What is an Agricultural Inspector?

Agricultural Inspectors examine all equipment and facilities involved in the agricultural food production process, as well as the agricultural products that are waiting to be sold to the public. They ensure that everything about this process is up-to-code and safe for human consumption.

What Does an Agricultural Inspector Do?

Agricultural Inspectors scrutinize all agricultural food products and processing methods to ensure that these products are safe to eat or drink. They must also have a vast knowledge of FDA regulations so they can properly enforce the rules. When they find that everything is up to standard, they are often in charge of issuing official grades. However, when they discover a problem, the Agricultural Inspector must then swiftly take action to ensure that the issue is remedied before contaminated products are sold to the public.

Where Does an Agricultural Inspector Work?

Agricultural Inspectors may work in a wide variety of settings, depending on their industry of choice and specialty. Those with bachelor's degrees may work in laboratories, while others may actively examine processing plants, farms, or ranches. Those working in the field may come into contact with heavy equipment or large animals that increase risk of injury. Working near pesticides also comes with the possibility of chemical contamination. Most Agricultural Inspectors work full-time schedules with standard hours. However, the work may sometimes require extensive travel, depending on the inspection location.

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What Is the Average Agricultural Inspector's Salary?

Agricultural Inspectors made a median salary of $68,830 as of May 2020, with the top 10% earning more than $125,280 and the lowest 10% earning around $40,520 a year.* Most Agricultural Inspectors work for the federal or state government, with a smaller number working at the local level. Others work for private animal slaughtering and processing plants, as well as other crop production facilities.

Agricultural Inspector Jobs

Agricultural Inspector jobs involve a multi-disciplinary skillset that involves scientists, technicians, accountancy, and other business practices. Often individually, inspectors audit and evaluate various aspects of produce and livestock production to ensure that the products and processes meet food safety and ecological criteria. While agricultural inspection jobs do vary significantly, most individuals would be comfortable performing the following as part of their scope of work:

  • Selects representative samples according to sampling population and rubrics
  • Inspects produce in question to evaluate quality, condition, compliance with regulatory grading standards or contract specifications
  • Completes inspection reports based on produce evaluation
  • Applies appropriate official grade standards or contract specifications
  • Prepares a tentative draft certificate in certain cases and submit for review
  • Observes raw material to establish the suitability for processing and advises plant management of the results
  • In the case of corrective action, the inspector monitors and assesses effectiveness of the corrective action
  • Observes practices to establish suitability for processing and advices management team and external stakeholders of results.
  • Instructs technicians, farmhands and other stakeholders in regard to proper growing, handling, and harvesting
  • Provide feedback to optimize field practices
  • Be familiar with practices like biotechnology and advanced farming/packaging methods
  • Design and implement field experiments quickly
  • Collect soil and agricultural samples
  • Work collaboratively technicians on providing rating and recommendation criteria
  • Collaborate with internal stakeholders
  • Review literature and news to track current discoveries
  • Have a broad scope of knowledge that includes crop and soil science, meteorology, crop physiology
  • Be able to perform physical and chemical analyses
  • Be able to adhere to sampling data
  • Be informed about propagation and husbandry to comment on yield modeling and plant breeding
  • Have experience in data mining and model building
  • Conduct research and experiments to improve the quantity and quality of field crops and farm animals
  • Provide feedback on ways to propagate, process, package, and deliver food products
  • Analyze soil composition as it relates to plant growth
  • Communicate findings to colleagues, farmers, and the public
  • Explore animal genetics, nutrition, reproduction, diseases, growth, and development
  • Advise farmers on how to lower animal death rates, handle waste matter, and increase production
  • Be very familiar with government regulatory documentation on all aspects of agriculture, packaging, handling, distributing

Senior agricultural inspector jobs often have an even broader set of responsibilities that depend as their experience grows. This scope may include management of a region as well as operations and personnel. Such responsibilities may include:

  • As assigned, performs inspections and grading of products with which the employee is unfamiliar under the guidance of a senior grader, inspector-in-charge or supervisor
  • Makes determinations on inspection issues that are pending or conditional as determined by tier-one employees
  • Develop and coordinate Commercial Item Descriptions for foods
  • Solicit client interest as an independent evaluative agency
  • Oversee the preservation of site integrity
  • Engage in evaluation
  • Engage in technical report preparation and submittal
  • Foster a positive and safe work environment
  • Consult regarding schedules, travel and budgets
  • Navigate regional, federal and international regulations
  • Oversee testing and calibrating of designs, equipment and instruments
  • Oversee measurement taking and data recording
  • Liaise with farm and agricultural stakeholders
  • Consult with farmers, engineers, fellow scientists, and government agencies regarding best practices
  • Supervise fieldwork and lab work

What Is the Job Demand for Agricultural Inspectors?

Job demand for Agricultural Inspectors is projected to increase by 9% between 2020 and 2030.* Of course, there will be continued need for inspectors and regulation maintainers. In addition, a growing population and further studies about the safety of food production will increase the need for Agricultural Inspectors over time. However, advancing processing methods have slowed potential growth for this career track.

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What Are the Education Requirements to Become an Agricultural Inspector?

Agricultural Inspectors require a high school diploma or GED at minimum. Many positions prefer an associate's degree in biology, animal science, agricultural science, or other related field. However, some positions prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree in similar majors.

In addition, Agricultural Inspectors will likely go through in-depth job training, becoming better acquainted with the many government regulations regarding the production and processing of food.

Degrees Related to Agricultural Inspecting

What Kind of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Agricultural Inspectors Have?

Agricultural Inspectors and those who wish to become Agricultural Inspectors can look to the following government websites for guidance:

  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
    The FDA is a Federal Government Agency that protects public health by regulating the production of prescription drugs, supplements, foods, and other. Their website offers the most up-to-date information about current food production regulations. They are also the top employer of Agricultural Inspectors in the U.S.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
    This Federal Government's Department of the Interior bureau examines all issues associated with food and agriculture production. They keep rich databases detailing the latest government policies and technologies relevant to the industry, which can be an invaluable resource for Food Inspectors.

Agricultural Inspectors can also browse through these organizations and websites for valuable resources:

*2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for agricultural and food scientists reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.