Additional Expenses

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most vegetable growers, especially those who grow leafy greens, that many of the compliance requirements of the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) fall upon growers to implement. But a recent survey of California leafy greens growers conducted over the past two years shows just how much they are paying.

For example, growers reported their seasonal food safety costs more than doubled after the implementation of the LGMA, increasing from a mean of $24.04 per acre in 2006 to $54.63 per acre in 2007. For many growers, those costs are extremely difficult to absorb, note the study’s authors. The study was conducted by Shermain Hardesty, a University of California (UC) Cooperative Extension economist and director of the UC’s Small Farm Program, and Yoko Kusunose, a graduate student researcher in the program.

Economies of Scale“Previous research findings indicate a high degree of consolidation in the U.S. grocery sector, thus it is unlikely that growers have been able to obtain higher prices for their leafy greens in order to cover their food safety compliance costs,” they stated.

The costs are considerable, the authors conclude. The sum of the average modification costs specifically for the LGMA — primarily installing additional fencing and modifying bathroom/hand washing facilities — averaged $21,490, or $13.60 per acre. The sum of the modification costs and the seasonal food safety costs — field monitoring, water testing, personnel training, etc. — was $68.23 per acre, or nearly 1% of growers’ average lettuce revenues.

However, because it appears that growers may have excluded costs when reporting their seasonal food safety costs, the authors surmise that a combined per acre cost to implement the LGMA is more on the order of $100.

Larger growers appear best able to absorb these costs, mostly because of economies of scale, the authors note. For example, the seasonal food safety cost for medium-sized growers — those with revenues of between $1 million and $10 million — were 159% higher than the average cost for large growers with revenues greater than $10 million.

In their summation, the authors note that the LGMA is just one of many sets of food safety requirements, with others mandated by either the federal government or large chain stores.

“It is essential that the proliferation of public and private food safety standards be addressed, while at the same time recognizing that the one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate,” they conclude. “Regulators, researchers, retailers and food service operators, growers, and other produce industry leaders must communicate and collaborate to develop standards based on sound science and spread the compliance costs equitably to maintain a diverse leafy greens production system that is sustainable for the long term.”

LGMA Guidelines

“In the spring of 2007, a group of California handlers of leafy greens established the Leafy Greens Products Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA) in response to the 2006 E. coli outbreak that was attributed to spinach grown in the Salinas Valley.” That’s the first line of the research brief by Shermain Hardesty, a University of California (UC) Cooperative Extension economist and director of the UC Small Farm Program, and Yoko Kusunose, a graduate student researcher in the program. Today, they note that 99% of the leafy greens grown in California are produced under the auspices of the LGMA.

But what does the LGMA actually entail? This question is particularly relevant today, as there is a push among industry leaders to pass a national version of the California agreement. The following is an abridged version of a summary by the authors of the LGMA’s provisions. The complete set of requirements can be found online at: www.caleafygreens.ca.gov/members/documents/LGMAAcceptedGAPs07.10.09.pdf.

Environment: Risk factors from the growing environment include past flooding, the use of land adjacent to growing fields, and intrusion by animals. Growers are expected to document past flooding, avoid planting after flooding, maintain buffers between growing fields and
animals, and septic leach fields, etc.

Water: LGMA established maximum allowable levels for generic E. coli in irrigation water, and growers must monitor and document levels through regular sampling and microbial testing at all sources and points of use. They must also provide a description of their water systems.

Soil Amendments: Growers must show that all non-synthetic soil amendments or crop treatments do not contain animal manure, or, if they do, that the manure has been heat-treated or composted. In addition, all such amendments must be tested for Salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7, etc.

Worker Practices: Growers must provide field toilets and hand-washing stations that must be regularly cleaned, serviced, and stocked with supplies. Ongoing training sessions and signs must indicate rules regarding hand washing, etc.

Field Sanitation: Potential cross-contamination between leafy greens fields and other fields must be avoided through the segregation or cleaning of equipment. Any potential contamination from risk sources must be dealt with in accordance with standard operating procedures. A food safety harvest
assessment must document — for each growing block — cleaning and sanitation procedures, equipment storage procedures, and any evidence of animal intrusion during the growing season.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

NutsCalifornia County Passes Ordinance To Protect Walnut Gr…
August 27, 2014
Verification of ownership needed to complete sales of valuable nuts. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers Hit By Russian Import Limits
August 27, 2014
Growers reflect on changes to export market in light of produce ban. Read More
Farm ManagementLeadership And Management Expert To Speak At California…
August 27, 2014
Daniel Goleman will make presentation at California State University-Fresno. Read More
CitrusNational Scientific Summit On Herbicide Resistant Weeds…
August 27, 2014
Topics to be covered include the economics of proactively managing herbicide resistance, education and outreach efforts, and incentives and regulatory initiatives. Read More
FruitsFlorida Organic Group Dedicated To Serving Growers, Com…
August 27, 2014
Education and development programs are plentiful for interested producers. Read More
VegetablesExperimental Herbicide Technology Blasts Weeds In Rows
August 27, 2014
The technology uses an air compressor to spray corncob grit on both sides of a crop, killing young weeds. Read More
Disease ControlFungal Disease Outbreak Hits Pacific Northwest Vegetabl…
August 27, 2014
An outbreak of blackleg, light leaf spot, and white leaf spot can be significant problems in several vegetable crops.   Read More
CitrusClean Water Conundrum: Ditch The Rule Or Ditch The Myth…
August 26, 2014
Regulation inundation causing a rising tide of confusion for farmers. Read More
BerriesMichigan State University Extension Offers Tips To Prev…
August 26, 2014
Humidity, rainy periods conducive to disease development. Read More
FruitsSpotted Wing Drosophila Populations Rising In Michigan
August 26, 2014
Extension researchers advise berry growers on trapping, salt testing to take stock of pest population. Read More
Apples & PearsNorthwest Pear Crop Estimate Revised Upward
August 26, 2014
Washington and Oregon pear growers forecast a larger size crop than that originally estimated. Read More
VegetablesAgrium Acquires A Controlling Interest In Biotech Compa…
August 26, 2014
The company also acquires stake in Agricen Sciences as part of strategic effort to expand their offering of integrated, next-generation plant health technologies. Read More
Insect ControlCover All Angles When Taking On Threecornered Alfalfa H…
August 25, 2014
Learn how to ID, the survival and spread, and management methods for this insect pest. Read More
GrapesEarthquake Shakes Up Napa Wine Industry
August 25, 2014
Sunday’s early morning quake was centered just six miles from the city of Napa. Read More
OrangesNew Orange Pipeline Full Of Juice
August 25, 2014
Industry stakeholders are working on a rapid release model for processed varieties. Read More
CitrusCalifornia Citrus Cleared For Chinese Export
August 25, 2014
New agreement addresses concerns over brown rot. Read More
CitrusConsolidated Citrus Eyes Giant Planned Agricultural, Em…
August 25, 2014
South Florida real estate endeavor includes a 5 million-square-foot industrial park, including 200,000 square feet of retail space and 500 hotel rooms. Read More
Pest ControlManaging Lepidoptera In Tomatoes
August 22, 2014
This video provides information on how to best identify and control Lepidoptera in tomatoes. Read More