When you ask the public, “Who provides the services that protect you?” many will list local police and fire departments or federal agencies, like the FBI, the CIA or the Department of Homeland Security. Few would include their state department of agriculture on that list.
But in Kentucky, several divisions in the Department of Agriculture do just that. For instance, the Office of Consumer & Environmental Protection provides a broad range of protection services, including pesticide regulation and food inspection. The Division of Regulation and Inspection has responsibilities ranging from inspecting gas pumps and testing scales to inspecting egg distributors and licensing amusement rides. In addition, the department has divisions that monitor animal health and even prepare for potential agriterrorism threats. In short, the department covers a lot of territory in an effort to protect consumers and farmers’ livelihood, as well as ensuring the public gets what it pays for.
Jason Glass, a member of the Weights & Measures Inspection branch, says one important goal is to have a “fair and accurate system that consumers and businesses can rely on so that equity prevails in the marketplace.”
To make that happen, inspectors work in the field and in the metrology lab, checking scales and scanners across the state for accuracy. That can mean checking something like a point-of-sale scale in a grocery store to scales at livestock or grain facilities or truck weighing stations.
Inspectors also evaluate packaged commodities in stores to ensure the weight on the package or container is accurate. Scanners are checked for price verification. “We’re an objective, impartial third party,” says Glass. “We work to be sure that the consumers are getting what they pay for. By ensuring accurate weighing, we can protect the businesses, too, because inaccurate scales can hurt their bottom line as well.”
The same is true for fuel pumps, which the division inspects. Not only do they test pumps to make sure the quantity delivered is accurate and the price computed is correct, they also test motor fuel quality at the lab in Frankfort. Ensuring the quality of gasoline, gasoline-alcohol blends, diesel and biodiesel fuels is important because it affects the drivability of a vehicle, but it also has health and environmental implications.
The division runs the Kentucky metrology laboratories, which provide calibration services and technical guidance for private industries, scale and meter repair companies, other state agencies, and weights and measures inspectors within the division. These calibrations check and maintain the accuracy of the equipment used to set up, monitor, inspect and repair all types of scales and meters throughout the state.
Protecting Health & Welfare
Regulating the sale, distribution and use of pesticides is another important task of the Department of Agriculture. It includes the use of pesticides by commercial, noncommercial and private applicators. By providing technical assistance and regulating licensing and certification, the department works to protect the general health of Kentuckians and the environment of the Bluegrass State.
The Office of the Kentucky State Veterinarian, which is also a part of the Department of Agriculture, has the same goal. The office carefully monitors the health of animals as diverse as llama, pigs, moose, sheep, chickens and even honeybees in order to protect the consumer as well as the farmers, beekeepers and others who rely on the animals for their livelihood.
The department, also through the state veterinarian’s office, has participated in a variety of training exercises to be prepared in the event of an agriterrorism threat. That preparation has been enhanced by the development of a Kentucky State Agriculture Response Team Model, as well as the acquisition of a mobile operations center. That allows the department to respond quickly to any homeland security emergency related to agriculture, so that the public and the agriculture community are protected.