Agriculture is the branch of economy that feeds the population of a country. Agricultural products provide food, clothing and other materials used in various industries. Since agricultural practices have become more advanced and technologically efficient, multiple regulations have been implemented by the government to ensure public health and food safety. For example, growing grains, fruits and vegetables has become more effective through the use of fertilizers. However, their usage is strictly regulated by appropriate authorities because a high amount of fertilizer may negatively affect the quality of the grown product. Farmers may also use pesticides and herbicides to prevent other unnecessary plants or harmful insects from damaging plantations and affecting crops. However, over use of pesticides may result in a certain degree of toxicity for the plant, which may translate in to health damage for the final consumer. The job of an agricultural inspector is to evaluate and monitor that agricultural practice follows state and federal regulations regarding food safety and public health. They inspect and quantify the amount of fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides used in plantations or farms and compare it with the reference values allowed by authorities.
Agricultural inspectors indirectly represent the interests of the consumers because they inspect agricultural plantations, farms or processing plants for proper measures of hygiene, chemical use and storage conditions. They are the first line of battle against toxic compounds used in the food industry and improper processing procedures that result in low food quality. Agricultural inspectors represent the government and the state in their relationship with farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs, and their role is to prevent the deterioration of product quality due to improper procedures used in growth and production. If a plantation, farm or processing plant is deemed unsafe for public health, agricultural inspectors have the authority to recommend the closing of such facilities through a thoroughly elaborated report in which their findings are detailed.
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Agricultural inspectors use their knowledge of regulations and laws regarding agricultural safety and public health to monitor the production and processing of food and ensure compliance with federal and state requirements. They inspect agricultural facilities and quantify the usage of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, growth stimulators and other chemicals that may negatively affect the quality of food if improperly used. Agricultural inspectors also evaluate the quality of meat, the health of animals at farms, and the conditions of hygiene and storage. If they detect any violations of agricultural regulations, they write a detailed report with recommendations for fixing the issues, or, in severe cases, closing the facilities. The job requires being attentive to small details and issues that may result in poor quality, and taking appropriate measures to prevent safety violations.
Agricultural inspectors have the responsibility to collect samples and send them to laboratories where the quality of agricultural products such as grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish or dairy are tested thoroughly. Based upon the findings of chemical or microbiological analysis, agricultural inspectors provide reports that indicate the level of safety of agricultural products. If the findings do not correspond with state or federal requirements for a certain food category, an agricultural inspector will report to appropriate authorities, who may stop the production. The job requires flexibility, physical and mental endurances and attention to detail.
Agricultural inspectors require a high school diploma to be eligible for a state agricultural inspection training program. No prior job experience is necessary because the state usually provides comprehensive training for candidates and on-the-job training courses. Until they become proficient with their tasks, candidates may be supervised by experienced agricultural inspectors, to whom they report their findings. As they advance in their knowledge and skills, agricultural inspectors start to work independently. Although no college degree is required in most states, a bachelor's degree in agricultural sciences is a great advantage.
Qualities that are valued in a candidate for an agricultural inspector position are job flexibility and the ability to travel frequently, excellent communication skills, attention to detail, an excellent knowledge of state and federal regulations regarding food safety and patience. The ability to elaborate comprehensive and detailed reports is also a great advantage. Agricultural inspectors need to possess the ability to provide the necessary explanations to farmers and agricultural workers regarding regulations and food safety. They must be friendly and flexible, yet make no compromises when it comes to public health and product safety. Ultimately, agricultural inspectors make sure that high-quality, nutritious food is on our tables, which directly influences the health of a population. They must be willing to continuously refine their skills and update their knowledge according to the latest developments in agriculture and new regulations.
The job requires a combination of "desk" tasks and field work. Agricultural inspectors must perform on-site inspection of agricultural plantations and facilities. They are directly communicating with agricultural personnel and farm owners, which requires good communication skills. They report to proper authorities or senior agricultural inspectors their findings through detailed reports. They also collect and direct food samples to specialized laboratories where chemical and microbiological tests are performed.
The national median salary of an agricultural inspector is about $40,000, but it may range between $32,000 and $50,000 depending on the state, experience and extra qualifications.