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.

North Dakota Grain Inspection

North Dakota Grain Inspection Service has been servicing the inspection needs of eastern North Dakota and Western Minnesota since 1968. Steve Adams, Owner of NDGI, has always been an avid supporter of the official system, promoting the official inspection system to all that would listen and through published articles.  Steve’s efforts continue to pay dividends to this day.  Today, North Dakota is a thriving family business.  Steve’s tenets to provide accurate results, timely service, and always pushing to improve the company, have grown the agency from its North Dakota headquarters in Fargo to operations in eight states.

In 1999 North Dakota Grain Inspection Service, Inc. saw the opportunity to expand the scope of its enterprise and purchased Southern Illinois Grain Inspection, now known as Illinois Official Grain Inspection (IOGI). At the time, Southern Illinois Grain Inspection had been doing business in Illinois for 21 years. In 2003, NDGI expanded its services to Dickinson, ND and to South Eastern Montana. Most recently, in July of this year NDGI began operations in the area previously assigned to East Indiana Grain Inspection Service in Indiana and Ohio.  With these acquisitions North Dakota now handles all forms of inspections from rail, truck, barge and containers.  Their ability to grade all grains and their passion for accuracy and consumer service has driven a strong submitted sample business from other areas across the nation, even including Canada.  

NDGI has grown from 3 employees in 1968 providing service to a small local area to over 150 employees in 2014 providing services to 8 states across the nation. Throughout the years, NDGI and IOGI have understood that change is a constant; the sooner change is embraced, the sooner success will follow, ultimately giving the customer the precise services needed at the appropriate time. With six regular offices and numerous onsite laboratories, day-to-day operations are managed by Steve’s son Mike at the Fargo headquarters.  The third generation is also heavily involved.  Mark is an inspector in the Fargo headquarters; Alex works in the Fargo office; Michael manages the office in Taylor, North Dakota, while Kia manages the entire agency’s quality program and works to make the agency more efficient. 

North Dakota prides itself in the important role they play in the grain marketing system.  The intensity found in the grain marketing system rivals and exceeds most other industries, although those outside the grain industry rarely know this.  A small mistake by the agency can have huge ramifications for commission houses, grain companies and the railroads.  Steve Adams realized that being in this critical point, between all these forces required North Dakota to continually look for better ways to provide timely service, and accurate results.  Steve’s philosophy that has served the Agency well and continues today with Mike, Mark, Alex, Michael and Kia.    

Perten Instruments

In 2012, Perten Instruments celebrated its 50th anniversary, a proud history that started with commercialization of the Falling Number Method - an indicator of sprout damage in grain. The late Harald Perten, the son of a baker and a trained cereal chemist, co-developed the Falling Number Method and founded the company in 1962. Falling Number became an international standard and served as the foundation for this rapidly growing grain analysis company. In 1981, Perten released one of the first commercially available near-infrared (NIR) instruments designed specifically for grain traders. These innovations have been followed by gluten analyzers, single kernel measurements systems, diode array base NIR instruments, and in-process grain analyzers – to name but a few.

Harald Perten’s vision was to help customers improve their product quality by providing them with analytical methods that are fast, accurate, affordable, and easy to use and interpret. That’s still a core value today. The company was family owned until four years ago. Jan Perten, one of the founder’s sons, is still a major shareholder and serves on its Board of Directors.

Perten has fostered close relationships with universities, institutes, and official agencies. Perten has worked closely with the USDA on many projects including the development of the Single Kernel Characterization System (SKCS) and single kernel NIR instruments. In 2005, Perten introduced the first grain moisture tester based on the USDA’s research into higher frequency radio waves and the development of the Unified Grain Moisture Algorithm (UGMA) – nearly five years prior to any other company. A collaborative project including the USDA, Perten, and several universities is underway to develop a rapid screening test for wheat that will provide greater knowledge of functionality at the elevator level.

While Perten has been a global company for some time (currently active in 110 countries), its success has always been predicated on local presence and support. Perten provides customer training classes for its products at its Springfield, Illinois headquarters. Application development and support is handled by our group of highly skilled application scientists. Service for the Americas is also managed from Springfield - both on-site and in-house support. Additionally, a Springfield engineering staff serves as a conduit between customers and Perten’s R&D department allowing for development of customized solutions when required.

Service, Simplicity, and Speed

“One thing that sets us apart is the support we provide to our customers,” says Wes Shadow – Business Development Manager for Perten. “We take it to the next level by employing more application specialists than we do sales people. We are always as focused on the ‘after sales’ as the ‘initial sales’. We understand the importance of making sure customers know exactly how to use our instruments and therefore achieve the greatest benefit. We view support services as important as our instrumentation itself. We seek partners and distributors with this same philosophy. They are required to attend factory training on all products that they sell and support.

