In response to several high-profile work stoppages that disrupted the flow of grain through the supply chain, American Soybean Association (ASA) and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Director Bill Gordon testified before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry May 5 in Washington.
Gordon called on the committee to help ensure that grain inspections under the Grain Standards Act remain both mandatory and continuous, even in the event of a work stoppage due to strike or lockout. Gordon’s testimony comes as Congress weighs reauthorization of the Grain Standards Act of 1976, under which official inspections are required for all export shipments.
“Our industry and our foreign customers are highly dependent on having a reliable and transparent export inspection and marketing system,” said Gordon in his testimony. “It is critical that the requirement for mandatory official inspection of exported grains and oilseeds under the Grain Standards Act be maintained. In addition, there must be no question that, in the event of a disruption of services, FGIS will continue to be required to step in to ensure the reliability and reputation of the U.S. inspection and weighing system.”
Gordon, who farms in Worthington, Minn., testified on behalf of ASA, and had support from the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Barley Growers Association. In his testimony, Gordon pointed specifically to last summer’s longshoremen strike at the Port of Vancouver that disrupted inspection of shipments for more than a month before the State of Washington, which had been delegated responsibility to carry out grain inspections at the port by FGIS, resumed its duties. Gordon called on the committee to establish a timeline for FGIS to step in and provide inspection in disputes like the one in the Pacific Northwest last summer.
“(We) encourage the Committee to engage (USDA) on whether it has discretion … to clarify when and how it will act to resolve a disruption of export inspection services by delegated state agencies,” said Gordon. “If this discussion is in any way inconclusive, we recommend the Committee strengthen the language in the Act requiring FGIS to take action according to a fixed timetable based on a number of hours rather than days or weeks. We further recommend that any state agency that withdraws services be suspended until the Department completes a review that confirms the agency is capable of resuming services without further interruption.”
“Our grain inspection and weighing system is a fundamental guarantee to our foreign customers that supplies of U.S. grains and oilseeds will be officially inspected and not be disrupted,” Gordon added. “Reauthorization of the Grain Standards Act presents an opportunity to correct the uncertainties in the system that have come to light in the last two years.”