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New Mexico Department of Agriculture takes innovative approaches to serve the public amid COVID-19 pandemic
New Mexico’s agriculture industry provides many resources that are crucial to the state’s communities and economy. To ensure these resources remain available to the public, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) is taking innovative approaches to continue offering services while adhering to the state’s public health emergency orders and COVID-Safe Practices.
Many of NMDA’s services normally provided in person, such as licensure trainings, have temporarily been moved to an online format. Necessary in-person activities, including certain inspections by NMDA field staff, have continued with use of proper personal protective equipment and social distancing procedures.
“Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, we at NMDA have dedicated ourselves to finding and creating innovative avenues that allow us to continue providing services necessary to commerce,” New Mexico Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte said. “Virtual trainings and classes, as well as routine inspections, are just a few of the activities that remain available to our constituents.”
Some of the many services NMDA continues to provide include the following:
Dairy: Dairy inspections have been conducted routinely. Milk hauler certification classes can be completed virtually.
Hemp: Hemp cultivation license applications are continually processed.
Laboratory operations: Laboratory operations and sample testing within the NMDA Metrology Lab, Petroleum Standards Lab, State Chemist Lab and State Seed Lab have continued. Before submitting samples or artifacts for calibration, please call 575-646-1551.
Market news: NMDA continues to provide livestock and grain market news data. This was made true under a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture.
Organic program: The NMDA Organic Program continues to provide United States Department of Agriculture/National Organic Program-accredited organic certifications. These are for farmers, ranchers and processors/handlers throughout New Mexico.
Peanut inspections: All necessary services and operations have continued at the NMDA Peanut Grading Station in Portales.
Pecan weevil: Pecan nut pest insect surveillance has continued. The pecan weevil residential program in quarantined counties will proceed as scheduled.
Pesticide applicator certifications: Temporary drive-up pesticide applicator certification testing sessions have been offered on a needed basis. The drive-up procedure was originally implemented as a result of limited computer-based testing sites in Las Cruces and Portales due to closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The procedure allows applicants to complete exams required for licensure to work in industries including agriculture and pest management. This is a temporary service and not intended as a replacement to the testing services that were in place prior to the pandemic.
Produce inspections: Agriculture commodity graders have continued routine produce inspections.
Produce safety: Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Workshops are available virtually. The workshops are geared toward produce growers who must comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act – Produce Rule requirements as well as those looking to enhance their knowledge in farm food safety and agricultural practices.
Public hearing: NMDA will host a virtual hearing July 29 at 9 a.m. to receive public input on an amendment to the 21.18.3 NMAC, Commercial Feed rule. This amendment adds a new section titled “Spay and Neuter Program Fee.”
Scale and fuel pump inspections: Inspections of livestock scales, large capacity scales, fuel pumps and petroleum sampling have continued. Other scale inspections have continued to take place where proper social distancing is feasible.
Veterinary diagnostic services: NMDA’s Veterinary Diagnostic Services Division in Albuquerque continues to maintain normal diagnostic analysis of animal specimens either on a referral basis from veterinarians and agencies or directly from animal owners and industry to determine the cause of deaths or to identify diseases.
NMDA’s agriculture biosecurity staff has also been heavily involved with the state’s emergency operations center (EOC) during the pandemic, spending the majority of the time at the EOC since the state’s initial public health emergency order went into effect in March. The NMDA Office of Agriculture Biosecurity strives to protect New Mexico agriculture’s critical infrastructure. This is accomplished through planning, training and, when necessary, assisting in the response to all-hazard events. Whether it has been helping secure food, animal feed, or personal protective equipment, the ag biosecurity staff continues to assist with logistical needs.