Grain groups urge USDA to restore inspections at Washington port

A coalition of U.S. grain groups has urged the Department of Agriculture to immediately restore official grain inspection services at the Port of Vancouver, Washington, which is involved in a long-running labor dispute.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the 22 national, regional and state organizations said disruptions at the port “put at risk the United States’ reputation as a reliable supplier” of grains and oilseeds to the world market.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) said earlier this month it would no longer perform inspections at the port, in part because the continued provision of inspections “appears to have been unhelpful” in resolving the labor dispute.

“To our knowledge, the latest announcement by a designated state agency declining to provide official services is unprecedented,” the groups wrote to Vilsack.
The port is being picketed by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) as part of a dispute with United Grain Corp., a unit of Japan’s Mitsui, over work rules and pay.
Reuters reported on Friday that United Grain had shut its Vancouver bulk grain terminal, the largest wheat exporting elevator on the U.S. West Coast, because grain inspectors had been withdrawn.
Federal law prohibits the export of U.S. grains and oilseeds unless officially inspected and weighed. The state inspectors work on behalf of USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).
Nearly half of U.S. wheat exports and a quarter of all U.S. grain and oilseed exports leave the country via the Pacific Northwest. The Vancouver facility is one of nine bulk grain terminals in the region.
European traders last week said that buyers in Taiwan made no purchase in a tender for U.S. milling wheat, due in part to concerns about logistics at the Vancouver terminal.

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