Federal Export Grain Inspection and Weighing Programs:

Improvements Can Make Them More Effective and Less Costly

CED-80-15: Published: Nov 30, 1979. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 1979.

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An evaluation was made of the official inspection and weighing systems for U.S. grain being exported to foreign buyers as they are implemented at U.S. export locations. The systems are required by the Grain Standards Act of 1976 and are administered by the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS).

Foreign buyers perceived some improvements in the quality and weights of U.S. grain shipments since the Act was passed. However, further improvements in the inspection and weighing programs are needed. The factors causing quality problems included: (1) a lack of standardization in the proportions of grain tested and the allowable amount of infestation; (2) a lack of procedures to ensure that all grain in a shipment was within grade requirements; (3) actual amounts of dockage in excess of the certified amount due to rounding procedures; and (4) grain standards that are too lenient. While the Act requires that all grain transferred into and out of an export elevator be officially weighed, grain companies oppose paying for the high cost of inbound weight supervision, particularly when the elevator already owns the arriving grain. However, GAO felt that weight supervision for the smaller truck and rail shipments could be reduced, with reasonable control over the accuracy of the weights being maintained. Many instances were noted where personnel were not performing their duties properly, and many deficiencies in the program can be attributed to the lack of proper training. The Department of Agriculture's formal complaint system is inadequate and a program which would provide systematic feedback of destination quality and weight data is needed for improved monitoring of shipments.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should amend the Grain Standards Act to provide the Administrator, FGIS, with the authority to reduce the amount of weight monitoring required on truck and rail shipments arriving at export elevators. This could be accomplished by amending section 5(a)(2) of the United States Grain Standards Act (7 U.S.C. 77(a)(2)) to read as follows: "except as the Administrator may provide in emergency or other circumstances which would not impair the objectives of this Act, all other grain transferred out of and all grain transferred other than from a truck or railcar into an export elevator at an export port location shall be officially weighed in accordance with such standards or procedures; where grain is delivered to an export elevator at an export location by truck or railcar, the Administrator shall provide for supervision of weighing as defined in section 3(y) of this Act."

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct FGIS to give priority attention to further developing the system for collecting and analyzing quality and weight data obtained from foreign buyers. For the system to be effective, the data should be submitted on a regular schedule and all submissions should include comparable information. FGIS should also work with the cooperating foreign buyers to improve the buyers' sampling techniques and grain analyses capabilities so that FGIS can place greater reliance on the data submitted.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to require that personnel be adequately trained before they are assigned weight monitoring duties and that they clearly understand what they are supposed to do and how they are to do it.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to develop and implement detailed procedures and instructions for: (1) those weight monitoring activities not covered adequately by current FGIS instructions; and (2) supervising the weight monitoring activities performed by FGIS personnel and delegated state agencies at export locations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to require that inspection certificates issued in Canada be annotated, similar to those in the United States, when samples are obtained by means other than a diverter-type sampler.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to modify the grain inspection monitoring system to define and maintain an adequate level of inspector monitoring and develop monitoring system products which better meet the needs of field office officials responsible for identifying and correcting grading problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to develop dockage certification instructions which ensure uniform shipment quality and revise the grain standards to require that dockage grading results be certified to the nearest one-tenth percent.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency study concluded that it would not be economically practical to adopt this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to revise instructions to prohibit combining grain samples from multiple belts to determine sublot quality unless the grain represented by the samples is mixed properly during loading.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to revise shiploading instructions to prohibit the loading of offgrade grain as part of a shipment destined for multiple buyers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to establish procedures to standardize the proportion of grain tested for infestation and require that all grain in which insects are found either be certified as infested or fumigated before shipment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to strengthen the program for developing supervisors and emphasize to them their responsibility to ensure that weight monitoring activities are properly carried out.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: If Congress amends the Grain Standards Act as recommended, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to revise the inbound weight monitoring program at export locations to make it more cost effective by: (1) reducing the level of weight monitoring to a minimum of 25 percent on truck and rail shipments, particularly where closed-circuit television or other monitoring devices can be used to observe conveyance unloading and scale operations; and (2) possibly substituting observations by truck drivers for those of weight monitoring personnel where such actions are possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to use scientific work measurement techniques to determine staffing and skill levels required to perform essential inspection and weighing tasks and duties at export elevators and staff each elevator at the most efficient and effective level required to get the job done.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Foreign Agricultural Service and FGIS to use existing export monitoring programs to monitor the efforts of the U.S. grain trade to improve the quality of exports of grain and grain products, primarily soybean meal, flour, and rice, not covered by the Grain Standards Act. If problems sufficient to affect U.S. foreign markets are found, FGIS should develop: (1) a voluntary inspection program for grain products and inform foreign buyers that such a service is available on request; or (2) a legislative proposal to make rice export shipments subject to the inspection and weighing requirements of the Grain Standards Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  14. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: After studying the proposed changes, the agency decided not to implement them.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to continue efforts to revise U.S. grain standards to better meet end-user requirements. The Administrator should consider: (1) reducing the maximum limitations of foreign material in soybeans and moisture in corn; (2) treating sprout damage either as a separate grading factor, as a subfactor similar to heat damage, or as a special quality determination item similar to protein content; and (3) adding a program for official testing of wheat for quality (gluten strength).

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  15. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to revise the inventory monitoring program by discontinuing the maintenance of an independent set of elevator inventory records by FGIS personnel, requiring export elevators to maintain those records and data which FGIS needs, and developing and maintaining a capability within the headquarters staff to check the elevators' records and inventories when a problem is suspected.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  16. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to develop equipment performance standards for closed-circuit television systems and such other criteria as would be needed to make a commitment on the number of official personnel that would be replaced if an elevator operator installs a closed-circuit television system meeting the specified equipment performance standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  17. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct FGIS and the Foreign Agricultural Service to develop a program for contacting major end-users on a regular basis to obtain their views as to the quality of U.S. grain and which quality factors are of greatest use to them for consideration in making future revisions to grain standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  18. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: After studying these proposed changes, the agency decided not to implement them.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct FGIS to research the need for restricting certain blending practices, such as adding grain screenings or different types of grains to good quality grain, blending wheat with known sprout damage with wheat that does not contain such damage, or blending high- and low-moisture corn.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  19. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FGIS, to exercise greater care in determining equipment requirements before large purchases are made, particularly when new technology is involved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  20. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct FGIS to revise its inspection procedures to require that protein content be computed and reported on a standard moisture basis.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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