Q&A about the proposed NCDA&CS laboratory

by | Feb 17, 2016

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is proposing to construct a new co-located laboratory complex that would replace the following five labs: Veterinary Diagnostic, Food and Drug Protection, Structural Pest Control and Pesticides, Standards, and Motor Fuels.

What are the regulatory duties of these labs?

The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory provides tests required for international and domestic shipment of poultry and livestock. It also is the state’s first line of defense for identifying a foreign animal disease or bioterrorism agent.

The Food and Drug Protection Laboratory is the sole human food and animal feed safety and defense testing lab in the state. It is one of only 10 state agricultural labs in the country that are internationally accredited for chemical and biological testing. This benefits our residents because it allows federal partners like the FDA and USDA to more readily accept our data, which can speed up decisions pertaining to the safety of both human food and animal feed. The building also houses labs used by the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides and Plant Industry divisions.

The Motor Fuels Laboratory provides fuel quality inspections and testing to be sure fuels sold in North Carolina meet minimum and advertised specifications. Space in the 62-year-old lab is limited, which impedes workflow and keeps the program from expanding testing of alternative fuels such as biodiesel, E15 and E85. Infrastructure such as HVAC, fume removal, power, and storage are problematic in the current lab due to its age and size.

The Standards Laboratory is NVLAP-accredited to perform mass, thermometry and volume measurement calibrations that are traceable to national standards. It is also responsible for inspecting grain moisture meters. The lab consistently has one of the highest workloads in the country for state metrology laboratories and is vital in supporting the division’s weights and measures program and the commercial businesses that have their standards calibrated by the lab. These include both scale and fuel-meter service companies as well as businesses in the manufacturing, pharmaceutical and defense sectors.

Why does the department need this facility?

The average age of these labs is more than 40 years. They struggle with inadequate ventilation and climate control. Their ability to service the needs of the citizens of North Carolina is hindered by not having the room to expand testing capacity due to limited space. The aging infrastructure also directly impacts their ability to utilize advanced testing equipment.

Forty years ago, the state’s population was 5.6 million. Now, it’s 10 million. North Carolina’s livestock and poultry industries also were a lot smaller 40 years ago than today. As the state continues to grow, the current labs will struggle to meet the needs of citizens, farmers and businesses.

Why will all five labs be in a single location?

A new and modern design will promote the ability to invest in advanced modern technology and testing equipment, be more energy-efficient, optimize workflows and expand programs to be better positioned to meet the future testing needs of North Carolina citizens and industry.

How would the department pay for this co-located laboratory?

Legislators included $94 million for the lab in the state bond package.

Photo Gallery: Space limitations, aging systems