Key leaders of the House Agriculture Committee question Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's assertion that there could be security concerns sending grain inspectors to the Port of Vancouver in Washington State.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Rep. Michael Conaway, chair of the subcommittee on commodities, wrote a letter to Vilsack on Thursday asking him to "immediately restore Federal grain inspection services" to the port.
The congressmen stated "Were there to be documented concerns for the safety of Federal employees in this facility, we would stand behind the decision to withhold inspection."
United Grain Corp. is locked in a labor dispute with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union over a new contract. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee agreed last fall to provide police escort for state inspectors following alleged threats and intimidation by union workers, who are locked out of the terminal. Inslee opted to withdraw the police escort in early July. United Grain has been unable to ship grain ever since.
In a press call earlier this week, Vilsack suggested that he has concerns about the safety of inspectors who would have to cross the picket line to conduct inspections.
Lucas and Conaway stated in their letter that they have requested a copy of a report about safety concerns or a briefing about the report from the administrator of the Grain Inspections, Packers and Stockyards Administration. Both requests have been denied, the congressmen stated.
The congressmen stated that members of their staff have been told by USDA officials who conducted the security assessment that there are no safety concerns for inspectors at the terminal. "Those officials have confirmed that there are no security concerns that would prevent USDA grain inspectors from entering or exiting the facility through the vehicular gate, or by helicopter. The official did recommend that the vehicle transporting the USDA inspectors be placarded identifying it as a USDA vehicle, a measure that is seemingly easy to resolve."
The congressmen concluded, "We ask once again that you immediately restore inspection services so that grain exports can resume."
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