Lucas, Conaway ask USDA to restore grain inspections at Vancouver port

By Sarah Gonzalez

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2014- House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting he restore grain inspection services at the Port of Vancouver in Washington State.

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A labor conflict between United Grain and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that began over a year ago caused state grain inspectors to stop entering the facility due to threats from union pickets.

USDA recently said it would not direct federal staff to take over grain inspections at the port. In a press call with media this week, Vilsack said, “It is incumbent on me to make sure that any decisions are made with safety in mind,” regarding the safety of federal employees.

However, USDA officials who conducted safety inspections at the facility told Lucas and Conaway that there were no safety concerns to prevent USDA grain inspectors from entering the facility, according the letter.

Additionally, the letter noted that USDA denied the congressmen a briefing by a USDA security team as well as access to a safety report on the situation submitted to the Administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.

“As someone who has spent considerable time and energy fighting to open international markets for our agricultural products, we know you are concerned about the potential loss of those markets due to the closure of this important export terminal,” the letter states. “We ask once again that you immediately restore inspection services so that grain exports can resume.”

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