The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. After seven years and several rounds of rulemaking, the Produce Safety Rule will come into effect on January 26, 2018, for the largest produce growers in the United State, meaning those with $500,000 or more in annual revenue.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has emphasized the first year will focus less on regulation and compliance, and more on education and readiness. But make no mistake, times are changing on Michigan specialty-crop farms, according to Michigan Farm Bureau Horticulture Specialist, Kevin Robson. He estimates Michigan farmers are better-prepared than their counterparts in other states to implementing FSMA produce rules.
“The majority of our larger scale farms have been running their farms according to GAP (Good Agriculture Practices), which gets at the lion’s share of requirements to be FSMA compliant,” said MFB’s Horticulture Specialist, Kevin Robson. “MFB has been working collaboratively with MSU-E, and MDARD to make sure that growers have been afforded the opportunity and access to the appropriate training materials and classes in 2018 in different areas of the state.”
According to Robson, while the new FSMA focus on seven different categories of rules, the Produce Rule, with five parts alone, has created the most anxiety:
- Biological soil amendments
- Domesticated and wild animals
- Worker training and health and hygiene
- Equipment, tools and buildings; and
- Agricultural water and testing
“Growers of sprouts have an additional set of rules, in addition to the above five,” Robson explained. “On January 26, growers of covered produce will be expected to be in compliance with the first four of the five parts.”
Robson credited FDA for listening to significant industry concerns regarding Agricultural water and testing requirements, adding that the agency proposed revised standards and compliance dates for agricultural water rules in September, 2017. FDA’s new proposal for compliance standards for water quality standards and related testing are expected in 2018.
“The new agricultural water compliance date the FDA is proposing for the largest farms is Jan. 26, 2022,” Robson said. “Small farms and tiny farms would have until Jan. 26, 2023, and Jan. 26, 2024, respectively. The proposed extension will give FDA adequate time to take another look at the water standards to ensure that they are feasible for farmers in all regions of the country while protecting public health.”
Just how many Michigan farms will need to come under FSMA Produce Rule compliance in less than four weeks?
While there isn’t an exact figure, Robson says estimates based on the 2012 Census of Agriculture as a rough data set, show there were 6,647 farms nationwide with vegetable, melon, fruit and tree farming with sales of $500,000 or more (Figure 2).
“Of those, Michigan ranks in the top 10 states with 252 farms falling into the “large farm” category,” he said.
According to Robson, Michigan has had a strong voice at the table throughout the multi-year process, with MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams serving in a leadership role for NASDA, as well as food safety experts from Michigan State University, serving in a leadership capacity for developing the on-farm implementation strategies.
“There isn’t a shred of doubt, that our state’s growers will be ready for FSMA implementation. It is because of the hard work done by MSU, MDARD, and industry groups that Michigan is on the cutting edge of education, compliance, and implementation.” Robson added. “Although the date of compliance is January 26, 2018, MDARD continues to champion the “education before regulation,” noting that the first year will be reserved for assisting farms into compliance, not solely on issuing citations.”