concern was with the ongoing non-tariff trade barriers that have restricted exports of US grains and oilseeds.