“We also understand the importance of making instrumentation that is easy to use and provides results that are easy to interpret. Removing operator error and confusion is very important and a key component of design criteria.

“Speed of analysis, without forgoing accuracy is another focal point. We pride ourselves on making instruments that provide the fastest results possible. Essentially, we can provide results quickly enough to allow customers to make real-time decisions. This is particularly necessary for the high-paced, high stress grain trade. We know elevators and agencies need accurate, reliable results immediately.”

What’s Ahead

Late last year Perten Instruments received NTEP certification for its IM 9500 whole grain NIR instrument.  “We are pleased to be able to give customers a choice in both grain moisture meters and NIR for moisture, protein, oil, and test weight – among others. We are competing in this market with our product’s improved capabilities and our superior support,” says Shadow.

“Most of our product development is driven by working to meet the needs of co-operating customers. Wherever you find us, our highly-qualified people will be working with customers to help them accurately measure and interpret data from their grain operations, and then use that information to capture the most value for their business. Greater automation and integration of our instruments and the data they produce is our collective future.”

Hastings Grain Inspection

Hastings Grain Inspection is a proud family owned and operated official agency.  The agency was founded in 1947 by George Ripley.  A young Ted Hoelck lived next door to George and began working at the agency.  A special bond grew between George and Ted.  The bond became stronger when George’s son was killed in the Korean War.  In 1959, Ted Hoelck purchased the agency from George.  Today, Ted’s son Greg is the Agency Manager and operates the Hastings office, and Ted’s daughter, Ann manages the Grand Island office.   Ted has not lost his passion for the business and comes into the office regularly to see how things are going.

Ted always believed that you must be proud of your work, and make sure everyone knows that.  AAGIWA owes its beginnings 66 years ago to Ted Hoelck and a few other visionaries that decided the official agencies needed an association to speak for them to both the government and the grain industry.  When the inspection system was under attack in the late 70s, Ted went to Washington and testified before Congress as they rewrote the United States Grain Standards Act.  

Hastings territory includes central and western Nebraska.  The agency provides rail inspections of corn, soybeans, Hard Red Winter Wheat, and some sorghum at 20 on-site loading facilities.  Nineteen full-time employees provide service throughout the territory.  Greg and Ann credit the Hastings employees for the company’s success.

All Hastings’ employees are inspectors, because, as Greg and Ann know you can never predict when, where, and how many inspectors will be needed in shuttle train loading country.  The dedication of Hastings’ employees is evident by their longevity.  Three employees have been with the company for 43 or more years.  One reason for this commitment is that the management at Hastings realizes that employees are people with lives outside of work, and when employees have church or kids sporting activities to attend, everything that can be done, is done, so they can attend.

Greg and Ann also attribute the agency’s success to their ability to adapt to the ever changing grain industry.  Ten years ago when the ethanol boom took much of the corn out of the traditional marketing stream, and shuttle loading facilities became the norm, Hastings continued to provide inspection services with the highest integrity and customer service.  Integrity, service, and reminding customers the value of official inspection have always been Ted Hoelck’s mantra.  Greg and Ann continue that philosophy and the business has remained solid.  They see nothing but a bright future ahead.  Greg believes the greatest challenge will be to accommodate all the future requests for service with the current staff.

Greg and Ann both find that the excitement of operating an official agency is handling the day to day unpredictability.   No matter how much effort is done to avoid surprises, there is always a train stalled somewhere, an additional inspector needed someplace, or an unexpected train arriving.  Greg says “at the end of the day you may not get a thank you, but you are proud of what you did that day to facilitate the marketing of grain, and that is enough”.

Meeting the changing grain industry challenges and improving on past practices has always made Hastings successful.  Hastings was one of the first agencies to test and work with cameras to perform railcar stowage examinations.  At Hastings Grain Inspection they never close the door on a challenge and will always continue to look for and implement improved ways to perform service.  

Tri-State Grain Inspection Service Inc.

Servicing portions of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky along the Ohio River, Tri-State Grain Inspection Service is a family owned and operated agency with a strong commitment to integrity, service, and employee development.  Those commitments started with the Agency’s founder, Patrick Corrigan.

