Gary Caseri helps keep Stanislaus County free of the bugs that can damage its crops.
And he helps make sure that someone who buys a gallon of gasoline is really getting a gallon.
Caseri is the county's new agricultural commissioner, and sealer of weights and measures. This dual job, a common arrangement in California counties, has many duties related to farming and other businesses.
Caseri, 54, started in the job March 31, after Dennis Gudgel's retirement. He held the same post in Tuolumne County for seven years and before that rose to assistant commissioner and sealer in Merced County.
Caseri, a Newman native, said he is glad to be working once again in a major farm county. In a few weeks, his office will release the 2007 crop report, showing just how big this output is.
"The agriculture commissioner is kind of an advocate for agriculture in the county, along with the role of a regulator," he said. "Everyone eats, so it's a really important industry."
The office has about 60 employees, 16 of them seasonal, and a budget this year of about $4.2 million.
Employees look for insects, weeds and diseases that could cut deeply into crop yields if they arrived here. This means monitoring bug traps all over the county as well as inspecting, leaf by leaf, nursery shipments from certain areas.
These efforts have kept the county largely free in recent years of pests such as the Mediterranean fruit fly, the Japanese beetle and the glassy-winged sharpshooter.
"All the bugs we trap for are known to be in our state, but they're not in our county that we know of," said Becky Graham, a seasonal employee who helps with the traps. "Our job is precaution."
Should these pests be found, the office would help lead eradication efforts with pesticides and other measures.
The office also regulates the routine use of chemicals on pests that have long been part of farming here. Users must get permits and follow rules on waterway buffers, protective clothing and other matters. Violators can be fined.
"If people misuse a pesticide, if they cause drift onto people or property or other crops, we get involved and do an investigation," Caseri said.
He said much progress has been made in his 30 years in this field: The state studies pesticides carefully to ensure safety, and growers have adopted integrated-pest management. The latter involves spraying only when truly needed and providing habitat for good insects that prey on bad insects.
The office also inspects eggs, crop seeds and certain fruits and vegetables to ensure quality and proper labeling. And it certifies that exports from the county meet the pest-exclusion standards of the receiving countries.
The weights-and-measures side of the office checks the accuracy of about 9,000 scales, fuel pumps, grocery scanners and other devices at businesses.
Employees also ensure that packaged goods come in the dimensions stated on the labels. If the maker of a sleeping bag says it's 40 by 80 inches, Caseri said, the staff might roll one out and measure it.
"It's not just to protect the consumer," he said. "It's to provide fairness and equity in the marketplace. We try to ensure that one business doesn't have an advantage over another because of unfair business practices."
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2385.