What does a State Department of Agriculture do?

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  • Written By: Tiffany Manley
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2016
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Each state within the United States has a state Department of Agriculture. Each department's functions might vary slightly, but most have several common functions, including overseeing food safety, weights and measures, pesticide management, animals and agriculture. The services provided give assistance not only to farmers, but to consumers and merchants as well.

In many states, food safety is overseen by the state Department of Agriculture. The department might handle food establishment inspections, issuing licenses, and other regulations of the food industry. These regulations apply to baked goods, full-service restaurants, seafood, processing facilities and dairy products, in addition to many others. Ensuring the safety of consumers in each state is a very important function of the agency.

Weights and measures is another important area of focus for a state Department of Agriculture. Spanning from light measures, such as produce and gasoline, to heavy measures, such as platform and vehicle scales, each department does everything in its power to ensure that consumers are receiving exactly what they have paid for. Devices are inspected at regular intervals to make sure no adjustments are needed and that everything is in proper working order.

Overseeing the proper sale and use of pesticides is another important function of these departments. A major scope of regulation is the commercial pesticide industry. Each agency oversees the licensing and regulations of this industry, ensuring that the commercial pesticide applicator follows all rules and regulations.


Ensuring that animals are imported correctly in each state and that each animal stays healthy is also the responsibility of a state Department of Agriculture. The states have their own regulations in regard to importing animals, and this agency makes sure that these regulations are followed. In addition, meat and poultry that is sold to consumers is inspected by the department. Diagnostic labs are set up to monitor animal health and well-being.

Agriculture is a main focus of this department in each state. Services are provided that span from initial planting in the field to the sale of produce at farmer's markets. Farmers have opportunities to request assistance with applying for grants, to join farm organizations, and to receive assistance with finding and selling at farmer's markets. Mediation services also might be offered, free of charge, to help mediate issues between farmers and their creditors.


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