Patrick G. (Pat) Corrigan was born in 1928, and graduated high school in 1945.  Like his siblings, he went into the military service after graduation.  However, instead of the Air Force, he joined the Navy as a Medic.  He served through WW II and received a victory medal for his service.  Pat began a college career studying Pre-Med at Marquette University.  After two years, he switched to business classes at Toledo University, got married, and found a job working for the Toledo Board of Trade. His inspection career began under the tutelage of Virgil McNamee, who had the best (and only) training program in the country at this time.  Pat gained experience and licenses, but more, he loved his work and believed in the importance of its role in agriculture and the country.  Pat saw the big picture grain inspection was to play in the growth of United States agriculture, and wanted to be a part of it.  Pat worked with pioneers such as Virgil McNamee, Ted Hoelck, and Joe Slater, all who testified before the Senate for two hours regarding changes to the United States Grain Standards Act.   Pat traveled to Washington with Joe Slater and Ted Hoelck in 1975, on behalf of the Inspection System to urge President Gerald Ford to sign into law the revised Grain Standards Act, which Ford did in November 1976.
Pat continued his career in Toledo as an inspector.  He raised eight children with his wife, Katie, and did some training and teaching of his own.  Pat always believed senior inspectors should pass on their knowledge.  He hired a young sampler, Dave Mundwiler; we all know how that story ended.

Pat left Toledo in 1973 to become Chief Inspector for the Cincinnati Board of Trade.  He hired a young chemist, Damon W. Sampson in 1974, and quickly made him his Assistant Chief Inspector.  Pat had a good eye for talent, and didn’t want him to slip away.  The government decided in 1978 that it was a conflict for firms to own/operate Boards of Trade.  As a result, Pat bought the business on December 4 of that year, and named it Tri-State Grain Inspection Services Inc. 

Pat ran Tri-State with his partner Damon Sampson for the next fourteen years.  He believed in AAGIWA and the importance of the work it does to guide and protect the official inspection service, and he served as an officer for both the North Central and National AAGIW A. When he retired in 1992, he named Damon Sampson to Chief Inspector.  Damon has served as Chief for thirteen years.  Colleen (Corrigan) Sampson, also an accomplished inspector, and Damon’s wife, took over as chief in 2005.  Together, Colleen and Damon run Tri-State Grain Inspection Service today.

Located along the Ohio River, Tri-State has always inspected barges moving to the Gulf for transshipment around the world.  Due to their northern location the barge business is seasonal.  The upper Mississippi River closes on January 1 and weather determines when loading begins again.  Until that time, Tri-State stays extremely busy always ready to provide service with someone that is licensed to grade any grain under the Grain Standards Act.

The Sampson’s enjoy the unpredictability of running an official grain inspection agency.  Damon is quick to point out that every day is different.  You never know on any given day who will want service and what kind of service they will need.  And just when you think you know, it changes.  

Tri-State has always met whatever changes came their way.  When first established, the agency performed many inbound truck inspections along with the barge inspections.  When user fees were established, companies began dropping the service to save costs and better utilize their own employees.  Then rail loaders increased their requests for services.  Through it all, barge inspections have always been a needed service, and have been increasing.  Specialty grains are increasing in the area, and the Cincinnati Port Authority is exploring loading containers for shipment to the gulf by barge; Tri-State will be there to provide this service as well.

Flexibility is another of Tri-State’s principles.  Sometimes they agree first, and then plan how to accomplish the task.  Damon also believes keeping an open line of communication between Tri-State and the grain industry is essential.  Customer communication builds valued relationships that can save time and money for both parties when implementing changes such as the addition of new sampling systems.  Dedicated and knowledgeable, employees are also key as they are the ones seen most often by customers.  Many current employees have parents that also worked at Tri-State.  

Damon and Colleen credit their success to two of Pat’s founding principles:

First, integrity – Pat always said “It’s the one thing you own, that nobody can take.  Be careful not to lose it.” 

Second, attitude – life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.

Along with a proud past, Damon and Colleen see a bright future for Tri-State.  Their son (Pat’s grandson), Michael Sampson, is in training to take over the business and is currently the Office Manager.  Michael has his corn and soybeans license, and soon will take the test for wheat.  His wife, Staci, works for the company and runs the majority of the mycotoxin testing.  At this time Colleen Sampson is acting Chief Inspector and Damon is the Agency Manager.  They hope to pass the baton to Mike and Staci over the next couple of years.

Kankakee Grain Inspection Inc.

fegan 1952-photo2.jpg

Located south of Chicago in Essex, Illinois, the Kankakee agency is proud to be a family business that was founded in 1898 by Bob Fegan.  Bob got his start in grain inspection many years earlier.  Moving from Iowa to Chicago with his wife and children, Bob found a five dollar bill on the sidewalk when they stepped off the bus, allowing them to rent a room at the Salvation Army.  When Bob asked the person at the desk if anyone was hiring, the response was that the Chicago Board of Trade was hiring samplers.

