Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries


The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is both designated and delegated by FGIS to provide official inspection services throughout the State of Alabama.

Ash Guesnard, Chief Inspector, says diversity is the key to their operation.  Grain inspection makes up less than half of what the State’s Federal State Inspection Division does.  The Division also inspects peanuts, fruits, vegetables, and containers, along with performing good handling practices/good agricultural practices for farmers within the state, all under Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) authority.

Grain inspection activities are performed at their Mobile location.  While the ship laboratory handles the export inspection and weighing, a laboratory near the elevator handles all other inspections.  Requests for service in the northern part of the state have been sporadic for many years, therefore Alabama entered into a gentlemen’s agreement with Midsouth Grain Inspection Service to provide service in northern Alabama.  Ash says this agreement allows customers in north Alabama to obtain service quicker, and at a lower cost due to reduced travel expenses.

The state has eleven employees in their inspection program, eight of which perform grain inspection and weighing along with the other types of inspections.  

Alabama’s export ship workload is dependent on the local harvest and what is happening on the Mississippi River.  When there are problems getting grain down the Mississippi to the New Orleans elevators, ships may be diverted to Mobile for loading.  Most of the grain loaded for export is received by rail from the midwest, while local grain arrives in trucks.  Soybeans, soft red winter wheat, and corn make up the bulk of grains inspected. Alabama also provides mycotoxin testing. Over the last three years, the state has averaged inspecting approximately 15 ships (26.7 million bushels), 2,000 official commercial trucks, 300 submits, and 200 mycotoxin samples per year.  Although requests for inspections have declined from many years ago, they have remained stable for the last few years, and are predicted to remain at the current levels for the foreseeable future.

The state’s primary customer is the export elevator in Mobile, and the state is proud to be able to meet their needs.  The state continues to be supervised by FGIS’ New Orleans Field Office.  

Having inspected many other commodities under AMS’ authority for numerous years, means they are familiar working with AMS.  Ash anticipates FGIS’ recent move to AMS will unify inspection procedures.  Recently, he was at a meeting where the peanut industry and inspectors were trying to develop stowage exam procedures for containers. Ash was able to inform them that FGIS already had extensive procedures for this type of inspection.  Hopefully, this type of sharing can continue. 

While it is difficult to predict the level of grain inspections from year to year, having inspectors that actively inspect other products allows the state to be ready and available for the grain industry when needed.  The state and its employees take pride in being able to support marketing Alabama’s diverse commodities.

Washington State Department of Ag

The State of Washington’s Grain Inspection Program holds two unique positions among all official agencies. They inspect approximately one-third of all grain leaving the United States, and they operate under a Federal/State agreement with the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) being delegated and designated.

Headquartered in Olympia, the program has laboratories at seven export facilities and six domestic offices to serve producers and marketers throughout Washington.  The Othello and Quincy offices primarily provide pulse inspections, while offices in Colfax, Pasco, Spokane, and Tumwater primarily inspect grain.  The agency is staffed with approximately 150 fulltime dedicated employees, with additional employees added during harvest.

Phil Garcia, Program Manager, states that being responsible for both mandatory export inspections, and permissive domestic inspections allows the State to assist all segments of Washington’s grain industry.  The State’s domestic and mandatory customers both demand excellent service, and quality results, which the State is committed to providing.

Operating under the Federal/State agreement, Washington works in cooperation with their own FGIS Field Office Manager and Assistant Manager on-site in Olympia which they report to rather than the FGIS office in Kansas City.  Having the FGIS Portland Field Office just across the river also means the State has immediate access to additional FGIS assistance.  The Field Office Manager is always available and ready to answer their questions and work in any way to assist the State in support of the official grain inspection system.  The Assistant Manager functions as a Quality Assurance Specialist and provides practical inspector testing. 

Washington inspects a wide variety of grains, including Soft White Wheat grown primarily in the Pacific Northwest.  To meet international buyers exacting specifications, Soft White Wheat is sometimes mixed with White Club Wheat to create Western White Wheat.  Washington’s inspectors must be able to accurately determine these and other classes of wheat to maintain these critical markets.  The State also inspects significant amounts of Hard Red Winter and Hard Red Spring Wheat, while corn and soybeans make up most of the grain exported.  

Washington also has an agreement to provide services under the Agricultural Marketing Act for the wide variety of pulses graded on the eastern side of the State, and to perform falling number tests.  The State provides official falling number tests to meet the needs of their customers. In addition to the export ships, the State inspects containers, rail cars, and auger-bottom barges capable of carrying 3,600 tons, along with warehouse lots of pulses. 

Phil states that the program’s employees are their best asset and he couldn’t be prouder of them. The employee’s commitment to professionalism and accuracy to meet all their stakeholders’ expectations is exemplary. It is the employees’ pride in themselves, their hard work, and their commitment to using the latest technology that has garnered respect from their stakeholders.  This commitment to quality service includes working with FGIS by providing supervision and checking samples, allowing them to obtain FGIS’s Gold Standard for service.

Employees undergo a two-year training program to become an inspector, and fifteen months of that time is spent just learning how to grade wheat.  An employee must pass the test for five separate grains, including wheat, to be an inspector for the State of Washington.  If they pass the test for four additional grains they are considered a senior inspector.

Washington is always willing and able to assist other official agencies in need.  They have assisted others by grading edible beans and providing mycotoxin testing.  Phil sees helping other agencies as a way of reinforcing the integrity of the official system, and they are never too busy to help other agencies.  When reauthorization comes in a couple of years, as Phil says, “we are all in this together, it’s our livelihood.” 

For Phil, knowing that the program has a direct impact on Washington State farmers in the domestic program gives him a great sense of purpose.  The inspections the State performs in the domestic marketplace assists the livelihood of these producers and their families.  Being part of that community is extremely gratifying. Equally gratifying is knowing that their export inspections have a profound impact on international commerce and that their documents are admissible in court around the world to prove the quality of grain in any given shipment.  When the domestic and export operations are brought together, it is easy to see how an inspection certificate for a ship includes grain previously certified for a farmer working to provide for their family.  Phil says, “How can you not be proud to be a part of this and find it a privilege to be part of this system.”

Phil sees the State of Washington’s Grain Inspection Program continuing to grow alongside the industry they serve.  The State is adopting the latest technology and preparing qualified inspectors to meet the increased inspection demand.  Most importantly, the State is working to prepare the next generation of employees to move into leadership positions as attrition occurs.  Phil’s immediate goal is to ensure that the program leadership remains solid for many years and leadership transitions will be seamless to the State’s stakeholders.  

No doubt the State of Washington’s Grain Inspection Program will be an integral part of Washington’s grain markets for many years to come. 

Cairo Grain Inspection Agency


Cairo Grain Inspection Agency has a long history of providing great customer service to the barge loading facilities in Southern Illinois, Western Kentucky, and Northwest Tennessee.

Cairo Grain Inspection traces its roots back to the 1930s when it was a Board of Trade organization. The agency morphed to a USDA inspection point for a period before E. J. Abredecl purchased the business in 1940. The Woodson Tenant Company became owners in 1955 until the agency was purchased by Bob Simpson (a Woodson/Tenant employee) in 1965 and changed the name to Cairo Grain Inspection Agency.  Cairo received its first modern designation in 1978.

