Power to Intervene in Port Disruptions

During a Senate Ag Committee hearing on the reauthorization of the Grain Standards Act, grain industry officials were critical of USDA’s performance last summer during a labor dispute that stalled inspections at the Port of Vancouver.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture withdrew inspectors for 36 days at the port due to safety concerns. Grain shipments piled up, and orders to foreign countries could not be filled.
No one from USDA was present to defend the department’s actions during the Senate hearing.
On the House side during a recent subcommittee hearing, Representative Rick Crawford – a Republican from Arkansas – was critical of Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack for not stepping in.
Crawford Ports
Speaking to farm broadcasters at USDA headquarters during Washington Watch last week – Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said he couldn’t assure the safety of inspectors given the circumstances.
Vilsack Port 1
Grain industry officials complained to the Senate Ag Committee that USDA had never shown them the safety report on which the decision not to intervene was based.  But Vilsack told broadcasters last week that the right steps were taken.
Vilsack Port 2
Some industry representatives want language within the Grain Standards Act requiring the Ag Secretary to use his emergency powers to intervene within a certain period of time.
Vilsack Port 3