This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
When Warren Hess resigned last fall as acting state veterinarian, he spoke out against the leader of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), alleging she had wrongfully taken away some of his duties and had appointed unqualified managers for meat and poultry inspection.
Those changes, Hess contended, violated what was written in Utah state code.
Now a bill making its way through the Legislature would support those changes made by Commissioner LuAnn Adams.
On Monday, Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, called HB211 a "housekeeping bill" for the UDAF.
"It has a couple minor changes to the state veterinarian job," he told members of the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee. "It changes the wording to make sure we are accurately portraying what we want the state veterinarian to do, which is to be out in the field using his talents and abilities to take care of the industry as necessary; collaborating and working with the people involved and not necessarily sitting behind a desk pushing paper."
The amendments, however, take away the state veterinarian's oversight of meat and poultry inspection something that Adams did while Hess was still at UDAF and one of the reasons he cited in his resignation, after 11 years of service, including more than a year as acting state veterinarian. Those oversight duties were transferred to existing meat director and manager positions.
After his resignation, Hess said the public should be concerned. Meat inspection on the federal level is almost entirely run by veterinarians, he said, and Utah is not getting the same oversight from an educational and animal-health perspective.
HB211 also changes the job description of the Director of Meat Inspection he or she would no longer have to be a licensed veterinarian. This is another issue that Hess complained about when leaving the UDAF.
Adams defended that change, saying the meat inspector position has not been held by a veterinarian for more than 20 years. "This makes it more real with what we are doing in our department," she told the committee, which passed the bill favorably to the state Senate. It already has passed the House.