Bob Fronabarger left his position as chief inspector with Sioux City Grain Inspection Agency to work at Cairo in 1977 and purchased the agency in 1979.  The agency is a proud family business.  Bob’s wife Sandra kept the books and their son Keith worked probing barges throughout high school and in summers while in college.  Keith is now the owner and chief inspector. Although his father turned the reins over to Keith some time ago, he was a regular in the office until his passing.

Keith credits his dad for running such a successful business and teaching him the ropes.  Keith thought about becoming an engineer at one time, but he realized grain inspection was in his blood and thought being an engineer involved too much office time.  As Keith says, “where else can you take boat rides out to a barge tow in the Ohio River and watch eagles fly around while being at work”. 

For many years Bob wrote everything down on paper and at the end of the month he and Sandra would be up past midnight trying to make sure they had the month’s billing correct. Keith finally got his dad to accept a computer spreadsheet to calculate their billing.  Eventually, Keith wrote the agency’s first billing and certification program.

Cairo is located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and services the Cumberland River & Tennessee River which includes Kentucky Lake that connects to the Tombigbee waterway.  Therefore, the agency’s business is primarily barge inspections.  Cairo regularly services five barge loaders on the Mississippi, three on the Ohio, three on the Tennessee, and one on the Cumberland River. Cairo also samples a number of barges in transit through their area.  The Cairo area is where many tow boats exchange barges making them available for inspection while they await the next tow.  One location loads out railcars sporadically, and at one facility Cairo performs inbound railcar and outbound barge weighing.

The agency regularly inspects Soft Red Winter Wheat, Soybeans, Sorghum, and Corn.  Keith points out that in the last ten years there has been an expansion of white corn grown in the area.  Approximately 20 percent of all corn inspections are for white corn.  Cairo also performs vomitoxin and aflatoxin testing.

Cairo has three full-time inspectors, including Keith and one being trained.  They also have approximately 20 part time employees located throughout the area to perform sampling.  Keith is quick to point out that what makes operating an official agency interesting is that every day is different.  You never know what services will be needed or who will need them. Everyone in the office pitches in with sampling and other duties when needed. 

Cairo is especially proud of the working relationship they have with their customers.  All of Cairo’s customers have Keith’s cell phone number and know that they can reach him anytime, day or night.  Keith is proud to provide a needed service to some good people and represent the official inspection system.  Keith’s father’s philosophy was that if you give the customer accurate grades they will respect you.  Its been that way at Cairo for almost 40 years and while technology may change, that philosophy is not about to change. 

Midsouth Grain Inspection Service

In 1882 after a devastating yellow fever epidemic, Memphis businesses formed the Merchants’ Exchange to aid in the sale of cotton.  This organization proved useful in the fair and equitable marketing of feed and grain as well as cotton.  

The Merchants Exchange established a grain and hay inspection department in 1885.  The department was incorporated in 1905 as “The Memphis Grain and Hay Association”. When Congress passed the U. S. Grain Standards Act in 1916, The Memphis Grain and Hay Association was designated the official U. S. inspection agency.  

In 1954 the name of the Merchants’ Exchange was changed to The Memphis Board of Trade.  Until 1977, the directors of The Memphis Board of Trade and the directors of the Memphis Grain and Hay Association held joint meetings.  Due to the USDA’s ruling regarding conflict of interest, The Memphis Grain and Hay Association became a separate organization with completely independent board.  Thereafter no person involved in the grain trade could serve as a director or as a member of an officially designated federal grain inspection service.  The name was later changed to “The Memphis Grain Inspection Service” (dropping “hay” as there was no longer hay being graded) in order to more accurately reflect the true nature of services provided. 

Although the Exchange no longer exists, the need for an impartial agency to provide grain inspection and weighing remains.  Over the years the agency’s name has changed to Memphis Grain Inspection Service, to Midsouth Grain Inspection Service as the agency has grown to become an integral part of grain marketing across the “Midsouth”.

Midsouth’s headquarters remains in its traditional home, Memphis, Tennessee, where they cover southwest Tennessee.  Over 133 years, their service area has expanded to include all of Arkansas and Mississippi and they have an agreement with the State of Alabama to provide service in northern Alabama.  Hence, they are the official inspection agency of the “Midsouth”.  To cover this area, Midsouth has additional offices in Leland, Mississippi, and Little Rock, Arkansas.

Midsouth provides the full range of official inspections, weighing, official commercial inspections, mycotoxin, protein, and oil testing.  The agency routinely inspects, corn, soybeans, sorghum, and soft red winter wheat.  Corn and soybeans account for most of grains inspected.  The resurgence of cotton acres has limited wheat and sorghum acres in the recent years.

Positioned on both sides of the Mississippi River, barge inspections are a significant part of Midsouth’s business.  Midsouth has one onsite laboratory at a barge loading facility and two other onsite laboratories at rail loading facilities.  Although they may not have as many onsite laboratories as other agencies, they have 60 diverter type samplers that are ready for use. They also provide transloading service in Memphis under the Agricultural Marketing Act.

Joseph Cupples says the agency employees approximately 20 full time employees. That number swells to 60 or 70 during harvest.  Joseph began working for Midsouth in 2004 and was placed in charge in 2008.  He is quick to point out that he does not have ten years of experience.  He has one year’s experience ten times.  That’s because the inspection business has been different each of the ten years he has been Agency Manager.  Weather and producers changing planting habits make every year different.

Cupples says that at Midsouth they are proud of two things -- their relationship with their customers and their relationship with their employees.  They work hard at keeping both groups satisfied.  It is these relationships that have allowed Midsouth to grow to the agency they are now.

The agency is constantly researching how it can add greater values to its customers.  They are exploring providing falling number testing.  They have also identified that they may be able to provide testing for some of the products inspected at the transloading facility.  Currently, samples they take are sent to private laboratories for fat, fiber, and protein analysis.  Midsouth is evaluating if they can provide these results in a more timely manner which will be of value to their customers.  Cupples says, it is all about being aware of what is happening in the marketplace and being willing to provide value to customers.  

Midsouth is looking forward to continuing its long history of providing unbiased results and value to customers long into the future.  

Montana Department of Agriculture


The Montana Department of Agriculture’s State Grain Laboratory is an official agency that is proud to be meeting the changing inspection needs of Montana’s producers, handlers, and processors.  The Montana State Grain Laboratory was established in 1920 and moved to their current location in 1951.  There have been several remodels, with the last one in 2011.

Recent revisions to the crop insurance program require producers to plant crops in rotation, and Montana producers responded by planting peas, lentils and garbanzo beans along with other specialty crops.  In 2015, Montana grew 11 million bushels of pulses on 600,000 acres.  In 2017, Montana farmers doubled their production on 1.5 million acres.  In fact, Montana produced more pulses than any other state for the first time ever in 2017.  The rapid increase in pulses created an unprecedented increase in pulse inspections for the State Grain Laboratory without decreasing grain inspections.

Traditionally the laboratory workload was 80 percent wheat and barley inspections and 20 percent other products.  Now pulse inspections account for 45 percent of their inspections and wheat 50 percent. It is important to recognize that the change is because the increase in pulses came with reduction of fallow ground and wheat acres. However, wheat production has not deceased, nor the need for wheat inspections. Additionally, over 2 million acres of farmland has recently come out of the Conservation Reserve Program in Montana, so grain production is also increasing.  

