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.