DOAG: Overview of the CT Dept of Agriculture’s Licensing Unit

This article appeared in the October 2, 2013 edition of the Ag Report.
 
 

Overview of the Connecticut Department of
Agriculture’s Licensing Unit

Bruce A. Sherman, DVM, MPH, Director, Bureau of Regulation and Inspection

 

 

The Department of Agriculture is not commonly viewed as an agency that has significant licensing functions and, to even those familiar with the agency, it might be surprising that more than 13,000 individual licenses and registrations are issued annually through its Licensing Unit in the Bureau of Regulation and Inspection. 

 

License and agricultural product registration functions are overseen by this bureau primarily because of the interdependency of these functions with the department’s regulatory inspection and enforcement responsibilities. 

 

More than two dozen different types of licenses are issued to conduct business activities regulated by the department.  They include licenses required for various aspects of dairy production, processing, and sales; for livestock and poultry production, purchases, sales, and animal movement; and for seed labeling for those firms selling seed within the state. 

 

In addition, the department’s state Animal Control Division regulates pet shops, commercial kennels, grooming facilities, training facilities, and animal importers, all of which are required to be licensed.

 

The Licensing Unit also issues registrations for a variety of agricultural products such as animal feeds, including those for pet foods, as well as livestock feeds, fertilizers, agricultural liming materials, and soil amendments.

 

Fees generated from licenses and registrations issued by the department currently total over $1 million on an annual basis.  This fact begs a number of questions:  Why are licenses and registrations required and do they have any purpose?  Why are fees charged and how are the individual fees determined?  And finally, from the perspective of those that have to write a check to the state to conduct their business operation:  Does having their business licensed with the Department of Agriculture benefit them in any way?

 

All licenses and registrations issued by the department are mandated by state statute as is their corresponding fee structure.  In other words, the agency does not have the authority or discretion to determine who or what will be licensed or registered or to determine the fee structure.  Over the years, the Connecticut legislature has determined what agricultural business activities should be licensed and regulated. 

 

The common perception is that consumers are the sole beneficiaries of government regulation of businesses that provide them with products and services.  However the benefits extend beyond the consumer and are more far reaching in the case of licensed and regulated agricultural related businesses. 

 

In many instances, it is intended to benefit both the consumer and the producer and, in some, is intended for the most part to benefit the producer, by regulating businesses with which they interact and products they purchase as inputs into their operation. 

 

Licensing and the associated regulatory oversight provide another benefit for business entities by creating a level the playing field in which they operate.   

 

On an even broader scope, expanding consumer confidence in the quality and safety of agricultural products—especially food products—benefits producers, processors, and allied industries by driving increased demand for those products, resulting in a multiplying effect for the entire agricultural economy.  

 

Purchasing decisions by today’s educated consumers are significantly influenced by their confidence in the safety, wholesomeness, and truth in labeling of food products, and that confidence is bolstered by their awareness of regulatory oversight over those products along the entire chain from farm to table.

 

The interdependency of licensing and regulatory oversight can be illustrated by describing the multitude of licenses and registrations that are required by the department for all the entities involved with just one product—milk—starting with the dairy farm.

 

The seed that the farm purchases for crops comes from a licensed seed labeler.  Seed is randomly sampled and submitted for analysis to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to assure that it meets label claims.  Both grain products purchased for feed and fertilizer products purchased for crop production are registered, randomly sampled, and analyzed to assure that their composition meets what is claimed. 

 

Livestock dealers and commission sales stables with whom the farm may purchase or sell cattle are licensed.  The dairy farm itself is licensed as a milk producer—routine sanitation inspections are conducted, milk samples undergo laboratory analysis to assure standards are met, as are water samples, and certain herd health and animal care standards are required and enforced. 

 

The bulk milk tanker that arrives at the farm to transport milk to the processor is registered with the department and milk tankers are inspected randomly for cleanliness and structural integrity.  The driver of the milk tanker is licensed as a milk examiner after being certified by department inspectors because he/she determines the amount of milk in the farm tank, its temperature, and obtains a sample of the milk for transport to the receiving plant for laboratory analysis.

 

The receiving plant’s laboratory that analyzes the incoming bulk milk for the presence of antibiotic residues, as well as the milk plant itself, is licensed and inspected. 

 

Two other entities subject to inspection and requiring licensing are all stores selling milk in the state (dairy store license) and firms purchasing milk for re-sale (milk subdealer license).

 

Occasionally the department is faced with something new and unexpected in the realm of licensing and registration.  That occurred this year as a result of legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes through the passage of Public Act No. 12-55, An Act Concerning the Palliative Use of Marijuana.  Now the department is registering fertilizers, mostly from firms based in California, marketed specifically for use in growing marijuana.

 

The following is a summary of licenses and registrations issued by the Department of Agriculture for Fiscal Year 2013:

  • Animal Importers 128,
  • Bulk Milk Tankers 68,
  • Cheese Manufacturers 25,
  • Commercial Kennels 274,
  • Commission Sales Stables 1,
  • Dog Training Facilities 127,
  • Egg Processing Plants 4,
  • Equine Auctions 1,
  • Feed 521,
  • Fertilizer 288,
  • Fur Breeders 1,
  • Grooming Facilities 375,
  • Poultry Dealers 80,
  • Livestock Dealers/Brokers 33,
  • Milk Dealers 80,
  • Milk Examiners 136,
  • Milk Producers 123,
  • Milk Subdealers 95,
  • Pet Shops 103,
  • Poultry Slaughter Facilities 2,
  • Raw Milk/Cheese Manufacturers 5,
  • Retail Dairy Stores 2,945,
  • Retail Raw Milk Producers 18,
  • Seed Labelers 79 and
  • Swine Garbage Feeders 3.

The Department of Agriculture transitioned the majority of its licenses to the state’s E-License system back in 2010.  This was a collaborative effort among the departments of Agriculture, Consumer Protection and Public Health. 

 

In addition to being able to verify licenses issued by our agency, anyone can look online at https://www.elicense.ct.gov/ for the license status of individuals and companies in more than 100 job and business categories such as electricians, plumbers, home improvement contractors, veterinarians, livestock dealers, etc. The goal is to reduce a reliance on manually entering data each licensing renewal cycle.

 

License renewals will be processed electronically and, hopefully one day soon, renewals will be able to be completed over the internet.  The online service provides a valuable resource for Connecticut residents and reduces the amount of staff time, paper, and postage spent hand processing thousands of license applications and renewals each year.

 

For more information about agricultural licenses in Connecticut, please contact the Department of Agriculture’s License Unit at 860-713-2512 (weekdays 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), or send us an e-mail at AGR-DLAllusers@ct.gov.