By Bobby Frederick, Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Public Policy
The Senate Agriculture Committee has scheduled a meeting for June 24 to consider reauthorization of the U.S. Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020 (USGSRA 2020).
This meeting will mark the first time the committee has gathered in-person since the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered operations on Capitol Hill. As a result, the committee’s business meeting will be conducted in a large room within the Dirksen Senate Office Building to allow for more adequate social distancing than what would be possible in the committee’s normal hearing room in the Russell Senate Office Building.
The U.S. Grain Standards Act initially was enacted in 1916 and has been reauthorized and amended 20 times over the past century to maintain and continually improve the U.S. Official grain inspection system, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS).
A handful of provisions in the existing U.S. Grain Standards Act law expire on Sept. 30, 2020, including the ability for Congress to collect appropriations for standardization and compliance activities, authorization for the Grain Inspection Advisory Committee to meet, as well as the current statutory limitation on administrative costs.
The Senate Ag Committee’s business meeting is the next step in a process that started more than a year ago to reauthorize this critical law for producers, grain handlers and end users. To that end, NGFA joined with the North American Export Grain Association in submitting the following policy proposals for consideration for inclusion in the new bill:
- A proposal that states delegated authority by FGIS to provide Official inspection and weighing services be required to notify users of those services at least 72 hours prior to any intent to discontinue service – the same notification currently required to be provided to the secretary of agriculture.
- A proposal stating that FGIS user fees assessments can be used to fund only inspection and weighing services.
- A proposal requiring the reporting of requests for waivers, exceptions and other specific services granted by FGIS to help industry better understand the demands on the system, especially for the benefit of those that pay the user fees that maintain the system.
- A proposal to reauthorize the Grain Inspection Advisory Committee, which provides expert advice to FGIS in helping the agency fulfill its core mission of ensuring that Official inspections are performed in a reliable and uninterrupted manner to facilitate U.S. grain exports.
- A proposal requiring FGIS, for the first time since its creation in1976, to complete a comprehensive review of the current geographical boundaries for the Officially designated grain inspection agencies that provide service in the domestic marketplace to inform the agency and stakeholders on potential efficiencies and improvements to the system.
- Raising awareness about the importance of avoiding trade barriers by protecting the integrity of phytosanitary certificates. For example, the NGFA and NAEGA objected strenuously to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s acquiescence to China’s demand in 2018 to require an additional declaration be placed on U.S. soybean shipments denoting shipments that contained 1 percent or more foreign material – which is a grain quality, not plant health or pest risk for which the phyto certificate is exclusively reserved. The decision resulted in a precipitous decline in U.S. soybean exports to China long before China imposed retaliatory tariffs.
NGFA will provide a full report on the outcomes of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s action on the bill, which is expected to be made public on June 22.