Years ago the George W. Bush administration pushed to outsource the mandatory inspection of grain exported from the U.S. They did a pilot project and found neither savings nor efficiencies in privatizing the function. 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. The agency subsequently abandoned the program. But some industry-sponsored members of Congress are now pushing to hand over control of this function to for-profit contractors anyway.
AFGE, which represents FGIS grain inspectors, strongly opposes the tried-and-failed outsourcing of the function.
“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,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management on Wednesday. “The pursuit of profits must be carefully balanced with the protection of America’s standing as an honest and trusted trading partner.”
Cox added that even putting aside the finding by the pilot project that nothing would be saved by privatization, the cost of using federal employees to do the work is very little.
“In fact, it would be more correct to say that the pennies spent on federal inspectors are an investment which yields significant dividends for our nation’s farmers because of the confidence foreign buyers can therefore have in the integrity of American agricultural exports.”