Agricultural Marketing Act Inspections Should Be Administered by Single USDA Agency

CED-82-69: Published: May 21, 1982. Publicly Released: May 21, 1982.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Agriculture (USDA) food and inspection grading activities carried out under the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946. Responsibility within USDA for these activities is currently shared by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS); GAO also reviewed this division of responsibility.

GAO found that FGIS relies on local individuals under annual personnel service contracts called contract samplers rather than its own employees to do contract compliance inspections. AMS provides contract compliance services for most Act products and it usually has employees near or in the immediate area of plants under FGIS jurisdiction who could absorb most of the FGIS workload. Therefore, the AMS employees could probably provide higher quality and more reliable services. Since testing processed grain products in connection with contract compliance inspections is the primary mission of the FGIS laboratory, it could also be transferred to AMS, because AMS has three laboratories that do similar testing. FGIS now diverts a certain amount of testing work to private laboratories to keep them under contract in case their facility cannot handle peak workloads. FGIS provides other services under the Act besides contract compliance services. GAO believes that transferring the Act functions would be desirable, even though such a transfer would not necessarily result in higher quality or more efficient services. Without these Act responsibilities, FGIS could devote more attention to its primary grain inspection mission and could better maintain that program's integrity despite staff cutbacks. FGIS already has personnel at major ports. Therefore, it could provide export inspection services more efficiently.

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 instruct the Administrator of AMS to establish a formal policy and system for maximizing crossutilization of AMS personnel on contract compliance inspection work.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency disagrees with the recommendation. It believes that the current assignment of responsibilities is justified.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should instruct the Administrators of FGIS and AMS to execute a memorandum of understanding providing for FGIS personnel to continue inspection and testing services they now provide on exported commodities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency disagrees with the recommendation. It believes that the current assignment of responsibilities is justified.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should transfer the FGIS commodity testing laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency disagrees with the recommendation. It believes that the current assignment of responsibilities is justified.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should transfer a sufficient number of FGIS personnel with expertise in grading rice and other commodities which FGIS now grades under the Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency disagrees with the recommendation. It believes that the current assignment of responsibilities is justified.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should transfer to AMS responsibility for inspecting and grading commodities covered by the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 that are now assigned to FGIS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency disagrees with the recommendation. It believes that the current assignment of responsibilities is justified.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should instruct the Administrator of FGIS to either: (1) transfer grain research work now done by the Beltsville laboratory to the FGIS laboratory in Grandview, Missouri, or (2) effect a memorandum of agreement with the Administrator of AMS providing for the Beltsville laboratory to continue this work on a reimbursable basis.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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