Greg Stordahl, State Grain Laboratory, Bureau Chief, points out that the State has successfully responded in multiple ways to address the increased need for pulse inspections. Additional staff has been added and trained, the fee schedule has been revised to ensure cost recovery is adequate for both pulses and grain since they require different time to inspect, and scheduling of inspection personnel has been revamped to ensure timely service is provided.

In addition to providing official wheat, barley, and pulse inspections the State is responsible for providing inspections of specialty products such as camelina, crambe, safflower, and other items under Montana State standards.  The laboratory also provides barley germination testing for the malting industry along with protein and falling number testing unofficially for products not under the United States Grain Standards Act.  Vomotoxin and aflatoxin tests are also routinely provided.

Greg says while there are challenges to providing the necessary services, they have found solutions. The greatest challenge is that Montana is a large State and travel in winter months can be extremely difficult.  With the main office located in Great Falls and another laboratory in Plentywood most customers can be reached in two hours. However, as Greg points out, it’s a six-and-a-half-hour drive between offices in good weather.  To ensure customers outside of the two-hour range receive service, the agency has licensed other State agriculture employees to provide sampling service for these customers.  Each office has a scheduler that plans the route for each day’s work to ensure service is provided in the most efficient method.  The State also has a courier service that picks up samples each night. Couriers leave at 5 PM and return at 3 AM with samples from elevators along their route.  Couriers bring in 60 percent of the daily samples and the rest come in by mail, private carries like FedEx, and their office drop boxes.  As Greg notes, there is always something to do first thing in the morning, and throughout the day.

The laboratory traditionally provided inspections mostly to producers who wanted to know the quality of their crop for marketing purposes.  While this practice continues, most requests for services now come from grain handlers and pulse processors.  The State has approximately 8,000 customers comprised of producers, elevators, processors and buyers.  There are 188 grain elevators in Montana and most submit samples.  An unofficial inspection agency typically provides service for domestic shipments and the State provides service for export shipments. 

With up to 20 different commodities to inspect on a routine basis, Montana’s inspectors have diverse skills.  So much so, that they seem to always be selected for openings at FGIS.  While the State is proud that its inspectors are held in such high regard, there seems to be a never ending need to recruit and train new inspectors.  Currently the State has five inspectors in Great Falls and two in Plentywood.  Five to seven seasonal employees are added from July to October to assist with the harvest workload, and a couple remain on part time throughout the year.

Two years ago, the State received help from the Kansas Grain Inspection Service to handle wheat inspections when several inspectors were lost to FGIS.  The State has one full time bean inspector, however last year’s unexpected volume of garbanzo beans overwhelmed the one inspector so Montana requested assistance from the State of Washington.  This year Montana is adequately staffed to provide all the service needed.  Greg points out that, Montana also assists other official agencies, and has done so for many years.  Known for its accuracy in testing for falling number, Montana has provided falling number testing for official agencies throughout the United States for many years and continues to do so.

The State Laboratory plays an important role in promoting Montana grain and pulses.  Greg says that they will have at least one trade team from somewhere around the globe in their office each month to learn how the laboratory ensures the quality of what they buy.  Groups from around the United States also come and are amazed at their inspectors’ ability to analyze such a diverse number of products.

Greg and his crew also work with the Wheat and Barley Committee, and the newly formed Pulse Committee, to head off problems and provide new tests that the marketplace needs. One example is their assistance in the acceptance of a new wheat variety with an unusual characteristic.  Several years ago, breeders developed a hard red winter wheat named Jet.  Jet provides increased yield, greater protein, and improved baking quantiles.  The unique property is that every time it is handled, and the kernels rub against each other and take on a polished glassy appearance to the point of appearing to be frost damaged.  The State Laboratory worked with FGIS to ensure inspectors throughout the official system could identify the variety and not improperly downgrade this superior product.  Working with the Wheat and Barley Committee, the laboratory is informing foreign buyers about this unique characteristic to promote Jet’s acceptance.

Greg is also working with an equipment manufacturer to provide a hand-held protein analyzer that producers can use to determine the protein level in pulses.  The Montana Pulse Committee and crop insurance companies are hopeful that this instrument will allow producers the ability to quickly determine one aspect of their crop’s value. 

Although last year a drought decreased overall production and therefore inspections, Montana has received abundant snowfall this winter, so hopes are high for a large 2018 harvest. The pulse industry is continuing to build processing plants and one that is scheduled to open this year will require onsite grading, a first for the State.  Greg’s goal is to expand the agency’s onsite inspections.  

With all the growth in production, the future for the Montana State Grain Laboratory looks bright, and Greg and his crew look forward to continuing to meet the changing needs of the Montana grain and pulse producers, handlers, and processors.  For more information about the Montana State Grain Laboratory click here to view their website.

Maryland Department of Agriculture


The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) is celebrating its 10th year as a designated official agency.  Headquartered in Annapolis and with five service points mostly on the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern shore, MDA is proud to assist Maryland’s grain producers and handlers market their grain.

After the export elevators at the Port of Baltimore closed and GIPSA closed its field offices, producers and handlers were forced to obtain services from GIPSA’s Toledo field office which was expensive and thus hampered their ability to fully market their grain.  To address this concern the State requested to become designated to provide official inspection and weighing to Marylanders.

While the State had some of the necessary equipment and had provided some unofficial analysis on a limited basis, they had no one ready to become licensed and operate the program.  Through a confluence of circumstances, the State realized that John “Mack” Manis, a retired GIPSA employee with a vast knowledge of official grain inspection and weighing was working for the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Division.  Mack agreed to transfer to the Department of Agriculture and launch the program.

Mack credits GIPSA’s Toledo Field office for all their assistance to get the State in the position to provide service.  Although the local grain handlers had requested the State provide the service, the State only received one request for a container booking in the first year.  The grain inspection program is within the State’s Food Quality Assurance Program which provides inspections on a vast array of products produced in Maryland, so Mack found himself assisting in these programs while awaiting additional requests for service.

Each subsequent year the State would receive a few more container booking requests and some crop insurance samples to inspect.  For the first seven years Mack was the sole licensee for the State.  About three years ago a major grain user and handler began to regularly export containers from the port of Baltimore and locations on the eastern shore.  Two other major grain companies soon followed.  Now the State has six sampler/weighers and an additional inspector to handle the workload, which usually occurs between October and March.  When not sampling grain, these employees inspect other products, such as, shell eggs under an agreement with the Agricultural Marketing Service.

Mack is quick to point out that each of the locations that they serve were new to container inspection and most had never received official service on site.  This required extensive problem solving on everyone’s part to ensure that all the GIPSA requirements were met.  Some locations initially wanted each container inspected, however once they became confident in the grades from the State they began using composite samples which made the workload more manageable.

Soybeans are the primary grain inspected, although some corn is inspected.  The State does receive occasional requests to inspect Soft Red Winter wheat and sorghum.  These samples are sent to the Kansas Grain Inspection Service utilizing an agreement between the agencies.   Maryland appreciates the assistance provided and is proud to be part of the official inspection system that assists each other to provide official inspection and weighing to producers and handlers nationwide.   

The State has graded around three to four thousand samples per year in recent years.  This year the State is expecting to inspect around half of that amount.  A reduction in exports coupled with the opening of a large soybean facility in nearby Pennsylvania is thought to be cause for the reduction.

