International Produce Training

Help Wanted- USDA Inspectors

Less than a year ago I let you know about the financial problems within the Pennsylvania State fresh products inspection program.  Although the dust has not completely settled, events are unfolding that could very well happen to other state inspection programs.  This is worth watching.

The USDA was quoted in The Packer as saying they would handle the inspections within the state of Pennsylvania, if the state inspection program was eliminated. They just might get their chance. The USDA licensed inspectors in Pennsylvania currently work for a private, third party organization, called the Fruit and Vegetable Inspection Association. The State is eliminating this third party and taking over the inspection program entirely. One of the fallouts from this conversion is the inspectors……as they will have to complete state application forms, undergo an interview process and compete for the jobs, some have been doing for the past 25 to 30 years. Many of these inspectors are choosing to retire or pursue new careers.

The Reading, PA office is taking a big hit with losing inspectors. As of today there are 4 terminal market inspectors, covering an area from Lancaster to Sunbury to Allentown and every where in between. These inspectors perform market inspections for major wholesalers and chain stores. Three of the inspectors (75%) are not signing up for the new program. You would think replacing them would be easy, but the USDA requires all state inspection programs to have all new terminal market inspectors undergo a 36 month training program, before they will be licensed by the USDA.  So, at the earliest, the inspection office in Reading will be fully staffed during the summer of 2013.  One inspector cannot physically handle the territory.

In the meantime, it looks like the USDA will have to fulfill their promise to the industry,  jump in and take over the state inspection program in the Reading area. I am not sure where the USDA will find inspectors to handle this chore, as they are woefully understaffed in some major markets already. In the Bronx for example, the USDA currently has 3 managers, an Officer in Charge, an Assistant Officer in Charge and a Training Officer, as they are “busy” supervising 5 inspectors. Yes, only 5 inspectors, being supervised by 3 managers. In Los Angeles, the ratio of 3 supervisors to 6 inspectors is 1 supervisor for every 2 inspectors.  Philadelphia is also top heavy, with a shift supervisor rounding out the 4 supervisory positions in that office.

I am sure other state programs are watching what will transpire in Pennsylvania, if the USDA will indeed come to the rescue of the state programs, or will the USDA force the market applicants to sign contracts, as was the case in Pittsburgh.  The USDA gave the industry a choice, either do away with all inspectors in the Pittsburgh area, or the USDA would agree to keep the inspectors in that location but the local applicants have to guarantee all inspector salaries, benefits, expenses as well as the USDA’s whopping 45% headquarter’s overhead, is fully reimbursed. Sounds like a no-win scenario for the industry.

5 Comments on “Help Wanted- USDA Inspectors”

Anonymous Says:

What’s happening in Pittsburgh is flat out extortion.

Anonymous Says:

The USDA shakedown is happening in Seattle too! Who’s next?

Anonymous Says:

God bless all the remaining hard working graders who are out there.

olden timer Says:

With the announced re-organization at the USDA what is going to happen to the inspection fees and services provided? Are the states going to up their charges to applicants to cover increased overhead to USDA HQ again?

tyawman Says:

A reader sent me this announcement from California:

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT: Anyone interested in working in Agriculture related positions which are seasonal with partial benefits go to agsupport.org Click on “Employment” then “Job Opportunities” there are 28 positions available. They range from Border Inspection stations all over the state, to commodity inspectors, to pest detection inspectors. Good Luck and spread the word : ) thanks

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