WASHINGTON, June 9, 2015 - The House passed a pair of bills aimed at avoiding future disruptions of export grain inspections and livestock market reports.
The bills, which reauthorize federal grain standards and livestock reporting laws, were approved on voice votes. Both the grain and livestock programs would be extended through Sept. 30, 2020.
The grain standards bill (HR 2088) sets up a process to avoid a repeat of what happened last year at Washington's Port of Vancouver when state inspectors refused to go to work during a labor demonstration, citing safety concerns. Washington is one of five states where state agencies conduct export inspections under authority of USDA.
Under the bill, grain companies could request that inspectors from one of the other four states step in and do the work if the host state inspectors won't. The bill, however, would not allow companies to use private inspectors.
“We worked hard to gain access to overseas markets. We are shooting ourselves in the foot when we cannot ship our products to these markets because state and federal agencies are unable or unwilling to comply with their obligations,” said House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas.
The Senate Agriculture Committee approved a similar bill last month.
USDA's Federal Grain Inspection Service directly inspects about two-thirds of exported grain, including shipments through Louisiana and Texas, and delegates the work to state agencies in five states: Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. USDA declined to intervene in the shutdown of Washington inspections, citing the same safety issue.
The South Carolina inspection agency offered to take over the inspections in Washington but was turned down.
The livestock price reporting bill (HR 2051) would designate the system as an essential government service, ensuring that it would continue in operation when a lapse in appropriations forces other parts of USDA to close temporarily.
The program is “important for producers who rely on transparent, accurate and timely industry information,” said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.