The Senate Agriculture Committee on June 24 advanced legislation supported by NGFA and North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) that would reauthorize and improve the U.S. Grain Standards Act.
During a June 24 business meeting, the committee favorably reported the bill – the “U.S. Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020” – reauthorizing the law for another five years.
The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) establishes official marketing standards for grains and oilseeds under the authorization of the U.S. Grain Standards Act, which initially was enacted in 1916. The existing authorization law, which passed in 2015 and included provisions to ensure uninterrupted export inspections, is scheduled to expire Sept. 30.
“Stakeholders – ranging from producers to grain handlers and processors to end-users and consumers – benefit when (FGIS) and its delegated and designated state and private agencies provide state-of-the-art, market-responsive Official inspection and weighing of bulk grains and oilseeds, and do so in a reliable, uninterrupted, consistent and cost-effective manner,” NGFA and NAEGA said in a June 23 support letter to Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
NGFA and NAEGA said they supported reauthorizing all expiring provisions of the current law for another five years, including: the ability for Congress to appropriate funding for standardization and compliance activities that have broad societal benefits, including to farmers and consumers; authorization for the USDA Grain Inspection Advisory Committee to operate; and the current statutory limitation on the amount of money FGIS can spend on administrative costs not associated with direct inspection and weighing activities.
USGSRA 2020 also includes a number of improvements advocated by NGFA and NAEGA that would safeguard user fees and promote increased data and information-sharing to benefit the system and its users, including:
- Ensuring FGIS user fees are directed solely to inspection and weighing services;
- Requiring delegated state agencies to notify users of Official inspection or weighing services at least 72 hours in advance of any intent to discontinue such services;
- Reporting requests for waivers, exceptions and other specific services received and granted by FGIS; and
- Directing FGIS to complete a comprehensive review of the current boundaries for the officially designated grain inspection agencies in the domestic marketplace.
NGFA and NAEGA also highlighted their concerns about ongoing non-tariff trade barriers that have restricted exports of U.S. grains and oilseeds, noting that the reauthorization bill retains the provision that prohibits the “use of false or misleading grade designations” for U.S. grain exports.
Attention now shifts to the House, where Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., still is evaluating how to proceed on the reauthorization.