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.