For MDA it is all about helping Maryland grain producers and handlers market their grain.  They receive calls weekly from Marylanders interested in how they can better market their grain.  Although many of these calls do not lead to inspections the State is always excited to explain all the requirements and try and find a way to help their constituents.  MDA is thankful for the help they have received in establishing and maintain their inspection program, and proud that they can assist those producing and handling grain within the State of Maryland. 

State Grain Inspection

State Grain Inspection, headquartered in Savage Minnesota, provides inspection throughout 17 counties in southern Minnesota, including the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.  Its owner, Steve Duea, refers to himself as an “Iowa Farm Boy” who attended the Minnesota State University-Mankato, and received a degree in marketing.  Steve’s professional career began as a sales and marketing representative in the feed industry.  After 10 years, of selling feed Steve began his own company teaching others how to sell and market feed products for the next 25 years.  In 1995 Steve cofounded National Quality Inspection (NQI) to provide unofficial grain inspections.

Amanda Raadt, Agency Manager, who graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Genetics, Cell Biology and Development degree began her career during the first few summers of State Grain helping around the office. After working as a pharmacy technician and working on research projects to formulate a process for converting biomass into diesel fuel, the part time barge sampler was hooked on the grain industry. In late 2015 she took the role as Agency Manager and worked alongside her father John to continue the success of the agency.  

John Raadt is the agency’s Quality Assurance Specialist.  John began his grain inspection career with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in 1975, probing trucks in Savage, Minnesota.  John obtained his inspector’s license in 1979.  In 1981 the state scaled back its workforce, but kept John on as a sampler until 1992, when he regained his inspector status.  John remained with the state until 2005 when the state relinquished its designation and delegation.  John then joined State Grain Inspection as one of its initial employees.

The State of Minnesota provided grain inspection from 1885 through 2005.  When the state surrendered their designation and delegation after 120 years, GIPSA sought applicants to provide service in the newly unassigned area.  NQI formed a separate division named State Grain Inspection and applied to provide service.  Steve gave up his positions with NQI so that he could operate State Grain without conflict.  In mid-September 2005, GIPSA divided the State of Minnesota area between seven agencies, including State Grain.

State Grain had only two and a half months to become fully functional.  This meant hiring employees, establishing a fee schedule, obtaining an office/laboratory, purchasing equipment, and everything else needed for an official agency to operate.  The first thing Steve did was hire Darryl Bellin who held the number two position with the State of Minnesota’s grain program.  Together, Steve and Darryl made it all happen by the January 1, 2006 deadline.  Steve is quick to point out that the first three months of the year are slow grain inspection months in Minnesota which helped them get started.  Darryl stayed with State Grain until 2014 when he took a position with GIPSA’s Grading Services Laboratory in Kansas City.

State Grain services six shuttle railcar loaders, seven barge loaders, four container loaders, and four processed commodity loading facilities.  They like to say that “they sample everything from barges to bags, and all their employees are trained to sample them.”  Someone will start out sampling a barge in the morning in Savage and then in the afternoon head into downtown Minneapolis to probe a rail car. The agency routinely inspects corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, and oats, along with various processed products under the Agricultural Marketing Act.  If you have eaten Cheerios, know that State Grain inspected the oats that went into them.  If you had Gluten Free Cheerios, then State Grain certified that they are essentially free of barley, wheat and rye.

State Grain employs around 24 employees during the summer months.  That number shrinks to around 12 during the winter.  So, each year they are looking to hire new people with an eye on their potential to become inspectors.  With their office just 20 miles from downtown Minneapolis and only 2 miles from an Amazon fulfilment center, finding employees that are willing to work the flexible hours and days required to service their customers is a challenge.

State Grain always has a full-time inspector in the office, so the local elevators can rely on State Grain to provide accurate service to them throughout the day as they bring samples over.  Always having an experienced inspector in the office assures customers that they can get their grade and any questions answered right away.

John points out that barge loading start times are just as unpredictable as shuttle train start times.  Compounding the situation is that while there are planned opening dates for the barge season, these dates often change.  This year the barge loading season started 10 days earlier than scheduled, thus creating a challenge to have everyone hired, licensed, and in place for opening day.  Amanda is proud of the State Grain employees who she refers to as the team, work the flexible schedules needed to service their customers.

Steve points out that there is no pool of inspectors ready to work that agencies can quickly hire from.  Rather, persons must be hired, trained, and licensed by each agency, which is a timely and expensive process, especially when inspectors at State Grain must be able to grade many types of grain.  Another challenge is growing the business with an assigned territory.

Steve says that although the grain industry has made great strides in providing inhouse grading, there remains a need for the independent third-party grading service provided by official agencies.  He also points out how things happening on the other side of the world can affect an official agency’s business.  The widening of the Panama Canal has allowed larger ships with greater tonnage to traverse the canal, subsequently increasing the number of barges loaded on the Mississippi River, and barge inspections conducted by State Grain.  Four years of record harvests have also helped provide more grain for inspection.

State Grain is proud of their customer service which ranks highest in their compliance reviews.  Steve says that although their customers only have State Grain to provide official service, State Grain works hard every day to earn and keep their customer’s business.

While State Grain Inspection cannot claim to have been in the business as long as their predecessor, they are proud to provide great service, want to get even better, and plan to be in the business a long time.   

Northern Plains Grain Inspection Service

Northern Plains Grain Inspection Service performs service throughout Northeast North Dakota, and Northwest Minnesota.  The agency is equally owned and operated by Ryan Kuhl and Paul Bethke.  Mike Johnson is the agency manager.

The agency began when Ryan began his grain inspection career, when he was hired by the local agency to perform sampling during the 1991 harvest.  Ryan obtained his first inspector license when he was 17.  This first license was for barley, since at that time around half of the grain produced and inspected in the area was barley.  Paul began his career around the same time as Ryan at the Grand Forks Field Office.  Paul then moved to the local agency in 1996.

The local agency began experiencing problems due to extenuating circumstances in the early 2000s, and Ryan, Paul, and Terry Pladson came together to form Northern Plains and apply for the designated area.  Their application was accepted and Northern Plains opened for business on October 1, 2003.  After 27 years of being a licensed inspector, Terry Pladson retired.

Today, Northern Plains is headquartered in Grand Forks, North Dakota with a second office in Devils Lake, North Dakota.  The agency also operates 20 on-site laboratories, and two Official Commercial Inspection System truck laboratories.  In their area, they inspect a wide variety of grains.  While wheat, corn and soybeans make up most grains inspected, Northern Plains regularly inspects barley, canola, flax, oats, rye, sunflowers, and triticale.  They also sample edible beans, peas, lentils, and other unofficial grains to assist the Grand Forks Field Office.  The agency meets the needs of its customers with 35-40 full time professional employees, a few part time samplers, and three office support personnel.

Ryan credits technology for helping to meet all the agency’s service requests.  Through their website, customers can request service, and obtain their results. With tracking devices on all their vehicles, they can see if employees are in route, at the service site, or on their way back.  This is helpful if other service requests are received and someone needs to be diverted.  The program also provides weather information which is critical for at least 8 months of the year.  In addition to being available on their phones, the program is on a computer in the office work area so everyone can see what is happening, and allows employees to volunteer for service requests.

Ryan states that operating an official agency in their area is extremely satisfying because agriculture dominates the economy in the area, and when agriculture does good, everyone does good, and it is great to be part of a community like that.

