As much as one third of all grain produced in the U.S. moves into export. In 2011 approximately $42.3 billion worth of grains and oilseeds were exported from the United States via this system. It is expected that over 100 million metric tons, of primarily U.S. corn, soybeans and wheat, were handled by the U.S. grain export system in the calendar year 2012. Annual volumes and value vary widely based on pricing, currency values, U.S. market access, and global supply and demand for the commodities produced in the United States.
Characteristics of the system include:
- Highly efficient system that can receive, store, sort, blend and ship large amounts of grain of uniform quality to a diverse international customer base
- Competitive suppliers provide several options for buyers by providing a system that is highly flexible (food, feed, industrial markets).
- System relies on contract sanctity and has built-in system of dispute resolution that includes several private dispute settlement mechanisms that provide an alternative to public judicial system. Integrity in business relationships combined with the ability to equitably resolve disputes in a timely and cost effective manner are a hallmark of the U.S. grain export system.
- At export, multiple commodity loading ability is combined with vessel-loading rates that reach 3200-3400 tons per hour. Year round capacity to supply a wide assortment of contractual specifications for both quality and quantity at several different ports
- U.S. grains and oilseeds must meet rigorous U.S. Government standards and destination market requirements before being certified for export shipment. Lots not meeting contractual specifications are normally rejected.
- Grain Quality inspections are certified by the U.S. Government. For most U.S. exports a Federal agency, the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Agency (GIPSA,) provides Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) certification of quality under official U.S. grain standards, performs vessel hold inspections, and certifies the weight of export shipments.
- U.S. Animal Plant Health Inspection Service officials (USDA/APHIS) provide for Sanitary and PhytoSanitary requirements by certifying shipments as required by international convention and sovereign regulation
- Third party private inspection laboratories are available to perform a wide variety of process certification, inspections and testing services to meet buyer and contract requirements.