Grain Inspection and Weighing Systems in the Interior of the United States--An Evaluation

CED-80-62: Published: Apr 14, 1980. Publicly Released: Apr 14, 1980.

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The Grain Standards Act made a number of substantive changes to improve the interior (nonexport) grain inspection and weighing systems and authorized the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) to establish an interior grain weight supervision system. Under the existing systems, the Administrator of FGIS designates agencies to provide inspection and weight supervision services, licenses the agencies' inspection and weight supervision personnel, and supervises the agencies' operations. The Act also required GAO and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to study the systems and required GAO to submit a report recommending any changes to the Act. Pursuant to that requirement, GAO evaluated the interior grain inspection and weighing systems.

The overall structures of the existing systems should be retained. However, some additional improvements are needed to strengthen the grain inspection and weighing services and FGIS controls over the services. Following passage of the act, FGIS initiated action to correct improper rounding of grading results and "grade shaving" and insisted on legal arrangements to avoid or lessen the effect of conflicts of interest and thus protect inspection agencies from grain company influence. The principal areas which still need improvement are (1) the establishment and enforcement of clear and definitive standards for quality control by grain inspection agencies; (2) the elimination of improper sampling, especially by contract samplers; (3) control over grain sampling and grading accurcy; and (4) effective use of sample regrading results to identify grading problems. In addition to the FGIS system, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) operates a grain weighing system. Nearly all weight supervision on domestic rail shipments of grain in the interior and some barge and truck shipments are weighed under AAR supervision. Most of the users of the AAR system expressed satisfaction with its operation, and GAO concluded that, although the AAR weight supervison system has some limitations and its service is not always available on all modes of transportation, it serves the interests of the railroads and the grain industry reasonably well.

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