Exporting Grain

There are certain requirements that must be met by individuals or companies exporting grain, oilseeds, or related commodities from the United States. The requirements vary based on whether the commodity is covered by the United States Grain Standards Act (USGSA) or the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (AMA).











Sunflower Seed



Mixed Grain


Beans (dry edible)




Processed grain products (e.g., flour, cornmeal soybeans vegetable oil)


Anyone exporting 15,000 tons or more (per year) of grain covered by the USGSA must first register with the Federal Grain Inspection Service. The registration process involves submitting certain information and paying a fee. Further, FGIS is required to certify the quality and weight of all export shipments of grain covered by the USGSA. FGIS also is required to test all corn exports for aflatoxin, unless the contract stipulates testing is not required. Exceptions to these mandatory inspection and weighing requirements include:

  • Grain exports under 15,000 metric tons per year by any individual facility.
  • Grain exported for seeding purposes.
  • Grain shipped in bond.
  • Grain exported by rail or truck to Canada or Mexico.
  • High quality specialty grain shipped in containers.
  • Grain not sold by grade (mandatory weighing still required per 7 CFR 800.18).

Registration requirements do not apply to AMA commodities. FGIS provides permissive services under the AMA upon request.

Phytosanitary Certification

Phytosanitary regulations are established by the importing country. Exporters must determine if the importing country requires certification that the commodity meets that country's phytosanitary regulations; for example, freedom from a particular prohibited insect. The Phytosanitary Export Database (PExD) program offers a computerized database of the phytosanitary requirements for most countries to which the United States exports agricultural products.

Phytosanitary Certificates are issued by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Additional information regarding importing requirements can be found in the Foreign Agriculture Service's (FAS) Global Agriculture Information Network (GAIN) reports or by calling APHIS at (301) 734-8537

Shipper's Export Declaration (SED)

The U.S. Department of Commerce requires a shipper's export declaration, or SED, for export grain shipments. The SED states the type and value of the cargo, and is used to control exports and compile trade statistics. The U.S. Government does not require export licenses or permits for agricultural commodities. For more information contact the Foreign Trade Division, Bureau of the Census at (301) 457-2238.


The U.S. Government may impose embargoes on exports to certain countries for political or other reasons. To inquire about embargoes, visit the site of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) or contact the OFAC Compliance office at (202) 622-2490 or the Bureau of Export Administration (BXA) at (202) 482-4811.

Other Sources of Information

The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service has a trade assistance office to advise exporters about potential markets, suppliers, and other trade leads. The telephone number is (202) 720-7420. In addition, FAS maintains a web page called Ag Exporter Assistance. The U.S. Government maintains an export portal with helpful information. The toll-free number is 800-USA-TRADE.

A Basic Guide to Exporting (pdf) is a useful book available from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Additional information is available at their export.gov website.