The National Grain and Feed Association, which represents more than 1,100 grain, feed, processing, exporting and other grain-related companies throughout the country, told the Senate Agriculture Committee Thursday that Congress should consider several changes – including one involving an issue with China – when it reauthorizes the U.S. Grain Standards Act.

At the hearing, Bruce Sutherland, president of Michigan Agriculture Commodities in Lansing, Mich., testified on NGFA’s behalf: “…[O]ur legislative recommendations to amend the USGSA will strengthen the official inspection and weighing system, foster the competitive position of U.S. grains and oilseeds in world markets, and maintain the integrity of official inspection results.”

Sutherland testified that the reauthorization should require the Federal Grain Inspection Service to “expressly prohibit the inappropriate and misleading practice of using grain standard quality factors as an indicator of plant health risk on phytosanitary certificates issued by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

“APHIS inappropriately and unwisely, in our view, acquiesced in late December 2017 to Chinese officials’ requests that foreign material (FM) content – a grain quality factor – be used as a proxy for weed seed content in U.S. soybean export shipments,” Sutherland noted. The resulting market uncertainty led to a sharp reduction in U.S. soybean exports to China months before the advent of tariffs, he said.

The rest of the recommendations may be found in NGFA’s testimony.

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in an opening statement, “Because farmers are facing uncertainty on many fronts, it is crucial that we maintain the integrity of our inspection system.”

Stabenow said the Trump administration’s “reckless approach to trade has taken a toll on our ability to export agricultural products – and it’s having a very real impact on farmers across the country. At a time when many buyers in international markets are questioning the reliability of the United States as a consistent supplier, it is important that those buyers are not also doubting the quality of the grains and oilseeds they purchase.”

Stabenow told Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., that reauthorization of the Grain Standards Act had been the first bipartisan bill they worked on when he became chairman in 2015. She added, “I look forward to working with you in a bipartisan way once again to maintain the integrity of the existing inspection system.”