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.