Ranking Member Stabenow Opening Statement at Hearing on the U.S. Grain Standards Act

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, today released the following opening statement at the hearing titled Perspectives on Reauthorization of the U.S. Grain Standards Act.

Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing as we begin the process of reauthorizing the Grain Standards Act. Thank you to the expert panel here today, bringing perspectives from all sides of our grain inspection system. 

We all know that our nation’s farmers grow the best products in the world. Whether it’s Michigan soybeans – or Kansas wheat – buyers around the world know that when American products have a U.S. Department of Agriculture certificate, their quality is next to none.

This credential has made the U.S. the premier supplier of high-quality grains and oilseeds – and the number one exporter of farm goods worldwide. 

Agricultural exports are crucial to our economy, supporting more than 1 million American jobs, including over 22,000 jobs in Michigan.

The trust associated with official USDA certificates of inspection and weighing is a big part of that success story. That’s why it is critical that we maintain the Federal Grain Inspection Service.

Before the creation of this important agency in the 1970s, our private inspection system was rocked by a scandal that threatened the credibility of U.S. agricultural exports. 

While American farmers were producing high-quality grain, private inspection entities were short-changing our trading partners by inaccurately weighing grain, shipping it in contaminated vessels, and even accepting bribes. Several individuals and companies were indicted by federal grand juries.

The scandal damaged our reputation as a reliable business partner, and harmed our competitive advantage in international markets. In response, Congress created the Federal Grain Inspection Service in 1976.

As a result, the integrity of American agricultural exports was restored. And since then, exports have increased more than six times.

The Grain Standards Act created the official USDA certificate of inspection. That certificate helps assure American farmers they are getting a fair price, and guarantees international customers can trust the products they are buying.

Because farmers are facing uncertainty on many fronts, it is crucial that we maintain the integrity of our inspection system. 

American farmers have been struggling with low commodity prices, in addition to extreme weather that has damaged farms across the country and delayed planting for farmers in Michigan and the Midwest.

On top of that, this Administration’s reckless approach to trade has taken a toll on our ability to export agricultural products – and it’s having a very real impact on farmers across the country.

At a time when many buyers in international markets are questioning the reliability of the United States as a consistent supplier, it is important that those buyers are not also doubting the quality of the grains and oilseeds they purchase.

Mr. Chairman, the first bipartisan bill that we worked on under your leadership included the reauthorization of the U.S. Grain Standards Act in 2015.

I look forward to working with you in a bipartisan way once again to maintain the integrity of the existing inspection system.

Thank you.