WASHINGTON, April 22, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Agriculture Department employees who inspect, weigh and grade nearly 90% of the grain shipped to customers around the world should not be replaced with industry-paid contractors, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. testified today.
As Congress works on reauthorizing the U.S. Grain Standards Act, a small minority of voices has called for privatizing the mandatory weighing and inspection of grain exported from the U.S. That work currently is performed by federal civilian employees with the USDA's Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS).
"Privatization of FGIS would undermine America's guarantee of impartial and honest, government-backed trading which is relied upon by world buyers," Cox said in written testimony before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.
"The substitution of rubber-stamped inspections actually completed by industry-paid inspectors would undermine international confidence in the integrity of U.S. agricultural exports."
During President George W. Bush's administration, USDA aggressively explored the privatization of grain inspection through a pilot project. However, the department ultimately abandoned that effort after concluding that the use of contractors did not provide an additional savings or efficiencies. In fact, there were significant risks because contractors were unable to hire and maintain an adequately skilled workforce, leaving USDA vulnerable to not fulfilling its legal mandate to inspect and weigh grain.
"There is no question that this important work must continue to be performed by reliable and experienced FGIS employees, and I strongly urge the subcommittee to oppose efforts to use the reauthorization of the U.S. Grain Standards Act – or any other measure, for that matter – to promote the privatization of this work," Cox said.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.