Shipping Grains for Sale in Foreign Commerce: What Exporters Need to Know

While many requirements pertaining to exported goods are imposed by the importing country, in the case of exporting grains, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) maintains requirements of its own. Specifically, certain exporters of qualifying grains must register with FGIS prior to shipping grains overseas.

Entities that buy, handle, weigh, or transport 15,000 tons or more per year of grain covered by the United States Grain Standards Act (USGS Act) – which includes barley; canola; corn; flaxseed; oats; rye; soybeans; sorghum; sunflower seeds; triticale; wheat; and mixed grain – for sale in foreign markets are required to register with FGIS. The registration process requires:

  • Submission of an application to FGIS via its Delegations/Designations and Export Registrations (DDR) system; and
  • A fee payment ($348 at the time of this writing).

Users must obtain an identity-verified eAuth account with USDA to complete this process. The application will identify details of the company’s incorporation and its owners and principal officers. Registration must be completed annually by December 15, and registered entities are included in the FGIS Registered Grain Exporters Directory. 

Grain exports who are not required to register may choose to do so voluntarily.

While this requirement generally applies to exporters of 15,000 or more tons per year, note that exporters of any volume of grain to China are required to register. FGIS will then provide the registration details to the General Administration of Customs China (GACC). The Chinese government verifies the shipper’s presence on the GACC list as a condition for entry.

When shipping grains, there are additional requirements to be aware of beyond exporter registration. With some exceptions, FGIS must generally certify the quality and weight of exported shipments. The importing country may require a phytosanitary certificate, which must be obtained from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) also requires a shipper’s declaration. This list is not exhaustive; when shipping grains (and, indeed, any regulated commodity), it is imperative to verify the requirements ahead of time.


OFW’s team of attorneys and regulatory professionals is well-versed in import- and export-related compliance. We have successfully assisted companies with FGIS exporter registration, provided guidance on the various export requirements, and obtained required export certificates from USDA. If you would like further information or assistance, please contact April Bartosch (

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