Federal Grain Inspection Service Importance Emphasized During COVID-19

With food and agriculture designated as “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic response, the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) continuing its work remains critical for ag supply chains to function properly.

Jess McCluer, vice president-safety and regulatory affairs at the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), provided an update on FGIS’s role in the agriculture industry and contingency plans in light of COVID-19 during a webinar April 2 sponsored by the association and Grain Journal magazine.

McCluer noted official grain inspectors at export locations are required under law to inspect grain export commodities before they can be sent to foreign markets. Producers and their overseas customers rely on timely, effective delivery of services, he said.

“The industry believes that the integrity and credibility of the inspection and weighing services bring important value to the quality of the grain. This process is very important and should be preserved,” McCluer said.

In conversations with NGFA, the inspection service confirmed its services are continuing, and the COVID-19 pandemic response is being monitored closely, McCluer said. To that end, NGFA and the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) have been communicating with FGIS and states working on its behalf, such as Washington, regarding their contingency plans.

“As a result, FGIS sent out an industry trade notice last week (March 24) highlighting some of the top points of their contingency plan,” McCluer said.

The bulletin was issued through U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service. Some highlights from the bulletin, which is available on the COVID-19 response page at ngfa.org/covid-19, include:

  • Ensure employees understand and adhere to appropriate safety guidelines as provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Implement mitigating strategies to reduce risk of exposure.
  • Continue to deliver inspection and weighing services.
  • Work closely with customers to ensure consistent communication about service issues.

“If needed, FGIS has said that they may enlist assistance, whether it be official agencies or their delegated states,’ McCluer said. “It's obviously a very fluid situation. The scenarios can differ, and they are closely monitoring this.

“And if there is anything that does come up, they ensured us they will keep us (NGFA and other agricultural associations) in the loop,” he added.

Webinar Presentation Slides

  • Randy Gordon - Designation of Food and Agriculture as Critical Infrastructure and What That Means

  • David Fairfield - FDA Inspection Flexibility During COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Bobby Frederick - Current and Future Financial Relief Enacted or Planned by Congress

  • Mary Hitchcock / Charlie Delacruz - Continued Functioning of NGFA Arbitration System

  • Jess McCluer - Federal Grain Inspection Service Continuity of Operations Plan

  • Max Fisher - Waivers From Truck Driving Hours of Service Regulations and Harmonizing State Weight Limit