University of Maryland Extension


A state department of agriculture is analogous to the USDA. A state department of public health is analogous to the FDA. Like the USDA and the FDA, state departments of agriculture and departments of public health often share jurisdiction over food quality, safety, sales, and marketing. State regulations govern “intrastate” production and sale — food produced and sold within the state. State regulations are typically customized to a state’s economy, agriculture, markets, style of government, and administrative infrastructure. Each state has a unique approach to food safety and food processing with different:

  • Department and division names
  • Administrative structure and staffing
  • Regulations and policies
  • Programs and services
  • Communications and media
  • Language and nomenclature
  • Culture and attitude

According to federal law, states must adopt and enforce food safety regulations at least equal to federal standards. State standards may be more restrictive than federal standards, but not less restrictive. Most states adopt federal regulations into state legal code "by reference," meaning they don't put the federal language word-for-word into state code, they simply refer to the federal law by name only as being incorporated into state law. In effect, this requires food processors to have working knowledge of federal regulations in order to understand and comply with state regulations.


Maryland Department of Agriculture

Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

The Council of State Governments - Agriculture - Policy Areas (resource updated 8/25/14):

National Association of State Departments of Agriculture

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