The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) has urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to refrain from making major changes to the official U.S. grain standards for wheat.

In a statement submitted to USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), the NGFA said it did not oppose modifying the current definition of “wheat of other classes” to include hard red winter and hard red spring in the hard wheat class, since it could accommodate a trend in markets that needs to be addressed in the grain standards.

But the NGFA expressed concern over other potential proposals that may be submitted by other groups to modify the wheat standards to focus on a wide array of issues, ranging from grade lines to quality assurance to biotechnology-enhanced events — all of which can and are being addressed through contractual and commercial terms.

The NGFA, established in 1896, consists of more than 1,000-member companies from all sectors of the grain elevator, feed and feed ingredient, integrated livestock and poultry, grain processing, biofuels and exporting business that operate about 6,000 facilities nationwide and handle more than 70 percent of all U.S. grains and oilseeds.

“The fact that our domestic and international customers, as well as farmers and grain marketers, can count on a well-known, predictable and consistently applied system of grading tends to draw customers to our production/marketing system and reduces trading risks for all concerned,” the NGFA told GIPSA. “Wholesale changes that create additional uncertainty for everyone are not useful unless they bring demonstrable improvements or correct significant flaws (in the existing standards). Any significant change in the system requires extensive education throughout the chain, particularly for export customers.”

The NGFA’s statement was submitted in response to GIPSA’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking on the U.S. wheat standards, which last were amended substantively in 1993. The agency requested comments on “all facets” of the U.S. wheat standards, including “definitions, grade- and non-grade-determining factors, grade limits, damage, as well as on (wheat) grading procedures and new services you would like GIPSA to offer.”

After reviewing the comments submitted, GIPSA will determine whether to propose specific changes to the wheat standards for public comment.