Christina Waggett, the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s assistant commissioner for consumer protection, discussed the division’s role in federal and state regulations for food safety within meat and poultry with students this month.

Job opportunities in swine and poultry industries, marketing and food safety were among the topics discussed by visiting members of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services during their third “Agriculture and Policy Issues” seminar of the semester.

NCDA&CS colleagues met with students in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences on Nov. 16 to narrow in on the department’s role in North Carolina’s animal agriculture industry as well as share an open dialogue on career paths within the agency.

Assistant Commissioner of Agricultural Services Joe French, Ph.D., set the stage for the afternoon’s lecture in Webb Hall’s auditorium.

“The commissioner loves to say this, and it’s absolutely the truth: hungry people are mean people,” said French. “Food security in the United State is a huge thing, not just for the well-being of the people, but for security reasons. It’s important to keep our food supply safe.

“Today is going to be about how the Department of Ag manages to make sure that food supply is reliable, safe, and healthy in the United States.”

North Carolina ranks first nationwide in all-poultry production, second in turkey production, and third in swine production, French said.

“Sixty percent of our agricultural income in the state comes from those commodities,” he said. “As you think about career paths, there are a lot of opportunities in swine and poultry.”

Teresa Lambert, director of the department’s Research Stations Division, explained the purpose of those 18 locations, the division’s partnership with N.C. State University and N.C. A&T, and their role in animal agriculture.

“Four different program areas are very important to the livestock industry: nutrition, health, reproduction, and possibility of sustainability,” said Lambert. “North Carolina is a grain-deficit state, which means we import grain to feed this huge industry. We’re trying to feed our animals, and at the same time, we’re growing our population with dwindling resources. It will require research to do both.”

Neil Bowman, the Department of Agriculture’s specialist in livestock marketing, discussed the importance of market operations, animal transportation, and analytics for farmers to the public.

“Our job is to help producers implement the information they receive from research to produce a marketable product and sell it to the consumer,” said Bowman. “The great thing about the livestock industry is that there’s not a one certain way in which it has to be done. Depending on which avenue or which method you take to market and sell those animals, you need to understand how those market chains work.”

Christina Waggett, the agency’s assistant commissioner for consumer protection, stressed the division’s role in federal and state regulations for food safety within meat and poultry.

“If you’ve bought a sausage biscuit this morning or have bacon or meat in the fridge at home, you probably bought it from the one of the establishments that we inspect,” said Waggett. “We have a staff of 118, 84 of whom are inspectors who are in plants every day in North Carolina. By law, they have to be there or those plants can’t operate. We play an important role in pre- and post-mortem inspection and making sure the food safely keeps moving.”

CAES associate dean of academics Antoine Alston, Ph.D., reminded students of the importance of networking with state and federal agencies to help grow their job possibilities.

“There’s so many things you can do as an ag major,” said Alston. “Take advantage of these opportunities.”