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.