Agriculture Dept. allotted $670,000 to replace lab equipment damaged by Maria
By The Star Staff
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated nearly $670,000 to replace equipment for the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Veterinary and Agrological Laboratory due to damages sustained during Hurricane Maria.
The facility performs all testing and certifications of animals exported from and imported into Puerto Rico to ensure that they are free of disease.
The federal funds are part of other FEMA obligations to the Department of Agriculture, which has received over $18 million for its permanent work projects.
“These laboratories are unique in Puerto Rico due to the services they offer to the agricultural community on the island and abroad,” explained Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero said. “The monitoring and tests performed here have a direct effect on the control of diseases in the food chain and animal population in Puerto Rico.”
The veterinary laboratory handles animal disease control and various bacteriological, chemical, immunological and pathological analysis tests. The agrological laboratory, meanwhile, inspects and tests plants, soil and water; studies various crop diseases; controls pests and pesticides; and operates machinery for testing and certifying food, concentrated food for livestock and fertilizer tests, among others.
DA Secretary Ramón González Beiró noted that “in terms of safety, agriculture and for consumers, these replacements are extremely significant, starting with the tests conducted on animals, tests carried out on food and on fertilizers.”
“We’re making sure that farmers are getting what it actually says on the label and that we’re not putting something in the ground that is against the law,” he said.
The FEMA funds are earmarked to replace a fire alarm as well as hematology equipment and testing instruments for viral diseases, among other electrical and technical equipment.