For more information about Northern Plains, check out their website.

Virginia Department of Agriculture

The State of Virginia is one of only four state agencies that is both designated to perform domestic inspection and delegated to perform export ship inspections.

Export ships and containers make up approximately 90 percent of the state’s inspections at the Port of Chesapeake.  Virginia maintains two laboratories at the port.  One laboratory handles ship loading and the other ensures containers are properly inspected.  To better serve one of its customers, the state opened its first on-site-laboratory in Windsor, VA approximately a year ago to reach their goal of expediting their container operations.

Paul Caruso, Grain Marketing Manager for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services states that Virginia’s goal is to provide the most efficient and accurate service to their customers and is constantly searching to determine what additional services they can provide.  Paul does point out that managing a state operation is different than managing a private agency.  Managing to meet both GIPSA and State government requirements can be a challenge, but Paul says this part of the job is made easier because his superiors are very supportive in meeting the requirements of both the State and GIPSA.

Virginia primarily inspects corn, soybeans, soft red winter wheat, and barley with a dedicated staff of approximately 35 employees.  They also perform aflatoxin, vomotoxin, and falling number tests.  Virginia is authorized to perform Agricultural Marketing Act inspections on distillers dried grains and soybean meal.  These inspections are performed on both ships and containers.

Although most of Virginia’s applicants are on the eastern portion of the state, they are responsible for the entire state and perform inspections whenever needed. Providing sporadic service in the other parts of the state can be a challenge, but Virginia is glad to serve all the states’ grain industry.

Virginia is extremely proud of its training program.  Virginia invested heavily in training its employees in group settings to make sure everyone was instructed with the same curriculum so that when a question arose everyone received the same answer.  Paul stated that this process has produced great benefits, by aligning all employees with everyone else in the official inspection system. Customers have commended the state on the consistency of all its employees. Paul is most proud of the growth of the newer inspectors and their abilities to ensure accurate practices are conducted along with their ability to complete the work needing accomplished. He feels honored to work with those who aspire to accomplish the many tasks of the grain inspection business. The greatest observation for Paul is seeing a crew work together as a team. He says this would not have been possible without the mentoring of several seasoned personnel that have been around for over thirty years. Paul says “They have led and taught us the trade,” he adds “it is fascinating to witness how a trade gets handed down to a new generation.”

Paul says when he steps back and looks at the grain inspection system he is always amazed how well it moves grain from farm to overseas buyers given all the different requirements and parties involved.  Paul credits this to everyone working together as professionals.  Those working together extend to Virginia’s relationships with GIPSA officials and AAGIWA members to establish best management practices, and resolve issues encountered across the inspection system.  Paul points out that he is always eager to engage with other official agencies to learn and provide insight on how issues can be resolved to improve the grain inspection and marketing system.

Lincoln Inspection Service

Lincoln Inspection Service is proud to have a legacy of employees that are committed to service.  In the last 10 years 4 of the people that have retired, had more than 40 years of service. Lincoln has another employee still working with 45 years of service.  Bob Machacek has had an active license since 1956.  Maybe the longest active license.  Bob continues to work part time, and worked over 1000 hours last year.  

Agency Manager Danae Podraza is quick to mention that Lincoln has a "green" management team.  Although Chris Ledy (Vice President and Chief Inspector) and Danae have each been at Lincoln for nearly 20 years, they are both new to their management roles.  Danae is quick to point out that both Chris and she started with entry level positions, so they know every aspect of the operation.

Lincoln has a long history of providing service to the grain industry.  The agency began when the Lincoln Grain Exchange was established in 1905 and was separated from direct operation by the grain exchange via an independent board of directors in 1979, because of changes made to the United States Grain Standards Act. 

Lincoln is responsible for official inspection in Southeast Nebraska and Southwest Iowa.  Headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, and with soon to be 15 onsite rail and 2 truck dump laboratories, about 85 percent of Lincoln’s business is railcars with the remainder being barge and truck inspections.  Truck inspections are performed at two mills and an ethanol plant.  Lincoln’s approximately 20 employees typically inspect corn, hard red winter wheat, soybeans, and sorghum and occasionally inspects oats and barley.  Lincoln acquired and ran a designation in Texas and Southeast New Mexico from 2008 to 2016.

As for the grain inspection business, Danae finds it interesting that grain inspection is such an important part of this country and yet almost no one even thinks about its existence.  People are usually surprised and full of questions when you tell them you are a grain inspector.  The fact that this is a public-private partnership is also unique.

Danae believes their business will continue to slowly grow over the next few years.  “We have a new 110 car facility on the verge of loading trains and I am very excited to see how new technology will come into play in our business.”

Lincoln agency prides themselves in being good to their employees because they expect so much in return, and management works hard to have a professional, yet fun, office environment – so much so that almost anyone that chooses to leave the agency, ultimately returns.

Ohio Valley Grain Inspection

Ohio Valley Grain Inspection is headquartered in Evansville, Indiana and operates in Southern Indiana, Western Kentucky, and North Central Tennessee.

Agency owner and manager Linda Meny began her career as a sampler at the agency in 1979.  Linda obtained part ownership in the agency in 1995 and obtained full ownership in 1997.  Linda has done every job at the agency in her journey to agency owner and manager.

Ohio Valley is situated along the Ohio River, so they regularly inspect barges along the river and rail cars in Kentucky and Indiana.  The agency has two onsite laboratories in Indiana and an official commercial inspection with Siemer Milling Company in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

Corn, soybeans, sorghum, and Soft Red Winter wheat are all routinely inspected along with the occasional inbound barley shipment.  The agency also performs aflatoxin, fumonisin, and vomotoxin testing on a routine basis.

Ohio Valley’s five inspectors, two technicians, and around fourteen samplers provide service throughout their area every day regardless of what requests are needed.

Linda says she wants everyone to know that even though they are a small agency they maintain great customer service, consistency, and accuracy in grading while keeping the integrity of the USDA Grain Standards Act.

Linda is also very proud of the Ohio Valley employees.  Without their hard work and dedication Ohio Valley would not be successful.  For Linda, the enjoyment of running an official agency is that every day is different and the challenges change day to day.

And one last thing, Linda wants everybody to know that while their name is Ohio Valley Grain Inspection, they are located in Indiana, not Ohio.

California Agri Inspection Company

California Agri Inspection Company is a relatively new agency compared to most, but one with many years of comprehensive and extensive expertise.

California Agri was formed and started providing service in June 2005, when the State of California relinquished their delegation.  Vikash (Vic) Anand, President, says that in the beginning taking over the entire state seemed like a daunting task so they only applied for the northern portion.  In just a few years they had an opportunity to expand service to all but three of the southernmost counties.

Vic tributes their success to the ability to hire State inspectors that had many years of service.  The agency also was able to acquire the office leases from the State of California so the customers saw little difference in the services provided.

California Agri has four offices which are located in Stockton, Williams, Corcoran, and headquarters in West Sacramento.  The Agency inspects virtually all products found under the United States Grain Standards Act and the Agricultural Marketing Act.  They also inspect processed commodities, graded commodities such as popcorn and safflower seed, pulses, rice, and all types of grain including wheat, corn, soybeans, sorghum, triticale, barley, oats, and sunflower seed.  They even provide third party miscellaneous sampling services of dry milk powder and of hay for the feed and forage industry.  In addition to official sampling and inspection, they also provide mycotoxin and official criteria testing as well as official commercial inspections.

