International Produce Training

Private Inspection Service

I am curious to hear everyone’s reaction to the idea of “Private” companies performing inspections.  When I began my USDA inspection career in the late 70’s there was a private company (Eddie Ross) performing inspections for the applicants in the Philadelphia Terminal Market.  And we all remember the Railroad Perishable Inspection Agency (RPIA) performing inspections on the many rail shipments.

During my time in Philadelphia there were many private inspection firms offering surveyor reports and quality assurance inspections on the Chilean Fruit entering the country.  One company in particular (Surveys Unlimited) was actually founded by my colleagues, former inspectors from the Philadelphia USDA inspection office.

I know some companies offer different services, some offer inspection at the shipping point/packing house level, while other companies offer inspection at the receiving points.  Even some state departments of agriculture offer state inspections, not associated with the USDA inspection service.

One company in particular, Ag World Support Systems has been finding new customers for their private inspection work from coast to coast.

Do you think private companies will be the wave of the future, or do you think some will come and some will go, as has happened throughout the past 30 years?  Your thoughts!

27 Comments on “Private Inspection Service”

Hendrik Says:

Tom;
It will never work.
You should know that.

pat g Says:

I think that the higher usda fees will turn the applicants to the private run inspection service. Look at how much their fees have went up in the last 5 years.

Hendrik Says:

So pat, do you think that a private service could do it any less expensive and also provide the national service, unbiased inspections and uniformity?
Besides, private attempts have been made in the past to no avail.
Once the usda weeds out the excess, streamlines, and gets running much more efficiently they will become very competitive.

Anonymous Says:

Hendrik: The door is open and the horses are loose and running away.

Hendrik Says:

Great.
But can you get “wild horses” to form a union?

Anonymous Says:

Nope but they are all uniform and running in the same direction taking turns taking the lead. All for one and one for all!!!! Come and join the pack as there are no RIF’s here.

Anonymous Says:

I can see a few private inspection companies starting up, especially in markets where the USDA is shutting down, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake, to name a few. I don’t think there will ever be one private national company, but small, individual private inspection companies tailored to the needs of the wholesalers. It is happening with food safety audits, it can happen with commodity inspections too.

Eliminate the 40% overhead, and market fees can be made affordable to the user and profitable to the inspection company.

Rocket Man Says:

It appears even USDA management is recognizing the increased presence of private inspection and food safety audit bodies, and the direct, negative effect on their own programs:

“Over time, buyer-seller relationships in terminal markets have changed, sometimes decreasing the perceived need for partnership services. In addition, the increased presence of private inspection bodies may lead to a decrease in the demand for partnership services.”

quality management course Says:

quality management course…

All companies exporting products or services to the European Union (EU) may someday be contractually required to have ISO certification to sell into the market. Even today, contractual requirements are finding their way into purchase orders for product…

West Coast Bird Dog Says:

Private inspection companies have and will continue to be a much sought after entity in the fresh produce industry. The key to success for these private companies is to keep prices lower than the competition and to remain unbiased so as to be attractive to both shippers as well as buyers. Many companies purchase “blind” going on the word of the shipper, which can at times be less than forthcoming. The fault with this lies with the information the sales team receives from the fields. My company offers these buyers truly unbiased inspections of product at a very reasonable rate. A buyer in Boston or New York can contact us, provide specs and have us do a through inspection at the shipping point before the product is shipped 3000 miles and then found to be outside of spec ranges. Shippers also benefit from being informed of exactly what they’re selling and how far we recommend shipping a particular lot. Our reports are designed to provide not only a detailed description of product but also a recommended shipping distance. I believe independent inspection services have alot of upside and if managed correctly and are able to be flexible enough to meet the individual needs of each client will have a bright future.

tyawman Says:

I have been surprised to hear from a number of companies offering a private inspection service to the produce industry. Two companies in particular, Davis Commodity Inspections, and Fresh-Pro Inspection Services, are offering similar shipping point and receiving point inspection services on opposite coasts.

With the USDA planning to shut down inspection services in major cities, it is hard not to believe these private companies will be a viable option. One thing to watch for, in the very near future, is the decision by PACA, of recognizing their inspection reports. Maybe contracting out, or co-operative agreements between the USDA and the private inspection companies will be the answer.

Private companies offer food safety audits. and are recognized globally; maybe private inspection services are not that far off afterall.

olden Says:

What happens when the states with budget problems start trimming all appropriated monies from their inspection programs? The next step is to raise the administrative overhead to the program? It is like a double whammy to the users of the service. The overhead keeps going up.

Anonymous Says:

Olden;
Believe it or not, the inspection service is alive and well.

Inspector Gadget Says:

Well….in our office we are surviving, but saying it is alive and well may be a stretch. Our inspection requests are way down, and our office has been downsized. You could say we are alive, but on life support. Another fee increase would be like pulling the plug.

olden timer Says:

I see in the paper that Colorado now has a statewide hiring freeze too!!!

Anonymous Says:

Inspector Gadget,
I hear that most offices were downsized and the extra workload placed on the inspectors has placed some additional stress on them. These foot soldiers are very dedicated and holding their own and are the “true” revenue guys of the service.
What is the training center doing to justify themselves?

RM Says:

You are 100%, right on the ball! The inspectors are doing a great job, holding up their end of the budget bargain. With major cuts strewn throughout the market offices and only a few cuts in HQ, this has placed a huge burden on the foot soldiers. Their dedication and their revenue is what is holding the inspection service together.

The Training Center cannot justfy their existence any longer. The refresher classes are now being handled on-line, making the $1 million rent, for a facility that is no longer being used, a huge waste of money. AMS has to take a very long look at the management decisions being made. Hiring more people in HQ and keeping the training center open has to be questioned by someone.

The inspectors are doing a great job, but they will burn out if something does not change, and change fast.

Anonymous Says:

RM;
you make a very important point.

Anonymous Says:

RM is right on mark with his comment

olden timer Says:

I hear that the RIF papers are circulating again!!!

olden timer Says:

The inspectors do have heavy staff in HQ to carry. The industry does appreciate the job you do. Keep your chin up!!!

LL Says:

Oh, you are so right. It was not that many years ago that the field inspectors made up about 65-70% of the Inspection Branch…..and we were losing money then.

I have heard the ratio of field inspectors to Supervisory and HQ staff is now about 55/45, but if you equate that number to salaries, the ratio is most likely flipped, with the majority of the higher salaries being charged to HQ staff, who really provide very little service to the industry.

Anonymous Says:

LL;

What exactly is HQ?
And why do they keep the training center open?

LL Says:

HQ Staff is the staff in headquarters, in Washington, DC consisting of such titles as Chief, Assistant Chief, Assistant to the Chief, Section Heads, Assistant Section Heads, etc.

All offices in the field have an Officer in Charge, some have an Assistant and a Traininig Officer. Some perform inspections, some don’t.

How long the TDC remains open is anyone’s guess. I guess its fate is determined by how much revenue is generated by the field inspectors, charging the applicants the fees for market inspections.

Anonymous Says:

LL;
The training center is a big drain on the revenues.
Does anyone know what the rent alone is on that facility?

LL Says:

The rent at the training center is somewhere above $1million, maybe about $1-1/2million per year. That includes only the rent, not the salaries, benefits and utilities associated with the training center.

In other words, the rent alone is about 5-7% of the entire Branch’s expenses. What a waste it is only being used for one-8 week training class a year.

Anonymous Says:

why only one 8 week training class?

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