Bob’s agency initially covered the Springfield, Indiana, and Kankakee areas.  When World War II began, Bob’s sons entered the service.  Left with little help, Bob decided to keep only the Kankakee area where now a fifth generation is working at the agency.

Kankakee President Mike Fegan first began working for the agency when he got his driver’s license.  At age 16, Mike was hired part-time to drive around and probe barges.  After a few years of other employment Mike returned to the agency to work for his uncle Jack Fegan after the tragic death of his grandfather, Bob, in a car accident.  Mike’s son-in-law, Brian Lowey, came to work at the agency in 1994 as a sampler and technician and is now the Agency Manager. 

Just like all the other family members, Mike’s grandson Jacob began working for the agency as a part-time sampler and then a technician.  Now with a Degree in Business and years of sampling and technician work, Jacob is planning to take his first grading proficiency test.

About ten years ago Mike was reading an article in the local paper about folks loading grain into containers to be shipped around the world.  Thinking maybe these folks would need inspection Mike went to see them and called the FGIS folks in Washington.  Now the agency inspects over 150,000 containers annually.  The container port at Elwood is only 20 minutes from Kankakee’s main office and the third largest in the world.  Only Singapore and Hong Kong have larger container facilities.

Kankakee Grain’s practical approach to problem solving and insistence on following procedures, coupled with being a pioneer in the container inspection business, has meant that Kankakee has helped develop most container inspection procedures.  The leadership team at Kankakee are proud to be the ones FGIS and other agencies people to when they start inspecting containers.

Transforming the agency from a business that inspected mostly barges with part time samplers and a few graders to one that now has more than doubled its staff to over 80 employees was no easy task.  Brian credits the training program they put in place that facilitated the transition.

Mike and Brian enjoy the challenge that running a grain inspection agency brings.  Although some may see rules that keep things the same, the grain business is always evolving and new requirements emerge that require the agencies to adapt.  Kankakee’s philosophy is to always find new ways to improve customer service while adhering to all the inspection requirements. It is these challenges that keep the business new and fresh for both Mike and Brian.  Along with providing exceptional customer service, all the generations at Kankakee have prided themselves in the accuracy of their grades at destination.  That reputation for accurate grades has grown from a few export elevators in New Orleans receiving barges to many facilities all around the world receiving containers inspected and weighed by Kankakee.

Mike and Brian see a bright future for the agency because there will always be a need for accurate inspection results and exceptional customer service.  Whatever changes occur in the industry Kankakee looks forward to meeting them.

Mike hopes that a 6th and 7th generation will continue and build on what his grandfather started, and when he looks back on his time in the family business he says that it has been a remarkable journey, and one that he would not change if he could.

For an interesting look at how the founder of the agency viewed the official inspection business in 1952 click here.

John R McCrea Agency

Located in western Illinois and eastern Iowa, the John R. McCrea Agency was founded by John Calhoun McCrea in February 1918.  John grew the agency by managing and grading grain for over 50 years until his son John Richard (Dick) McCrea returned from World War II in 1947 to begin his career with the Agency.

Just like his dad, Dick still comes to work every day at age 86 and maintains his grading license by grading corn and soybeans.  Although Dick has turned over some of the daily responsibilities to his daughter Jill Lutz Bielema, he is there every day to assist and provide guidance.

Located along the upper Mississippi River, the McCrea Agency inspects mostly barges.  Always, challenged by either too little or too much water to load barges, annual winter river closures due to ice, and unpredictable lock maintenance closures, the business can be challenging, but nothing that a member of the Greatest Generation can’t handle.  

Dick provides a living history of the last 66 years of grain inspection, transportation, and handling.  Through all of those changes, Dick has made sure that the McCrea Agency operated with the highest level of honor, integrity, dignity and steadfast adherence to the U.S. Grain Standards Act, the regulations and instructions.  Dick’s integrity and character has earned him great respect and many friendships from the ever changing grain industry representatives that he has served and his peers in the Official Inspection System.

One of the most unique aspects observed by both Jill and Dick about the grain inspection business is how little most folks know about the business.  When friends drop by the agency they are always amazed and intrigued to learn about the role that grain inspection plays in how food comes to their tables.  With Dick’s love of the business visitors always leave with a great appreciation for the role of official grain inspection, and how proud the McCrea Agency is to be a part of the vital process.  

Dick and Jill are always looking for opportunities to grow their business.  Although the weather can always challenge the number of barge inspections available in a given year, and container loading and processing plants may take grain away from the barge loading facilities, Dick and Jill are optimistic about new opportunities and barge inspections.  There remains no more efficient method of transportation than barge transportation, and with exports rising and a good crop this year the future looks bright.

For an even further look back at the founding of the McCrea agency click here to read an article about Dick’s Father and founder of the Agency.