Digging Through The Details

In preparation for this issue, our editorial team dug into the meaning of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As with any legislation that passes Congress and is signed by the President, it is only the beginning. Before the law will have legs to stand on, rulemaking must take place. This is where we often hear the saying the “devil’s in the details.” The broad language of legislation can be twisted for good or bad in the rulemaking process. While this is a process that has yet to happen, a number of items became clear to me in gathering information for this special issue.

Food Safety Is Everyone’s Responsibility. There’s been a lot of debate about small growers being exempted from the FSMA. While some smaller growers cheered the exemption given under the Tester Amendment, it might not be the panacea they first thought. There are several stipulations to the rule that will make some small growers accountable to the FSMA. Growers cannot sell through distributors and be exempt and sales must be within a 275-mile radius. If FDA suspects a small farm is the source of a problem, the exemption will be withdrawn. And, the list goes on.

Some people say this exemption could even be viewed as a negative stigma by buyers. The very fact the grower is exempt from food safety rules might be interpreted that his or her produce could be suspect.

Up Front Cooperation From FDA. Growers — large and small — are unified in the fact there is plenty of government regulation in today’s environment. So, here we go with another round of rules under the FSMA. That has to give one pause, but I am hearing optimism from some quarters FDA has learned hard lessons from past foodborne illness outbreaks. FDA has been much more proactive in outreach to growers and industry in developing new rules. Lest we forget, the agency already has been developing a produce food safety rule over the past couple of years that would have gone into place, FSMA or not. In this process, I am told FDA officials have employed a much more collaborative spirit in rulemaking. Let’s hope that this will continue as the FSMA is developed.

We Must Harmonize. You can find the biggest area of agreement from the grower community in the desire to harmonize food safety audits. Many growers face multiple audits to satisfy buyers. These inspections are duplicative and very expensive to growers. For years, growers have pushed for a single standard for food safety that takes into account particular concerns for different crops. If constructed well, the FSMA could be a stepping stone in this direction. It is long overdue.

How Do We Pay For It? With a $14 trillion federal deficit hanging over heads, the American public elected budget hawks and sent them to Washington, DC in November. The FSMA comes with an estimated $1.4 billion price tag over five years. While that seems like small potatoes compared to $14 trillion, there is simply no money to pay for this program without deficit spending unless big cuts are made somewhere else. This law demands more inspectors and inspections, both for domestic produce and imported, to give it real teeth. The FSMA gives no guidance on how to pay for these new inspectors. It is easy to sign a law, but I guess the devil’s in the details.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Digging Through The Details

  1. If you want to depend solely on corporate farms for your foods, then this law should be enforced at all levels. But if you want to be able to go to your local farmer’s market and buy ripe tomatoes or strawberries or fresh lettuce from the person that picked it just yesterday, you might want to let the smaller guys off the hook on this one.

    The people who sell to the end consumer already have lots of built-in controls that corporate farms don’t have. To create an unfair competition between small and large farms will create more of a problem not solve it. I personally believe that if they are selling within a “local” area that should still be considered exempt. As for distributers, that may need quantifying. I sell a few hundred # worth of pickling cukes to a local produce stand – hardly worth regulating, but if my produce were being shipped to a major market or sold in large quantities to restaurants, that might need consideration.

    One of the sad statistics in farming is that there have been less “new” farmers, and the age of the average farmer has increased every year for some time now. The price of land and farming equipment makes “breaking into” farming an almost impossible feat. To regulate smaller farms to death only exacerbates this problem, and feeds the corporate farm atmoshpere.

  2. If you want to depend solely on corporate farms for your foods, then this law should be enforced at all levels. But if you want to be able to go to your local farmer’s market and buy ripe tomatoes or strawberries or fresh lettuce from the person that picked it just yesterday, you might want to let the smaller guys off the hook on this one.

    The people who sell to the end consumer already have lots of built-in controls that corporate farms don’t have. To create an unfair competition between small and large farms will create more of a problem not solve it. I personally believe that if they are selling within a “local” area that should still be considered exempt. As for distributers, that may need quantifying. I sell a few hundred # worth of pickling cukes to a local produce stand – hardly worth regulating, but if my produce were being shipped to a major market or sold in large quantities to restaurants, that might need consideration.

    One of the sad statistics in farming is that there have been less “new” farmers, and the age of the average farmer has increased every year for some time now. The price of land and farming equipment makes “breaking into” farming an almost impossible feat. To regulate smaller farms to death only exacerbates this problem, and feeds the corporate farm atmoshpere.

