Opening Statements

Opening Statement: General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford: To review reauthorization of the U.S. Grain Standards Act

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Washington, DC, April 22, 2015 | comments

Remarks as prepared:

This hearing comes nearly a century after the Grain Standards Act of 1916 was signed into law by then President Woodrow Wilson. For nearly 100 years, this law has been the cornerstone of the vibrant grain trade both for domestic consumption and international trade. This law is relied upon not only by exporters and domestic shippers, but by the whole US agricultural sector. It establishes official marketing standards and procedures for the inspection and weighing of grains and oilseeds, providing a critical service to the grain marketplace.

The witnesses who join us today represent industries that have thrived over the last century, and transformed the grain trade into the economic juggernaut it represents today. The GSA has supported the evolution of this industry by providing a backbone of stability relied upon by exporters, shippers, farmers and even consumers.  With the farm economy and so many of our constituents relying on the ability of grain and oilseeds to get to market, reauthorization of the GSA should have this one goal in mind: stability. And I mean this in a couple of ways.

Many of the provisions in current law are set to expire on September 30th of this year. A lapse in authorization would disrupt the current grain and inspections process, therefore Congress should not delay in passing its reauthorization. To do this, we need to get our work done well in advance and achieve bipartisan consensus. That is why we’re hosting this hearing more than five months ahead of the deadline.

Secondly, the GSA needs to provide stability by ensuring we can avoid disruptions like that which took place last year in Washington State. Last summer, the Washington State Department of Agriculture was providing export inspections under a delegation of federal authority at an export terminal at the Port of Vancouver. The department discontinued its export inspection amid an ongoing labor dispute.

Since labor disputes happen from time to time, this kind of situation was anticipated by our predecessors, which is why the current GSA provides a mechanism for the US Department of Agriculture to step in and provide inspection services, in the event of a disruption. However, the dispute devolved into a political situation in which the Secretary of Agriculture declined to use his discretionary authority to maintain inspections. While inspection services were eventually restored, it is incumbent on the Committee to take appropriate action to provide safeguards against a repeat of that unfortunate decision.

We have reviewed proposals from grain industry organizations and have engaged in considerable discussion with other stakeholder organizations represented on today’s panel. Likewise, majority and minority offices have worked very closely in an effort to develop bipartisan consensus in advance of a markup in the near future.

It is my understanding that discussions regarding legislative drafts are nearly concluded, and we expect to circulate those drafts for public review shortly. I hope the discussion today will confirm areas of consensus as well as provide necessary insight regarding areas where additional work may be necessary. With that, I thank the witnesses for being here today to aid us in this process, and I yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Walz, for his opening comments.Remarks as prepared:

This hearing comes nearly a century after the Grain Standards Act of 1916 was signed into law by then President Woodrow Wilson. For nearly 100 years, this law has been the cornerstone of the vibrant grain trade both for domestic consumption and international trade. This law is relied upon not only by exporters and domestic shippers, but by the whole US agricultural sector. It establishes official marketing standards and procedures for the inspection and weighing of grains and oilseeds, providing a critical service to the grain marketplace.

The witnesses who join us today represent industries that have thrived over the last century, and transformed the grain trade into the economic juggernaut it represents today. The GSA has supported the evolution of this industry by providing a backbone of stability relied upon by exporters, shippers, farmers and even consumers.  With the farm economy and so many of our constituents relying on the ability of grain and oilseeds to get to market, reauthorization of the GSA should have this one goal in mind: stability. And I mean this in a couple of ways.

Many of the provisions in current law are set to expire on September 30th of this year. A lapse in authorization would disrupt the current grain and inspections process, therefore Congress should not delay in passing its reauthorization. To do this, we need to get our work done well in advance and achieve bipartisan consensus. That is why we’re hosting this hearing more than five months ahead of the deadline.

Secondly, the GSA needs to provide stability by ensuring we can avoid disruptions like that which took place last year in Washington State. Last summer, the Washington State Department of Agriculture was providing export inspections under a delegation of federal authority at an export terminal at the Port of Vancouver. The department discontinued its export inspection amid an ongoing labor dispute.

Since labor disputes happen from time to time, this kind of situation was anticipated by our predecessors, which is why the current GSA provides a mechanism for the US Department of Agriculture to step in and provide inspection services, in the event of a disruption. However, the dispute devolved into a political situation in which the Secretary of Agriculture declined to use his discretionary authority to maintain inspections. While inspection services were eventually restored, it is incumbent on the Committee to take appropriate action to provide safeguards against a repeat of that unfortunate decision.

We have reviewed proposals from grain industry organizations and have engaged in considerable discussion with other stakeholder organizations represented on today’s panel. Likewise, majority and minority offices have worked very closely in an effort to develop bipartisan consensus in advance of a markup in the near future.

It is my understanding that discussions regarding legislative drafts are nearly concluded, and we expect to circulate those drafts for public review shortly. I hope the discussion today will confirm areas of consensus as well as provide necessary insight regarding areas where additional work may be necessary. With that, I thank the witnesses for being here today to aid us in this process, and I yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Walz, for his opening comments.

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