Horticultural Inspectors


Exploring this Job

If you are interested in work as a horticultural inspector, you should read books and magazines about the horticulture and agriculture. You can also learn more by talking with people who are employed as inspectors and with your high school counselor. Participating in internships and part-time summer jobs at agencies that employ horticultural inspectors can provide useful experience and an opportunity to determine if the career is of interest to you. Finally, visit the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's Web site, https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/home, to learn more about the field. 

The Job

Because there are so many areas of horticulture and food production that require regulation, there are different types of specialists within the field of horticultural inspection who determine how compliance with laws can best be met. The following is a list of some of the major kinds of horticultural inspectors employed by the government.

Agricultural chemicals inspectors inspect establishments where agricultural service products such as fertilizers, pesticides, and livestock feed and medications are manufactured, marketed, and used. They may monitor distribution warehouses, retail outlets, processing plants, and private and industrial farms to collect samples of their products for analysis. If there is a violation, they gather information and samples for use as legal evidence.

Agricultural-chemical registration specialists review and evaluate information on pesticides, fertilizers, and other products containing dangerous chemicals. If the manufacturers or distributors of the products have complied with government regulations, their applications for registration are approved.

Agricultural commodity graders ensure that retailers and consumers get reliable and safe commodities. They may specialize in cotton, dairy products, eggs and egg products, processed or fresh fruit or vegetables, or grains. The inspectors check product standards and issue official grading certificates. They also verify sanitation standards by means of regular inspection of plants and equipment.

Agriculture specialists work to protect crops, forests, gardens, and livestock from the introduction and spread of plant pests and animal diseases. They act as agricultural experts at ports of entry to help protect people from agroterrorism and bioterrorism, as well as monitor agricultural imports for diseases and harmful pests. They inspect aircraft, ships, railway cars, and other transportation entering the United States for restricted or prohibited plant or animal materials. They also work to prevent the spread of agricultural disease from one state or one part of the country to another.

Disease and insect control field inspectors inspect fields to detect the presence of harmful insects and plant diseases. Inspectors count the numbers of insects on plants or of diseased plants within a sample area. They record the results of their counts on field work sheets. They also collect samples of unidentifiable insects or diseased plants for identification by a supervisor.

Environmental health inspectors, also called sanitarians, work primarily for state and local governments to ensure that government standards of cleanliness and purity are met in food, water, and air. They may inspect processing plants, dairies, restaurants, hospitals, and other institutions. Environmental health inspectors in state or local agricultural or health departments may specialize in milk and dairy production, water or air pollution, food or institutional sanitation, or occupational health.

Nursery inspectors work primarily for state and local governments to ensure that nurseries, greenhouses, and garden centers sell disease-free plants, trees, shrubs, and other products. They inspect plants that are imported from other countries, as well as any plants that may be shipped abroad or out of state. Nursery inspectors are knowledgeable about a wide variety of plant pests such as Japanese beetles, gypsy moths, pine shoot beetles, emerald ash borers, and others, as well as plant diseases such as sudden oak death. They also make sure that nurseries have the proper licensing and that workers meet all labor standards established by the U.S. Department of Labor and other federal, state, and local regulating agencies.