By Jess McCluer, Vice President of Safety and Regulatory Affairs
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 farm bill signed into law on Dec. 20 includes an important provision championed by NGFA for grain handlers regarding domestic official grain inspections by providing grain elevators whose non-use of service/open season exception agreements were revoked by USDA in 2017 with the opportunity to restore such business agreements. Under the farm law language, these elevators will have the option to restore the previous arrangement with their non-incumbent domestic official inspection service provider by simply notifying USDA of the change. Below are some commonly asked questions about the new provisions:
Question: When does the new exception restoration policy go into effect?
Answer: The policy went into effect after President Donald Trump signed the farm bill into law on Dec. 20. FGIS will publish a notice in the Federal Register highlighting the procedures for the eligible grain elevators to request restoring the exception within the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you are interested in making a request to restore your previous exception please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: How long does a grain handling facility have to make the request to restore the exception that was revoked?
Answer: Within 90 days after the farm bill was signed – on or about March 20.
Question: How long will it take FGIS to process the grain elevator’s request to restore the exception?
Answer: FGIS is required to restore the exception within 90 days of the request by the grain elevator. The statutory language specifically requests that the agency expedite the process to restore the exceptions and not take the full 90 days.
Question: Is it still possible for a designated incumbent domestic official agency to terminate an existing nonuse of service/open season exception without approval of the grain elevator?
Answer: No. Exceptions may only be terminated if all parties (geographic incumbent agency, exception agency and grain handling facility) agree to a termination.