The work of the Plant Industries Division is often carried out behind the scenes, well out of the public eye. Yet, the division’s services are vital to Missouri agriculture’s producers and consumers. It prevents the spread of harmful insects and plant diseases, registers pesticides, validates the quality of feeds and seeds, inspects produce farms, and now registers hemp growers.
The mission of this critical division is to provide a mechanism to strengthen consumer confidence in Missouri agricultural products and services, as well as offer professional administration of regulatory and service programs. It also reinforces fairness in trade and provides protection for consumers in the marketplace. This division is made up of five programs:
Pesticide Control. This team regulates the sale and use of all pesticides, and approves, monitors and evaluates pesticide training programs. Pesticide Control also conducts pesticide complaint investigations, registers pesticides for use within Missouri and performs state inspections on applicator use records, dealer sales records, certification credentials and applicator training records. This team also verifies that correct pesticide labels are appropriately placed on containers, audits pesticide sales at retailers and wholesalers, and conducts federal inspections on behalf of the EPA.
Produce Safety. This program reduces the incidence of foodborne illness by ensuring growers meet Food and Drug Administration Produce Safety Rule standards. In 2011, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act to better protect public health by helping ensure food safety at each step of production. The FDA Produce Safety Rule is part of FSMA and focuses on science-based minimum standards for safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. The Produce Safety program assists growers by providing information and reviewing production practices, as well as conducting federally required inspections of farms that are covered by the rule.
Industrial Hemp Program. This is the newest addition to the Plant Industries Division. After hemp was legalized by federal and state law for growth within Missouri, 2020 will be the first growing season in our state. The Industrial Hemp Program regulates the production and sales of viable industrial hemp in accordance with those federal and state laws. The program issues registrations and permits, and certifies samplers for Missouri's industrial hemp industry.
Feed & Seed Program. The team regulates the manufacturing and sale of commercial feed and pet food, and regulates agricultural and vegetable seed. Samples of commercial feed and seed are analyzed at the state laboratory for truth in labeling, the presence of adulteration and overall quality. In one year, more than 38,000 laboratory tests are run on feed samples, while the seed program tests more than 2,500 samples in a single year. Overall, this team ensures animal feed and the human food supply are safe for livestock, pets and consumers.
Plant Pest Control Program. This area works to prevent the introduction and spread of harmful plant pests and facilitates interstate and international trade of Missouri plant products. The program inspects nursery stock and certifies millions of dollars of Missouri-grown plant products for export. Its plant diagnostic lab supports export certification and provides diagnostic services to certified Missouri nurseries. It also surveys for invasive plant pests, such as the gypsy moth and emerald ash borer, which threaten Missouri’s agricultural, forest and natural resources.
The Plant Industries Division is led by Paul Bailey, who has dedicated his career to the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Paul was promoted to division director of Plant Industries in 2017. His story always spoke to me. He began his career at the department as a pesticide-use investigator in the field.
Then, he moved into the office in Jefferson City and eventually was named program administrator for the Pesticide Control Program. His experience and leadership style has served his team, the department and the agriculture industry well.
To learn more about the Plant Industries Division or the Missouri Department of Agriculture, visit agriculture.mo.gov.
Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a hog producer from Clarence, Mo.