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Congress Looks at Extending Grain Standards Act

posted on May 27, 2005

Whatever level of production Congress settles on, it's already clear that ethanol is here to stay. The U.S. ethanol industry set another monthly production record in March, with output jumping some 14 percent from March 2004.

While the debate simmers over a renewable fuels standard, there's little disagreement on the continued need for grain quality standards. Farmers, grain handlers, and merchandisers all rely on the standards to do business.

But the law under which the standards exist is not permanent. So Congress this week launched a process to review and renew an important step in the movement of American grain.

Congress Looks at Extending Grain Standards Act The U.S. Grain Standards Act sets the grades, classes and conditions on a dozen commodities, including corn, wheat, soybeans, barley and oats. It's those factors that help determine the value of grain that's delivered to the elevator or export terminal.

With the law set to expire in September, lawmakers are looking at legislation to extend the act, which is administered by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, or GIPSA.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-GA: "While reauthorization of the Grain Standards Act my not be the hottest topic of discussion in Washington, it is extremely important to all of agriculture that we review and reauthorize this act.

"... in fiscal year 2004, GIPSA provided inspections on nearly 61% of America's $50 billion total grain production and facilitated the marketing of $14 billion of U.S. grain exports."

Advocates for reauthorization say the standards measure important factors in the movement of farm commodities, like test weights, damaged grain and foreign material. With U.S. farm exports declining in recent years, they say any extension of the existing aw should be for no less than 10 years.

Funding for the reauthorization will be a matter for members of the appropriations committee and administration bean counters. Policy changes to the law sought under the jurisdiction of the agriculture committee are expected to be minor.

Jerry Gibson, Bunge North America, Inc.: "Congress has an opportunity to give this important agency the authority and flexibility it needs to improve the affordability and long-term viability of official grain inspection in waiting export facilities."

A spokesman in the office of Committee Chairman Chambliss said lawmakers hope to complete work on the reauthorization by sometime this summer.

Tags: agriculture Congress government news soybeans wheat