05.05.15

Senate Agriculture Committee Reviews the U.S. Grain Standards Act, Hears Stakeholder Perspectives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today held a hearing to review the U.S. Grain Standards Act, which has provisions that expire this year.

The U.S. Grain Standards Act authorizes USDA’s Federal Grain Inspection Service to establish marketing standards for a variety of grains and oilseeds. The Act was last reauthorized in 2005.

“Predictability and transparency are key to maintaining a global success story for farmers and ranchers in Kansas and across the country. Needless to say, the valuable role that our trading partners play in the agriculture economy cannot be overstated,” Chairman Roberts said. 

“A handful of the provisions in the Grain Standards Act are set to expire on September 30. This hearing gives us a chance to hear from stakeholders on what is working well and where we might want to make improvements.  

“The Committee will work to ensure that our U.S. grain inspection system continues to be one that ensures the reliability and high quality of U.S. exports.”

For witness info, testimonies, and to watch the hearing, click here

The following is Chairman Roberts’ opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon. I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture to order. 

I’ve said many times that one of my main goals for our Committee it to conduct our legislative work in a transparent and inclusive manner that gives members opportunities to pass good legislation for their constituents.  

Today’s hearing is an important step in completing the Committee’s work in considering provisions of the U.S. Grain Standards Act that expire later this year. 

For nearly one hundred years, the U.S. Grain Standards Act has authorized USDA to establish marketing standards for grains and oilseeds. Regulations set official standards to define each grain, classes of grain, and numerical grades of specific physical characteristics.  

In the 1970s, irregularities in grain inspection and weighing led to grand jury investigations and indictments which threatened the U.S. marketing system. As a result, there were major reforms to the Grain Standards Act in 1976 to ensure that there was no questioning the reliability and quality of U.S. grains and oilseeds. 

That global reputation is more important now than ever before in the history of U.S. agriculture. Our farmers and others in the value chain export over half of the wheat and soybeans produced in the U.S. Additionally, about 15 percent of corn and other feed grains are sold to customers around the globe.  

Predictability and transparency are key to maintaining this success story for farmers and ranchers in Kansas and across the country. Needless to say, the valuable role that our trading partners play in the agriculture economy cannot be overstated. 

A handful of the provisions in the Grain Standards Act are set to expire on September 30. This hearing gives us a chance to hear from stakeholders on what is working well and where we might want to make improvements.  

I am particularly interested in ensuring that USDA fulfills its statutory obligation to inspect exports. This responsibility lapsed for 36 days at a facility in the Port of Vancouver last summer. During that period, there was substantial uncertainty about if and when inspection would be restored and questions were raised about safety. That unprecedented event warrants our careful oversight and increased transparency. It is important that we find solutions to ensure the reliability and quality of U.S. exports continue to be beyond question for years to come.   

The witnesses we will hear from today represent different perspectives in the grain and oilseed value chain—a farmer, an inspector, a grain handler, and the global customer.  

I thank each witness for traveling to Washington and providing testimony before the Committee on such an important issue. I appreciate you joining us as we seek to make this a government in action—responsive to concerns and working together to find common sense solutions.  

The Committee will work to ensure that our U.S. grain inspection system continues to be one that ensures the reliability and high quality of U.S. exports. 

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.  

With that, I recognize our chairwoman emeritus, Senator Stabenow for any remarks.  

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