July 28, 2014

Several Ag Groups Join Letter On Disruptions In PNW Grain Inspections

The American Soybean Association and several other agricultural industry groups last week joined in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, reemphasizing concern for the periodic disruptions in Official grain inspection and weighing services provided by the Federal Grain Inspection Service’s (FGIS) designated agencies in the Pacific Northwest.

Last October at a meeting with Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards, the groups urged that contingency plans be developed to ensure that FGIS respond immediately and effectively if there were any future disruptions in Official inspection service from WSDA.

“Our expanded stakeholder interest group now understands that on July 1, 2014, the designated agency – the Washington State Department of Agriculture – provided written notification that it was withdrawing Official grain inspection services at the Port of Vancouver, WA, effective July 7, 2014.  Based upon this unprecedented development, we urge you to direct that FGIS take immediate action to provide such Official inspection services utilizing either its own personnel or the personnel of another FGIS-designated agency authorized-  perform such Official services at grain export facilities,” the groups state in the letter.

The groups reemphasized that statute prohibits the export of U.S. grains and oilseeds unless Officially inspected and weighed by Official personnel in accordance with the Grain Standards and exports are required to be accompanied by Official certificates showing the Official grade designation and certified weight – unless such a requirement is waived by the Secretary of Agriculture and the grain is not sold or exported by grade.

“Thus, Congress has vested in FGIS the responsibility and obligation to provide vibrant and reliable Official inspection and weighing services to facilitate efficient and cost-effective marketing of U.S. grains and oilseeds to foreign markets, upon which U.S. agriculture and the American economy depend for economic growth and jobs,” the letter states. “To our knowledge, this latest announcement by a designated State agency declining to provide Official services is unprecedented.  We believe WSDA’s actions create an extremely troubling precedent that will cause irreparable damage to the integrity and reliability of the nation’s Official grain inspection system.  This development already has created uncertainty within the U.S. grain export industry regarding potential future disruptions of Official services at facilities operating at other U.S. export ports.  The disruptions that already have occurred have put at risk the United States’ reputation as a reliable supplier of grains and oilseeds to foreign customers.  In the absence of WSDA’s reliable performance of its duties, FGIS must intervene and make the necessary arrangements to provide the mandatory Official services.”

The letter concluded by underscoring the importance of accurate, timely and cost-effective delivery of mandated impartial third-party Official inspection services—depended upon by American farmers, grain handlers and exporters and foreign customers.

“To this point, confidence that the U.S. Official grain inspection system will function in a continuous and consistent manner – and not be subject to unwarranted disruptions – has been instrumental in facilitating the ability of U.S. farmers and agribusinesses to reliably serve foreign customers and remain competitive in world markets.  It has been a model of integrity,” the groups said in the letter, “But the recent decision by WSDA, and the subsequent inaction to this point of FGIS to fulfill its mandate to provide Official inspection services, risks sullying that hard-earned reputation, to the long- lasting detriment of U.S. agriculture.  It also sends a dangerous signal to any third-party that might wish to disrupt U.S. grain export trade.”

The letter, in its entirety, can be viewed here.

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U.S. Soybean Farmers Meet with International Soy Industry Reps

Leaders from the American Soybean Association and the United Soybean Board were in Paris, France last week to meet with representatives of the oilseeds industry at the 16th annual International Oilseed Processors Dialogue to discuss various issues.  Jim Call - Chairman of the USB - said the U.S. delegation also met with the international soygrowers association.

Jim Call 1

President of the American Soybean Association Ray Gaesser said they also talked with soybean growers from the host country France

Ray Gaesser 1

It was noted that the EU - in their new farm bill which they call CAP – will no longer have subsidies for any food crop biofuels after the year 2020

 

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U.S. Ag Secretary Sees Alternatives To GMO Labeling

 

During the Aspen Ideas Festival – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke in a U.S. food policy discussion about GMO labeling. Vilsack says the challenge of the labeling debate is that food labels have either provided nutritional information or warned about possible allergies – but GMO labeling doesn’t fit into either category. Still – he says the consumer has a right to know. Vilsack believes putting information about genetically modified ingredients through barcodes on food labels – like Nestle does – could resolve the issue of labeling foods with GMOs. Nestle has created an extended bar code that Vilsack believes consumers could read with smartphones or on machines in grocery stores to determine if a product contains GMOs without sending any misleading messages.

A Grocery Manufacturers Association spokesman says the use of barcodes to provide this information is worth exploring – but a federal GMO labeling standard would still be necessary to prevent a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws that could be costly – and confusing – for consumers.

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