The year 2020 began on a hopeful note – as all new years do. Very soon, however, it transformed into the year that introduced a “new normal” to the world as we know it. That’s why this year’s theme for the U.S. National Weights and Measures Week (March 1 – 7, 2021) is titled, “Measuring Up to the New Normal.”

CDFA’s Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) has maintained a sense of relative normalcy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For the most part, DMS remained open for business because weights and measures is an essential function to California agriculture and our food supply. That’s because DMS protects the infrastructure needed to process and transport food from farm to table.

Here are examples of that – fuel is necessary to operate farm equipment, and to transport commodities to processors, distributors, and retailers. Processors weigh commodities brought in from farms and ranches, and producers are paid based upon weight certificates. Retailers are held accountable for accurate prices so that consumers, some of whom lost jobs during the pandemic, are not overcharged for goods and services. County departments of weights and measures rely on DMS to certify their measurement standards used when they test commercial scales and meters for accuracy.

That’s not to say there weren’t some interesting occurrences in 2020. Early into the pandemic when there were reports of price gouging, DMS responded with a useful guideline for county sealers to disseminate to the public. There were also reports from county agricultural commissioners/sealers about irregularities in the boxes of N-95 masks they were distributing as protective gear to local farmworkers. It turned out that a new manufacturer was underfilling the number of masks in its boxes, a bad thing if the farmer is counting on fifty masks for fifty workers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed some things for good, like working from home and shopping for groceries. However, you’ll be happy to hear that some of the basics haven’t changed. Every day, several hundred California weights and measures inspectors go out to inspect and test weighing and measuring equipment, store prices, and pre-packaged products. All to provide the businesses they regulate and consumers like you with that same level of protection you’ve always had.

Happy Weights and Measures Week Everyone!

By Kristin Macey. CDFA Director of Measurement Standards