Featured Stories
Photo of New Guinea flatworm found near Coral Gables, FL
CitrusSouth Florida’s Newest Pest Has Significant Ooze Factor
July 2, 2015
The infamous New Guinea flatworm, one of the ‘world's worst invasive alien species,’ might have found a new home. Read More
Farm ManagementPMA Advocates For Improvements To Proposed FSMA Mandatory Food Recall Guidance
July 2, 2015
This week the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) submitted comments on behalf of its membership to FDA regarding the proposed Mandatory Read More
VegetablesUnited Fresh Leadership Program’s Class 20 Donates 28 Salad Bars To Schools
July 2, 2015
Over the past year, the twelve members of United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program’s Class 20 raised funds to support Read More
CitrusFlorida’s Young Farmers Working To Bridge Generation Gap
July 2, 2015
Leadership conference to give GenNext Growers tools to become better agvocates. Read More
ProductionUse Broccoli Rotations To Reduce Disease And Minimize Leaching
July 1, 2015
Crop rotations are a key production practice utilized by every grower. You recognize the importance of rotations to break insect Read More
CitrusIndustry Stakeholders Rip Report Linking Citrus Consumption With Skin Cancer
July 1, 2015
Associations react swiftly; call out flaws in study released by the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Read More
Cucurbits11 Pumpkin And Squash Varieties
July 1, 2015
This month’s variety specs feature focuses on pumpkin and squash varieties. Features highlighted include great disease resistance packages, excellent yield potential, Read More
VegetablesInterview With Hazera Global Onion Product Manager
July 1, 2015
Onion is one of the most produced vegetable crops in the world. A lot of expertise is required to develop Read More
EquipmentHarvest Trends: More Mechanization Needed For Vegetable Growers
July 1, 2015
As the labor supply declines, industry experts and growers say investing in the latest harvesting technology will be necessary. Read More
healthy piece of citrus
Citrus Achievement AwardNeglected Research, Future Growers Top Of Mind For 2015 Citrus Achievement Award Winner
July 1, 2015
Orie Lee advises young up-and-comers to supplement production knowledge with business acumen; calls for more focus on blight. Read More
The Latest
Photo of New Guinea flatworm found near Coral Gables, FL
CitrusSouth Florida’s Newest Pest Has Significant Ooze Factor
July 2, 2015
The infamous New Guinea flatworm, one of the ‘world's worst invasive alien species,’ might have found a new home. Read More
Farm ManagementPMA Advocates For Improvements To Proposed FSMA Mandato…
July 2, 2015
This week the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) submitted comments on behalf of its membership to FDA regarding the proposed Mandatory Read More
VegetablesUnited Fresh Leadership Program’s Class 20 Donates 28 S…
July 2, 2015
Over the past year, the twelve members of United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program’s Class 20 raised funds to support Read More
CitrusFlorida’s Young Farmers Working To Bridge Generation Ga…
July 2, 2015
Leadership conference to give GenNext Growers tools to become better agvocates. Read More
ProductionUse Broccoli Rotations To Reduce Disease And Minimize L…
July 1, 2015
Crop rotations are a key production practice utilized by every grower. You recognize the importance of rotations to break insect Read More
CitrusIndustry Stakeholders Rip Report Linking Citrus Consump…
July 1, 2015
Associations react swiftly; call out flaws in study released by the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Read More
Cucurbits11 Pumpkin And Squash Varieties
July 1, 2015
This month’s variety specs feature focuses on pumpkin and squash varieties. Features highlighted include great disease resistance packages, excellent yield potential, Read More
VegetablesInterview With Hazera Global Onion Product Manager
July 1, 2015
Onion is one of the most produced vegetable crops in the world. A lot of expertise is required to develop Read More
EquipmentHarvest Trends: More Mechanization Needed For Vegetable…
July 1, 2015
As the labor supply declines, industry experts and growers say investing in the latest harvesting technology will be necessary. Read More
healthy piece of citrus
Citrus Achievement AwardNeglected Research, Future Growers Top Of Mind For 2015…
July 1, 2015
Orie Lee advises young up-and-comers to supplement production knowledge with business acumen; calls for more focus on blight. Read More
Business PlanningTake Climate Change — Please [Opinion]
June 30, 2015
It’s a difficult issue because people tend to think of it in terms of something tangible — like the weather. Read More
NutsWalnut Nitrogen Budgeting Critical
June 30, 2015
Applying the right amount of N is not easy because walnuts take a lot, but these days you don’t want to apply too much. Read More
FruitsHighlights From The Ohio Produce Growers And Marketers …
June 30, 2015
American Vegetable Grower magazine made its way to the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association (OPGMA) Summer Tour & Field Read More
Insect ControlAlabama Insect Scouting Report Indicates Armyworm Numbe…
June 30, 2015
Report discusses caterpillars, sucking pests, and cowpea curculio activity and management. Read More
Nutrient ManagementResearchers Say Cover Crops May Help Save Soil In Flood…
June 30, 2015
According to experts, planting cover crops may help preserve healthy soil in fields in fields left empty this year thanks to flooding. Read More
TomatoesGSPP Accreditation Enables Sakata Seed America To Offer…
June 30, 2015
The seed company is now authorized to store, treat, process, package, and distribute GSPP-certified tomato seed for the NAFTA market. Read More
MarketingThe Power Of Local Food [Opinion]
June 30, 2015
Summer is now in full swing and we have entered what I like to call “the season of farmers markets.” Read More
PotatoesInnovative Technology Is Necessary For Potato Growers T…
June 30, 2015
Historically, there has often been opposition or fear of new agricultural technologies and today is no different, but it is critical that growers have access to technologies that meet consumer demand while using less land and conserving soil, water, and energy. Read More