News

U.S. Government Shutdown and Export Sales Reporting

Today marks the 20th day of the partial U.S. government shutdown, one day shy of the longest shutdown in Congressional history.

Many U.S. government personnel have been furloughed until government appropriations are restored. This includes much of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including FAS and ERS offices.  

Some agencies, and thus the employees working in them, are “exempt” from a shutdown because they do not get their funding through the congressional appropriations process. Other agencies, or parts of them, also have funding not subject to annual appropriations – for example, through fees they charge for their services, or from trust funds or multi-year budgets. Employees whose salaries are funded in that way would continue working, and getting paid, as normal.  For example, export grain grading by USDA FGIS is exempt but some of the work – like grain appeals at the National Grain Center in Kansas City and FGIS international services is not exempt.

For employees whose salaries are paid from appropriations, there is another distinction: “excepted” vs. “non-excepted” (not “essential” vs. “non-essential,” which are the more commonly used, but not official, terms).

Excepted employees are those whose jobs involve the safety of human life, the protection of property, or certain other types of work designated by their agencies as necessary to continue. These are not necessarily the same as “emergency” employees who are expected to continue coming to work when agencies close for other reasons, such as for severe weather.

Excepted employees are to continue reporting for work as normal during a shutdown, though for the meantime they would not be paid for that time. Because agencies are required to pay for services performed, those employees are guaranteed to be paid after Congress passes – and the president signs – a new appropriation or continuing resolution. Exactly when they would be paid would depend on the timing of the new spending authority and the payroll cycle the agency uses.

Employees who are neither “exempt” nor “excepted” are put on unpaid furlough. They are to perform what guidance calls “minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities.” That typically is to last about a half-day on their first scheduled workday after a shutdown begins. They then are to leave the workplace and they are not to work while on furlough, even on a volunteer basis.

The Federal Grain Inspection Service, according to its agency shutdown plan, will continue to provide all grain and related commodity inspection and weighing program activities supported by user fees authorized by the U. S. Grain Standards Act (USGSA) and the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946. Local managers of the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) will evaluate service requests and, with approval from FGIS’ Field Management Division (FMD) Director, assign employees to revenue generating functions.

During the partial shut down, exporters are reminded to continue to report sales as required: https://www.fas.usda.gov/programs/export-sales-reporting-program. FAS Administrator Ken Isley, who is one of the essential employees and working, indicated this week that that public export sales report (https://apps.fas.usda.gov/export-sales/esrd1.html) will resume once appropriations are restored and FAS will try to provide for missing reports on the same weekly basis in retrospect.  

Please contact us if you have any questions.  

IGTC Secretariat Working to Make Trade Work

NAEGA staff and several member company representatives are working in coordination with Katy Lee, IGTC Secretariat and NAEGA contractor to implement IGTC’s recently revised 2019 business plan.

 Upcoming nearby IGTC actions include:

January 30 in Geneva: The IGTC Working Group on Electronic Documentation is supporting Katy as she continues her leadership role with the International Plant Protection Convention e-Phyto Solution.  As part of these efforts, Katy will participate in  IPPC ePhyto Industry Advisory Group (IAG) meeting in Geneva on January 25.  IAG is a voluntarily group of private sector stakeholders working to advise the IPPC Secretariat on the feasibility of the ePhyto solution project and its ability to facilitate efficient and effective trade flows.  IGTC chairs the IAG.

March 6-7 in London: Katy will act as a panelist at the International Fertilizer Association (IFA) Production & International Trade Conference, which this year is focused on “Trade tensions on the rise - A look at the potential impacts on agri-food and fertilizer trade.”

March 10-12 in Brussels: at the invitation of IGTC member COCREAL, IGTC will conduct meetings with the European Commission Directorates General for trade, health and food safety, and agriculture; EU Member State representatives; European Parliament committee staff; and Third country representatives in Brussels engaged in plant breeding innovation issues. The standing agenda for these meetings will include assessment of alternative outcomes and implementation of ECJ Opinion; agri-trade issues related to gene editing (e.g. Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, Low Level Presence); opportunities for IGTC members and Corporate Stakeholders to ask specific questions about impacts of EU rules; and communication of trade-positive messaging already agreed in IGTC policy.  An Internal IGTC Policy Team meeting at COCERAL Headquarters is planned for March 12 to debrief from 11 March meetings; discuss IGTC policy and advocacy strategy on plant breeding innovation; and conduct a Round Table to review how new innovations are currently impacting the grain supply chain.

March 13 in Geneva: The IGTC will complete administrative and governance actions related to the transitioning IGTC from NAEGA underwriting including the establishment of financial accounts and controls.

March 14 in London: IGTC will report to and participate in Market Conditions Committee (MCC) meeting of the International Grains Council (IGC). Over the past few years, the IGTC has been deepening its working relationship with the IGC and, in December, signed a memorandum of understanding with the IGC to encourage further collaboration to promote and facilitate the international trade of grains, oilseeds and other agri-bulks.

Multiple additional IGTC actions and events are scheduled through June 2019.  If you are your company would like to directly participate in IGTC please contact Gary.

Member Invoices and Annual Meeting Notification

NAEGA has completed its annual invoicing for membership dues and export volume fees. On Friday, January 4, each member representative should have received an email with a membership invoice and an annual member meeting notification. Member representatives will also receive an invoice and meeting notification via Fedex. All NAEGA member dues and export volume fees are due by February 15, 2019.

Vietnam actions re Cirsium arvense seeds in grains and oilseeds

NAEGA is working with urgency in response to Vietnam PPD’s actions regarding the presence of Cirsium arvense (common names include creeping thistle and Canada  thistle in shipments of grain.  The NAEGA Grades and Inspection Committee has begun work with NAEGA on advise to be conveyed to both the U.S. and Vietnamese governments.  We see Cirsium arvense issue as one of global concern and have included coordination with international colleagues. We are completing extensive research on the agronomy, distribution and approaches to managing Cirsium arvense seeds in commodity shipments    

 Please help and contact us immediately if you have related information or questions. 

 USDA is planning for a bi-lateral meeting in Hanoi with relevant Vietnamese officials on January 23, 2019. Over the past few days, Gary represented NAEGA in meetings at USDA.  One hosted Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted Mckinney at our request and one USDA Undersecretary for Market and Regulatory Affairs Greg Ibach.  In both cases NAEGA advise was requested.