Industry, Mitchell praise GIPSA move to AMS

The Hagstrom Report
Randy Gordon
The Hagstrom Report |

The National Grain and Feed Association and the North American Export Grain Association and Larry Mitchell, the last administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, praised Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s decision to move GIPSA components to the Agricultural Marketing Service.

“We strongly support this much-needed realignment of FGIS (the Federal Grain Inspection Service) within AMS, which we believe will help the agency better fulfill its statutory obligation to provide reliable, accurate, timely, impartial and cost-effective services,” said NGFA President Randy Gordon and NAEGA President and CEO Gary Martin.

“Relocating FGIS within an agency that has a similar mission and function as a service agency is the foundation for its successful future, and we commend Secretary Perdue for recognizing this need and moving expeditiously to bring about this change.

“Among other things, FGIS maintains the U.S. grain standards for various commodities that underpin the U.S. price-discovery system and facilitate the marketing of U.S. grains, oilseeds and related agricultural products,” the two groups said.

“FGIS is responsible for establishing quality standards for grains, oilseeds, pulses and legumes, and for providing impartial, user-fee funded official inspection and weighing services through a network of federal, state and private entities. As such, most of its functions are akin to those already provided by AMS, which operates existing programs that support and facilitate the marketing of dairy, specialty crops, livestock, poultry and seed, as well as cotton and tobacco.”

Before a 1994 Clinton administration-era USDA reorganization that created GIPSA, FGIS was a separate agency that reported directly to the USDA undersecretary for marketing and inspection programs, to which AMS also reports, the two groups added.

NGFA and NAEGA also said the realignment provides the impetus for FGIS to improve its cross-agency interaction with other government departments that share roles in facilitating the marketing of U.S. agricultural products, such as USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which is responsible for issuing phytosanitary certificates for U.S. grain export shipments.

“In concert with the appointment of capable, knowledgeable, responsible and accountable leadership at FGIS, this organizational realignment holds promise for greatly improving the agency’s program delivery and reputation,” Gordon and Martin said. “It also should promote and support domestic and export markets, thereby enhancing USDA’s agricultural trade mission.”

“Further, the relocation to AMS should help address problems over the last decade involving the overall expense and effectiveness of federally mandated FGIS official grain inspection services by eliminating programmatic redundancies, reducing administrative costs, and providing opportunities for interaction with AMS personnel with a similar mission and focus.”

Larry Mitchell, the last GIPSA administrator under Obama, said he approves of moving FGIS and the Packers and Stockyards Program into AMS.

Mitchell said in an email that the move to AMS was a better idea than one proposed by the National Academy of Public Administration to move grain inspection to a trade mission area because trading partners might think that grain inspection within a trade office “may have had a conflict of interest in ensuring the quantity the of exports over the quality of the exports, thereby eroding their confidence in our grain quality — resulting in reduced export, increased stocks, lower prices to American farmers and increased financial hardships of rural communities.”

“AMS is a good platform for FGIS and probably an even better platform for the Packers and Stockyards Program,” Mitchell said. “The critical work of the two programs will continue with the great leadership and resources of AMS.”

“My personal regret is that I was the last administrator of GIPSA. It is an outstanding organization with some of the most dedicated, professional people I have ever had the honor to serve with,” Mitchell added.