Overview of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets

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I’m currently conducting a blog series where each week I give a brief overview of the responsibilities of a government agency regulating our food and agriculture system.  I think it’s a helpful reminder for everyone on just how complex our regulatory system really is.  It’s a game of Who’s Who for government players in the U.S. food and agriculture economy.

New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets (“NYSDAM”) is the principal government agency in New York regulating food and agriculture.  Organizationally, it has the following divisions:

Agriculture Development:  Generally, this Division works with market development, consumer education, access to healthy food, and agri-business development.  It’s specific programs include the Agri-Business Child Development, Agriculture Producers Security (working with Farm Products Dealer Licensing), Commodity Procurement, Crop Insurance and Risk Management, Farm/Cuisine Trails, Farmers’ Markets (including the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, and Fresh Connect), Farm to College/School, International Trade, Marked Order Administration (apples, sour cherries, onions and cabbage), Organic Certification Reimbursement, Organic Farming Development/Assistance, Pride of New York, Specialty Crop Block Grants, Trade Shows & Consumer Events, and WIC Vegetables and Fruit Checks.

Animal Industry:  This division has several specie specific programs for beef and dairy cattle, equine, poultry, sheep & goats, swine, cats & dogs, and deer.  For example, it administers the NYS Cattle Health Assurance Program (“NYSCHAP”) and NY Ram Project.  It also works with animal disease control, biosecurity and import/export of animals.  It too awards licenses for slaughterhouses.

Counsel’s Office:  This is NYSDAM’s legal office used when NYSDAM is bringing a civil or criminal complaint or defending a lawsuit.  It also provides legal support to NYSDAM internally.

Fiscal Management:  Put simply, this division works with the budgets and finances of NYSDAM.

Food Laboratory:  This division tests food, dairy products, and beverages for health hazards and accurate labeling.

Food Safety & Inspection:  This agency works to enforce regulations to help maintain food safety.  This is the largest division of NYSDAM with over 200 full-time employees.

Kosher Law Enforcement:  This division enforces the New York Kosher Law Protection Act of 2004 regarding packaging, advertising, disclosure and record keeping.

Land and Water Resources:  This division works with agriculture districts, farmland protection/conservation, and soil/water conservation.  It has a myriad of helpful guidance documents on local laws affecting the control of farm animals, use of wetlands, composting, direct-farm marketing, land use & zoning regulations, wind/solar energy development, nurseries, farm distilleries, breweries and wineries, and on-farm open burning.

Milk Control and Dairy Services:  This division works with sanitation, inspection, and economic control of the New York dairy industry.  It also works with eth Milk Price Gouging Law and reviews milk labeling and advertising.

Plant Industry:  This government division works with plant health by preventing the spread of disease and harmful invasive species.  Among other programs, it administers the Apiary Inspection Program/Honey Bee Health Program and the Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey.

State Fair:  Who doesn’t love going to the New York State Fair? (“NYSF”)  This division plans the NYSF and other events held at the fairgrounds throughout the year.

Weights & Measures Bureau:  Importantly, this division  inspects scales, gas pumps and other types of measuring devices used in the New York food and agriculture system to assure its accuracy.

This agency also works with permits and licenses related to commercial feed, farm product dealers, food establishments, milk dealers, nursery dealers, pet dealers, and weigh master.

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