A large part of California Agri’s inspections are for milling yield testing on submitted paddy rice samples during harvest, making California Agri one of the agencies handling a majority of the milling yield inspections for paddy rice in the official system.  The prolonged drought has taken its toll on grain and rice production in the state, and prolonged negotiations with labor unions have caused uncertainty in those wanting to export from the state.  The return of an el Niño weather pattern has brought rains that have recharged the reservoirs and water restrictions are being lifted.  While these changes did not come in time to help the wheat crop, there is much optimism for the corn and rice crops.  California has planted an estimated 500,000 to 550,000 acres of rice this season.  This is the largest acreage in the last six years.

Vic says that they all know the inspection business is cyclical and dependent on mother nature and other factors outside of their control.  Although the last few years have been less than what they hoped for, with water becoming available for agriculture and union agreements now in place, he hopes those days are behind them and a bright future is ahead for the agency.

Vic says they are successful because they like providing the service to the various industries.  They all just like what they do.  As Vic puts it “This is who we are, it’s really a hobby we all love”.

Check out all they do on their website.

Fremont Grain Inspection Department

At the Fremont Grain Inspection Department, it’s all about balancing the regulatory requirements with the customers’ needs.   Dave and Janice Reeder, agency owners find working with their customers to find solutions is the most exciting part of their job.

The agency was first established in 1968, and purchased by Eldon Davis in 1974.  Then in 1978 Dave Reeder was hired.  Dave says that when he started he knew what corn was and that was about it.  By 1980 Dave and his wife Janice were running a sub office in Hartley, Iowa.  In 2003, the Reeder’s purchased the agency from Eldon.

Located in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, Fremont is a full service inspection agency grading mostly corn, soybeans, hard red winter wheat, and lesser amounts of oats, and sorghum.  The agency also provides the full range of mycotoxin testing.  Fremont is headquartered in Fremont, Nebraska, and has six onsite laboratories.  Fifteen full and part-time employees provide all the services.

It is the dedication and longevity of the Fremont employees that Dave credits for the agency’s success.  Many of the employees have been with the agency since the 2003 purchase of the agency.  Everyone is crossed trained to do many tasks, which is a necessity for a small agency.  Fremont’s customers frequently comment on how pleased they are to work with such a stable and knowledgeable group of folks.

Dave and Janice gain great satisfaction when working with the customers and the employees to find ways to put all the necessary requirements in to practice that will work in all the different situations and locations.  Dave is quick to point out that meeting customer needs never involves sacrificing integrity.  Fremont approaches every challenge with the attitude that “we are all in this together”, which garners the respect from their customers.  Dave feels that his customers return his respect and willingness to work with them whenever difficult situations arise. 

An old adage at Fremont, and one that is repeated frequently is, “all we have to sell is our service”.  Dave is constantly working with his existing customers to find additional services he can provide them, and to enter into business with those customers not yet using the official inspection service.

In addition to the rewards found in managing an agency full of knowledgeable and dedicated employees, Dave still enjoys the simple pleasure of analyzing grain samples so that the buyer and seller can settle on a fair and accurate price.  Providing stable, dependable, and third party service with the utmost integrity to the grain market brings great satisfaction to Dave and the staff at Fremont.


Sioux City Inspection and Weighing Service

Sioux City Inspection and Weighing Service provides official service throughout central Iowa, southwest Minnesota, southeast South Dakota, and northeast Nebraska. With five offices and 57 onsite laboratories and three inbound truck facility where they provide Official Commercial Inspection service and phytosanitary inspections at several facilities producing soybean meal and flakes under the Agricultural Marketing Act, service is being provided constantly.

Tom Dahl says that technology has allowed Sioux City to provide their customers across this vast area with the service they need. Most onsite laboratories are equipped with video cameras for stowage examinations. In addition to eliminating safety hazards for Sioux City employees, the cameras speed the stowage examination process, which always pleases the customer.

Onsite inspectors have an app on their company cell phone that allows them to take pictures of pan tickets and send that information to the main office in Sioux City where three employees convert this information into certificates. This technology allows Sioux City to provide certificates around the clock, and errors are significantly reduced. As Tom says, “When the train is done, the certificates are done”.   With as many as 6 or 7 trains loading on any given day robust communication technology is a must for rapidly providing accurate information to their customers.

Sioux City began as the inspection arm of the Sioux City Grain Exchange. In 1976 Bob Fronabarger was the Exchange’s Chief Inspector and hired a couple of young kids named David Ayers and Tom Dahl to work at the Exchange. A year of working with those two was enough for Bob and he moved to the Cairo agency in 1977.   Seriously, both Dave and Tom attribute their success to the foundation provided by Bob.

The agency was purchased by its current owners in October 1993. Tom says they were not sure what they had done because there was a devastating flood that year and the agency did not turn a profit for 6 months. The last 10 years have been expansion years for the agency. The Fort Dodge agency was purchased in 2005, they obtained 13 counties in Minnesota when the State cancelled their designation, and in 2015 they purchased the Central Iowa agency.

The agency is most proud of its dedicated employees that have made the expansion a success. The agency asks a lot of its employees to work shuttle trains at all hours and days of the week, but they make sure that their employees have important personal and family time. That dedication was recently exhibited when a couple of employees on their way to inspect a shuttle train hit a deer, which obliterated the front of the pickup truck. They did a quick check and continued on to the loading site because the customer needed them.

Tom and the group at Sioux City really enjoy working with the customers and GIPSA to find ways to better serve the grain industry. Whether it is providing a new test, a new service, or finding a more efficient way to perform current services. Tom believes it is important to focus on this business aspect to remain relevant, and he enjoys the challenge. Finding new ways of doing things and discussing them with others, no matter how different they are from past practices makes every day a challenge and exciting for Sioux City.

Due to the large 2015 crop, 2016 is shaping up to be a good year, and Tom believes that attention to customer needs, and the dedicated workforce at Sioux City bodes well for continued success.

State of Missouri

The year was 1889 and the Railroad and Warehouse Commission in the State of Missouri authorized a grain inspection program.  Twenty-six years before the United States Grain Standards Act came in to existence; wheat, corn, barley, and rye were being inspected at Kansas City, Saint Louis, and Saint Joseph, Missouri.  The Chief of Inspection also began publishing annual reports regarding the program.  Only railcars and sacks were inspected in the early years.

In 1929 the State Grain and Warehouse Department was established.  While this was the first State venture into grain inspection it was a separate organization outside the State’s Department of Agriculture.  In fact, it was not until 1933 that the State established its Department of Agriculture.  In 1955 the grain program was finally placed under the Department of Agriculture.  By 1963 the program was able to return $180,000 to the State’s general fund.  During the 60s the State employed as many as 136 full-time grain inspection employees, including chemists who were needed to perform protein analysis by the chemical intensive kjeldahl method.   

Today the State of Missouri operates three field offices in Saint Joseph, Marshall, and New Madrid and 15 onsite laboratories with a much smaller staff.  Thirty full time and 50 part time dedicated employees provide official grain inspection services throughout the state.  The products and carriers inspected have also changed since the early years.  While wheat corn, soybeans and sorghum are the major grains inspected, the State also inspects rice in the Bootheel area and edible beans, peas, lentils, DDGS and soybean meal in the Kansas City area.  Carriers now include railcars, barges, trucks, containers, sacks and totes. 

