By Jess McCluer, Vice President of Safety and Regulatory Affairs; and Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
Grain elevators whose non-use of service/open season exception agreements were revoked by USDA in 2017 that want to request to restore those business arrangements will need to do so within the next couple months.
The former USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s misinterpretation of the intent of the 2015 Agriculture Reauthorizations Act caused several grain elevators to have their so-called “exception agreements” with domestic official inspection agency service providers wrongly and unilaterally terminated by an incumbent officially designated inspection agency. The 2018 farm law provides elevators with the option to restore the previous arrangement with their non-incumbent domestic official inspection service provider by notifying USDA of the change.
While the new exception restoration policy went into effect after President Trump signed the farm bill into law on Dec. 20, the staff within the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) who are responsible for managing the exceptions subsequently were furloughed for 35 days during the federal government shutdown. FGIS is expected to publish a notice in the Federal Register highlighting the procedures for the eligible grain elevators to request restoring the exception. In the meantime, those interested in making a request should contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eligible grain handling facilities have 90 days to make the request to restore their revoked exceptions. The original deadline for facilities to make the request was March 20, but because of the government shutdown, FGIS is expected to extend the deadline prior to publishing the Federal Register notice.
FGIS is required to restore the exceptions within 90 days of the request by the grain elevator. The farm law specifically directs the agency to expedite the process to restore the exceptions and not take the full 90 days. According to the new language in the farm law, current exceptions only may be terminated if all parties (geographic incumbent agency, exception agency and grain handling facility) agree to a termination. In other words, existing exceptions or restored exceptions no longer can be terminated by one party, such as the incumbent official inspection agency.
More information about the farm law’s domestic official inspection provisions can be found in this NGFA Q&A article.