USDA’s Food Service and Inspection Service (FSIS) is using the possibility of signing bonuses and college loan forgiveness to fill positions at some rural or remote locations where it is hard to recruit meat inspectors. 

At a time when national unemployment stands near a post-Depression high of 9 percent, FSIS is using recruitment incentives to fill positions in certain “select locations.”

FSIS is doing continuous hiring for food inspectors positions nationwide for starting salaries ranging from $31,315 to $50,431 per year. But based on its “hiring needs” at about a dozen locations, the hire might make a far better deal with Uncle Sam.   

A recruit could get:

– A signing bonus of up to 25 percent of the first year salary, up to $12,607.

– College loan forgiveness, up to $10,000 a year for a total of $60,000.

– Military veterans may be credited with accrued vacation time for their previous service.

To get the extra benefits, FSIS will require a new recruit to accept a duty assignment at any one of the following locations:

-Brawley, CA

-Geneseo and Monmouth, IL

-Delphi, Corydon, Mentone, and Logansport, IN

-Kidron, OH

-Hyrum, UT

-Greeley and Fort Morgan, CO

-Toppenish, Kelso, and Wallula, WA

-Tolleson, AZ

-Cactus, Friona, and San Angelo, TX

-Lexington and Grand Island, NE

-Dodge City, Holcomb, and Liberal, KS

-Milwaukee, Green Bay and Arcadia, WI

-Plainwell, MI

-Minot, ND

-Aberdeen and Sioux Falls, SD

-Worthington, Thief River Falls, and Cold Spring, MN

-Souderton, Fredericksburg, Mifflintown, New Holland, and Wyalusing, PA

The meat industry’s practice of not always locating its facilities in the most desirable places leaves FSIS with a challenge when it comes to recruiting.

“It is very hard to recruit for certain locations,” says Dr. Richard Raymond, the former Under Secretary for Food Safety, who ran FSIS during the last half of the Bush Administration.   

“Packing plants are not always located in the nicest parts of some of our major cities and, of course, some are located in very isolated (some might say desolate) areas, Raymond says.  “Job opportunities for spouses may be limited in many areas, as might education opportunities for children.”

Anyone getting the bonuses must sign an agreement with FSIS to stay in the duty location for at least one full year.

Federal Jobs Digest, which tracks federal job listings and monitors Uncle Sam’s employment offers, says bonus locations can change quickly — -those listed are good for a year unless removed.

FSIS hires individuals as food inspectors based largely on completion of a four-year college degree and completion of an “Online Food Inspector Questionnaire.”  Under work experience, it says being a chef or cook in a large-scale commercial establishment is the type of experience that shows experience in food preparation, handling and sanitation practices.

The new inspector joins the federal government at the GS-5 level on a pay scale with 10 steps on each of 15 levels. Most also join the American Federation of Government Employees, the FSIS union representing about 6,500 meat inspectors.