While the number of employees and the diversity of the services provided have changed over the years, the dedication to service by the employees and leaders of the Missouri Grain inspection program has never wavered.

Jimmy Williams, Program Administer, says that he and the entire staff are proud to be part of an industry that allows grain from Missouri farmers to move efficiently from the field  to food processors and dinner tables around the world.  “It is always amazing to sit back and see how efficient the grain marketing system is and realize what an important part official inspection plays in this process.”

While Jimmy has only been with the grain inspection program for 5 years, he has been an Agriculture Department employee for 23 years.  Jimmy believes the program’s success is due to the committed workforce, the integration of technology, and the leadership of his mentor Larry Kitchen.   He is also grateful that the National Grain Center is in Missouri which provides easy access to this valuable resource.

With additional facilities being built in the State Jimmy sees a bright future for the State’s grain program and the State plans to continue its long history of proudly serving Missouri grain producers, handlers and marketers.

For more information on GIS, visit their website by clicking here.

Grain Inspection Inc.

Grain Inspection Incorporated, commonly referred to as “Jamestown” provides official inspection services across the lower third of North Dakota and the central portion of Minnesota.

Founded in 1956 in North Dakota the agency expanded into Minnesota in January of 2006 when the State of Minnesota relinquished its designation. Much has changed since 1956 when the primary grains inspected were spring wheat and barley. The agency still inspects spring wheat, but the primary grain inspected is soybeans, followed by corn.

Rail car inspections remain the agency’s primary business. While much of the business has shifted to high volume shuttle loading facilities, approximately a quarter of the business in North Dakota remains smaller elevators loading single, ten, and twenty-five car shipments. The agency still goes out and probes these cars and brings the samples back to the office for inspection as they always have. Jamestown also has an agreement with the GIPSA Grand Forks office to provide official sampling of edible beans, peas, and lentils.

Grain inspected in Jamestown’s western area is typically bound for the Pacific Northwest export market, while grain in the eastern area moves to the Port of Duluth for export or transshipment elsewhere.

Jamestown is headquartered in Jamestown, North Dakota with additional full time offices in New Salem, North Dakota, and Appleton, Minnesota. The agency covers its designated area with approximately 50 full time employees.

Jamestown has always prided itself in providing accurate results and was equally proud and gratified to receive GIPSA’s Gold Standard award this year for their inspections accuracy.

Chad Huebner, Agency Manager, says he really likes being the person in the middle of grain transactions that can assure the buyer that they are receiving what they ordered. Of course, being in the middle sometimes comes with a little controversy, but the gratification of accurately determining the quality of the grain so it can be traded outweighs any problems.

Chad says the future looks positive for Jamestown. Several new shuttle loading facilities are being constructed in the agency’s territory that will increase their workload and most likely require additional staff.

For more information on the Jamestown Agency, check out their website by clicking here.

DICKEY-john Corp.

The DICKEY-john moisture instrument is certainly well known by everyone in the grain inspection business since its GAC 2100 was selected by GIPSA as the official moisture instrument in 1998.  DICKY-john’s involvement with AAGIWA has been just as long.

Headquartered in Auburn, Illinois, the heart of America’s Corn Belt, the initial thoughts to form the company began in the mid 50s when Bob Dickey, a farmer in Chatham, Illinois, concluded that he had no guarantee the planting taking place behind his tractor was actually occurring correctly.  By the mid 60s Bob together with his close friend and brother-in-law, Jack Littlejohn developed the basic plans for building a planter monitor.  The full history including why “DICKEY” is always capitalized and “john” is lower case can be found on DICKEY-john’s website by clicking here.

Roger Vanderkolk, Analytical Product Manager, stresses that DICKEY-john believes its longevity and willingness to work with its clients is what has made DICKEY-john so successful.  DICKY-john has 12 sales and service representatives strategically placed across the United States so help is only a phone call to a nearby person.  Customers can be reassured that help from a live person with any issue, large or small is available anytime.  Roger says the goal is to provide “support” and “service” to customers, and support is probably the more important of these two factors.  That direct relationship is utilized by DICKEY-john as it strives to improve its existing instruments and expand their capabilities to meet the new needs of its customers.

Support is also backed up by DICKY-john’s two grain laboratories that work with customers around the world to develop calibrations on products not covered by GIPSA.  Roger says, not a week goes by that DICKY-john doesn’t receive a call from someone around the world asking for a new calibration.  DICKY-john realizes that a calibration for a commodity in one part of the world will not work for the same product in another part of the world where different varieties are grown.  Customers know that DICKEY-john will work with them to get them the calibration they need for their product.

DICKEY-john is proud of its standing in the grain analytical industry, which comes from the experience its employees have amassed working with the grain industry.  They are also proud of their desire to improve their products.  While the GAC 2100 was the industry standard for years, DICKY-john was always working to see what the next generation of instruments could do.  This effort paid off when GIPSA’ acceptance of the new GAC 2500-UGMA as one of the new standards.

Roger says that while DICKEY-john is proud of its longevity, it may be more proud of the fact that they have been able to transfer its passion for customer support to the next generation of employees that will maintain DICKY-john’s status well into the future.  Pride also comes from their desire to honor the values of Bob Dickey’s desire to meet the needs of customers with products built in America’s heartland.

Working directly with the official grain inspection agencies and AAGIWA Roger says he is always taken back by the critical role that the inspection system plays in marketing America’s grain domestically, and around the world, and is honored to be a small part in that process.

Columbus Grain Inspection

Columbus Grain Inspection was purchased by Raymond (RB) Anderson in 1946 and remains an Anderson family business to this day.  RB’s son Ralph purchased the business from his father in 1974 and his son Ray purchased the business in 2000.  Of course every successive generation began working at the agency at a young age.  Ray’s sister, Vicky, has been with the agency since 1985 and handles all the books and oversees the certification activities.  

Much has changed since RB went around the Columbus and Circleville, Ohio area picking up grain samples obtained by the local grain exchanges and providing the industry with grades.  The agency’s territory has expanded with each generation and the kinds of services have increased.

Columbus Grain Inspection is responsible for central and eastern Ohio, and a portion of southeast Michigan. The agency inspects rail, containers, and barges.  The primary grains are corn, soybeans, and soft red winter wheat.  The agency also provides a significant number of phytosanitary inspection of distillers dried grains loaded into containers.  With 21 full time employees, 15 part-time employees, 20 onsite laboratories, and 18 container loading facilities the agency has many customers to serve.

It’s serving all the different customers that keeps the work interesting.  Everyday Ray and his staff are traveling to different locations and interacting with different customers, so the work is never boring.

The agency moved its headquarters from Columbus to Circleville in 1980, but the name Columbus Grain Inspection was retained because that’s what the customers all recognized.  The agency has a second office in Bucyrus, Ohio managed by Moses Teel.

Ray is most proud of the fact that the agency has grown in size and capabilities with every generation.  As the inspection needs have changed, Columbus Grain Inspection has adapted to meet those needs.  From the small beginnings of picking up samples from the grain exchanges, to inspecting boxcars, to truck inspections, and now to shuttle train and container loaders, Columbus Grain has been there to provide service. 

