WASHINGTON (B)--The U.S. Department of Agriculture may unveil its first proposal to set minimum dockage levels for U.S. wheat exports at 0.3% to 0.5% as early as this month, a USDA official said Nov. 28. Dockage represents the allowable level of dirt and debris in wheat shipments.

John Giler, an analyst for USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, said that for wheat to get the top grade for export it must contain no more than 0.3% dockage under the proposal. Grade Two, the only other level, has a 0.5% standard.

Giler told the Grain Inspection Advisory Committee Nov. 28 that even though the proposal will be unveiled soon in the Federal Register, it is not likely to be implemented until July 2002 if there are no major setbacks.

"The proposal is in the final stages...but it is by no means a done deal," Giler said.

After GIPSA's proposal is released, a 60-day feedback period will be held and USDA is willing to make changes, he said.

"There's a real possibility we may decide to postpone this for another year," Giler told BridgeNews after speaking to the committee and fielding questions.

There will be no government subsidies to help exporters clean their wheat to meet the new standards and U.S. sellers should factor in that extra cost, Giler said.

USDA has already lowered the dockage standard in wheat that the Commodity Credit Corp. buys for export as donations to foreign countries, but that policy change will be implemented gradually over the next several years.

In June this year Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman announced that the acceptable dockage would be lowered to 0.8%, down from a flat 1%. Four months later Glickman lowered that standard again to 0.7%. USDA intends to lower the level again to 0.6% sometime in 2002 and to 0.5% sometime in 2003.

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