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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today released the following opening statement – as prepared for delivery – at today’s hearing reviewing the U.S. Grain Standards Act. 

Stabenow’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow.

Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this important hearing on the Grain Standards Act.

And thank you to the officials and industry representatives for testifying today. You bring perspectives from all sides of our grain inspection system and I look forward to hearing your testimony.

Our nation’s farmers and producers grow the very best products in the world.

Whether it’s Michigan soybeans – or Kansas wheat – buyers around the world know that when American products carry the seal the US Department of Agriculture, its quality is next to none.

That’s one reason why the U.S. is the premier supplier of high quality grains and oilseed worldwide.

And why the United States is the number one farm goods exporter worldwide – supporting more than one million jobs here at home.

To paint that in a different light, in 2014, the U.S. had agricultural exports totaling more than $150 billion, the highest dollar value we’ve ever had.

Let me share a bit of historical perspective on why it is so critical that the U.S. maintain the Federal Grain Inspection Service. 

And how it was designed to defend the interests of American farmers and protect the integrity of the United States as a trading partner.

In 1974, 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 individuals and companies charged with inspection were short-changing foreign customers by inaccurately weighing grain, shipping in dirty vessels, and accepting bribes.

In New Orleans, private inspectors took bribes to certify that an oil tanker could be used to transport grain—so that companies wouldn’t have to take extra time and pay for an expensive cleaning process. 

A number of these individuals and companies were indicted by federal grand juries, but these revelations significantly diminished our reputation as a reliable business partner and our competitive advantage in international markets.

As a result, in November of 1976 Congress acted by federalizing the grain inspection system – now called The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) – to help rebuild the integrity and image of American agricultural exports.

Our country’s agricultural exports have grown six times since then, and the trust associated with the official USDA certificate of inspection is a big part of that success story.

That certificate also gives our American farmers the reassurance they need that they will receive a fair price for the grain that they worked so hard to produce.

I look forward to working with you -- Chairman Roberts – in a bipartisan way to maintain the integrity of the existing inspection system as we begin the process of reauthorizing this important piece of legislation.

Thank you.