Although many of the smaller cooperatives have been purchased by larger cooperatives the number of grain elevators has remained constant, and some new ones have been added, so Ray sees a bright future for the agency.  

D.R. Schaal Agency

The D. R. Schaal Agency was established in Belmond, Iowa, in 1946, by David R. Schaal. The Schaal family owned and operated a grain elevator and cattle feedlot in the Woodward, Iowa area starting in 1902. D.R. Schaal worked in the family grain business during the 1930’s and 40’s, while also serving as an accountant for the Des Moines Grain Exchange. Mr. Schaal did additional accounting work for A.V. Tischer in Ft. Dodge and was thus introduced to the grain inspection business.

The agency began after World War II when an obsolete sugar beet plant was converted to a soybean crushing facility by General Mills, Inc. to process the newly popular yellow soybean. The USDA selected David Schaal to operate a grain grading facility in this area of north central Iowa.  The small, land-locked agency eventually expanded to cover three counties in south central Minnesota. 

After D.R.’s retirement in 1985, the Agency continued under the direction of Lewis and Nancy Schaal. The next generation of Schaal’s had started working for the Agency after completion of studies at the University of Iowa in 1977.  Lewis and Nancy returned to the family business where they found the ideal environment to raise a family and continue as the fourth generation in the grain business. To this day, Lewis says what keeps him excited is using skills he learned in business school to operate an Official Agency.  With Lew’s sense for business and Nancy’s talent for business analytics, the Agency has grown both in service area and gross sales.  In 2008, Schaal was selected for the designated areas of New York and New Jersey and recently was selected to provide AMA services in Georgia.

Early in their careers, these things called “computers” were starting to enter the business world.  Lewis saw their benefit, and worked with a local programmer to automate data collection and distribution throughout the inspection process.  The automation made the business more productive by streamlining their processes while providing customers with real-time inspection results, loading history and certificates in whatever electronic form they desired.

The Schaal’s strive to attract employees that are open-minded, willing to embrace change, and have a positive approach to every challenge and opportunity.  When faced with a new requirement, the Schaal Agency staff quickly brainstorms the best way to implement a new regimen.  Providing employees with an opportunity to advance is also paramount to fostering their interest in working for the company.  If employees see that a business is constantly looking to expand, they are more likely to join and help in the company’s growth.

Even more than a business opportunity, Schaal’s expansion to the East coast was made to give their employees opportunities to grow with the Agency.  The Agency knew little about container inspections before taking on the new territory, but they knew they had a sound business plan and were certain they had the skilled employees to provide services necessary for success. A young employee of the agency, Luke Frohling, moved to New Jersey. After overcoming some initial culture shock, it was quickly determined that much of what they thought important was not applicable, and changes were made. It was assumed exporters would want them to use the USDA/FGIS certificate program because of its recognition. When such a preference was not indicated, they switched to the germane automated software of the company. Luke Frohling has become something of an export ambassador, fielding calls and hosting visitors from Indonesia to Africa inquiring about exporting grains to their homelands.  There is an advantage in that Hoboken, New Jersey, is where many young people out of college want to live and start their careers.  With Hoboken’s close proximity to North Bergen, there is a large source of energetic and talented employees.    

The Schaal Agency also found the container business required much more organization of paperwork and data management than inland rail shipments.  They knew they had the software people to tame this problem.  After extensive revision of the software they were able to reduce their clerical work by two thirds and virtually eliminate container identification mistakes by incorporating a check digit formula into their data entry screens.  Assembling the booking results, certification and transmitting the information to GIPSA Inspection Data Warehouse is done from start to finish with a few clicks of a mouse.  It’s a matter of constantly learning how to do things more efficiently at the D. R. Schaal Agency.

Operations at the Port of Newark and Port of Savannah are much different than the Belmond, Iowa area, but all of the managers have roots in Iowa. A young, ambitious gentleman from the Belmond area, Nate Radke, came to the Schaal Agency looking for a job after college.  After working in Belmond, he volunteered to lead the business venture in Savannah, Ga.  Now he finds himself meeting ship captains from all over the world as a Schaal and USDA representative.

From his undergraduate days at Villanova, Lew has always enjoyed the Northeast, and wants everyone to know that folks in New Jersey are not all like the Sopranos.  The designation for the entire state of New York also meant inspecting containers in Buffalo.  Lewis found out firsthand about lake effect snow and how productive upstate New York farm land can be when planted to soybeans.  Most of all Lew and Nancy are humbled by the commitment of their employees and the broadened reach of the D. R. Schaal Agency. Lew commented, “It is clear many key decisions can no longer made in Belmond, Iowa but rather in North Bergen or Savannah. The locus of knowledge is shifting to the next generation.”

Enid Grain Inspection

Enid Grain Inspection Company is a third generation official agency that has been providing service since 1963.  Headquartered in Enid, Oklahoma the agency provides services in several north Texas counties, and all of Oklahoma, except the panhandle.  

After returning from World War II, Harold Hibbets began working at the Holmes Inspection Agency and purchased the agency from Mr. Holmes in the early 1960s.  Harold’s son Barry began working at the agency when he was 12 rolling up sample bags.  Barry also ran one of the three sampling crews each summer while he was in college.  After working several years for Farmland Industries, Barry returned to the family business in 1982.  Within two years Barry had obtained all his grain licenses, and purchased the agency from his father in 1987.

Barry’s uncle Melvin Hibbets also began his career in the local grain inspection business and went on to start the first grain inspection program for the State of Alabama, held high level positions in several grain companies in New York, and personally designed the Gemini, a floating rig which is owned by ADM to transfer grain from river barges to ocean going vessels on the Mississippi River in New Orleans. 

In the early days most of the work involved sampling in-bound railcars many of which were boxcars.  With three sampling crews the agency routinely sampled between 800 and 1,000 railcars per day during harvest.  Today, the business is comprised around outbound shuttle train inspections, and barge inspections at the agency’s office in Catoosa, Oklahoma.  The agency primarily inspects hard red winter wheat.  Soybeans, sorghum, corn and canola are also routinely inspected.  Canola inspections have increased significantly in the last five years and there are plans to build a canola processing plant in Enid.  Enid also performs a considerable amount of corn aflatoxin tests.  Various annual weather conditions greatly affect the quantity and quality of each year’s harvest which makes each year’s management plan different.

Wheat varieties grown in the area are constantly changing and few match the traditional hard red winter wheat characteristics making wheat classification a constant challenge.  Staying abreast of the latest varieties to properly grade wheat is a challenge enjoyed by Barry and his staff. 

The greatest challenge has been the transition from consistent inbound rail inspections to the unpredictability of outbound shuttle train inspections loading.  Enid has met this challenge and believes the agency’s future is bright with opportunities.  A new shuttle loader is being built by a cooperative that handles around 80 percent of the grain handled in northern Oklahoma.  The transition to a third generation of Hibbets is underway with Barry’s son Brent in position to take over the company.       

Barry has been a longtime believer and supporter of AAGIWA, including holding various officer positions.  His uncle Harold also served on the AAGIWA board.  AAGIWA is thankful for their support and the support of Brent who currently serves on the Board.

Barry is most proud of the good relationship Enid has with the government and its customers.  They have always had good compliance reports and very few complaints.  Barry attributes this to providing good customer service and doing things the right way.  It goes without saying that great pride comes from growing a well respected business through three generations.