In a recent letter to the secretary of agriculture and other key administration officials, 22 organizations cited a notice by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) stating that it no longer would fulfill its obligation to provide official grain inspection and weighing services at the Port of Vancouver. WSDA was responsible for providing official grain inspection and weighing services at the port by USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).
In a notice on July 1 stating that the official inspection services would be suspended indefinitely, effective July 7, the director of WSDA’s grain inspection program stated one of the reasons as the belief that the “continued provision of inspection services appears to have been unhelpful in leading to any foreseeable resolution” of the labor dispute.
Several organizations also met in October 2013 with GIPSA and other USDA officials to urge that the agency prepare contingency plans to ensure an “immediate and effective” program to continue official services at the port after several service interruptions.
“This issue is of great concern to the wheat farmers in the Pacific Northwest as well as around the country,” said Paul Penner, NAWG president. “If Washington state inspectors are unable to perform their duties, then the time has come for federal grain inspectors to step in and do their mandated jobs to get grain flowing out of the port of Vancouver.”
“To our knowledge, this latest announcement by a designated state agency declining to provide official services is unprecedented,” according to the groups’ letter. “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.”
The groups also noted the “uncertainty” that exists within the U.S. grain export industry and among U.S. agricultural producers and international buyers of U.S. commodities regarding potential future disruptions of official services at facilities operating at other U.S. export ports. Under the U.S. Grain Standards Act, USDA was granted the responsibility and obligation to provide official inspection services to facilitate efficient and cost-effective marketing of U.S. grains and oilseeds.
“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,” the groups wrote.
U.S. organizations that signed the letter include: Agricultural Retailers Association; American Farm Bureau Federation; American Soybean Association; National Association of Wheat Growers; National Corn Growers Association; National Grain and Feed Association; National Oilseed Processors Association; North American Export Grain Association; Transportation, Elevator and Grain Merchants Association; U.S. Grains Council; U.S. Soybean Export Council; and U.S. Wheat Associates.
State and regional organizations that signed the letter include: Idaho Grain Producers, Minnesota Grain and Feed Association, Montana Grain Growers Association, North Dakota Grain Dealers Association, North Dakota Grain Growers Association, Oregon Wheat Growers League, South Dakota Grain and Feed Association, South Dakota Wheat Inc., Pacific Northwest Grain and Feed Association, and Washington Association of Wheat Growers.