Leafy Greens Food Safety Price Jumps

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.

“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.

Economies Of Scale

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, largely 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 Hardesty and Kusunose’s research brief. 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 on 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
Port Of Miami shipyard
Citrus
April 29, 2017
Florida Ag Commissioner Pushes for Probe into Unfair Trade Tactics
With a focus on Mexico, letter sent by Adam Putnam to the U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary stresses need for level playing field. Read More
Stone Fruit
April 29, 2017
Challenging Cherry Disease Keeps Growers, Researchers on Their Toes
With a few years of experience with more is understood about little cherry disease, however, few unknowns remain. Read More
Crop Protection
April 29, 2017
BioSafe Systems Introduces Broad-Spectrum Bactericide Fungicide for Specialty Crops
Alternative to potassium bicarbonate and lime sulfur for tree and vine crops. Read More
a group of ripe strawberries
Citrus
April 28, 2017
EPA Approves New Plant Growth Stimulant
RIO from Arysta LifeScience North America is labeled for use on citrus, vegetables, tree fruit, strawberries, grapes, and nuts. Read More
Fruits
April 28, 2017
Ag Labor: An Old Challenge with New Wrinkles
A new administration brings uncertainty, but change could be coming. Until then, here’s what you can do. Read More
Fruits
April 28, 2017
Don’t Miss the Ripple Effect of Ag Labor
When addressing the topic of ag labor, don’t ignore the ancillary benefits each agriculture job supports. Read More
Fruits
April 28, 2017
Organic Farms Continue To Grow
The 13% increase from 2015 to 2016 marks the highest growth rate in nearly 10 years. Read More
citrus psyllid closeup
Citrus
April 27, 2017
The California Citrus Grower Defines Leadership
While HLB wreaked havoc elsewhere, the California citrus industry came together and formed an action plan. Read More
Nuts
April 27, 2017
Keep an Eye Out for Phytophthora in Your Nut Orchard
After several years of drought conditions, increased water salinity, and a wet winter, your nut orchard may be more susceptible to root rot than you think. Read More
Citrus
April 27, 2017
Trump Creates Agricultural Task Force
Panel to examine issues facing today’s growers including labor, food safety, and regulations. Read More
Citrus
April 26, 2017
Perdue Sworn in as Ag Secretary
USDA launches Twitter account to help promote the industry. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 26, 2017
Debunking the Myth of Calcium and Fruit Quality
Nutrient management and crop quality clearly go hand in hand. But not always in the ways you might think. In Read More
Crop Protection
April 26, 2017
A Guide to Experts Tips on Vegetable Insect Pests
Here's a resource to quickly reach advice on how to handle insect pests in most regions of the U.S. Read More
Berries
April 26, 2017
Tips To Manage Winter-Damaged Blueberries
While low-chill varieties in Southern states may have experienced freeze damage for the second year in a row, giving those plants extra care will help ensure a good start to the 2018 growing season. Read More
Potatoes
April 25, 2017
Frustrated by Overwintering Culls and Volunteers? Blame Potatoes’ Wild Roots
It sometimes seems that culls and volunteers survive even winter conditions, while your desired crop needs coddling. Taking a look at how feral potatoes behave will give you insights that will help you get the results you need for your crop. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
April 29, 2017
Florida Ag Commissioner Pushes for Probe…
With a focus on Mexico, letter sent by Adam Putnam to the U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary stresses need for level playing field. Read More
Stone Fruit
April 29, 2017
Challenging Cherry Disease Keeps Growers…
With a few years of experience with more is understood about little cherry disease, however, few unknowns remain. Read More
Crop Protection
April 29, 2017
BioSafe Systems Introduces Broad-Spectru…
Alternative to potassium bicarbonate and lime sulfur for tree and vine crops. Read More
Citrus
April 28, 2017
EPA Approves New Plant Growth Stimulant
RIO from Arysta LifeScience North America is labeled for use on citrus, vegetables, tree fruit, strawberries, grapes, and nuts. Read More
Fruits
April 28, 2017
Ag Labor: An Old Challenge with New Wrin…
A new administration brings uncertainty, but change could be coming. Until then, here’s what you can do. Read More
Fruits
April 28, 2017
Don’t Miss the Ripple Effect of Ag…
When addressing the topic of ag labor, don’t ignore the ancillary benefits each agriculture job supports. Read More
Fruits
April 28, 2017
Organic Farms Continue To Grow
The 13% increase from 2015 to 2016 marks the highest growth rate in nearly 10 years. Read More
Citrus
April 27, 2017
The California Citrus Grower Defines Lea…
While HLB wreaked havoc elsewhere, the California citrus industry came together and formed an action plan. Read More
Nuts
April 27, 2017
Keep an Eye Out for Phytophthora in Your…
After several years of drought conditions, increased water salinity, and a wet winter, your nut orchard may be more susceptible to root rot than you think. Read More
Citrus
April 27, 2017
Trump Creates Agricultural Task Force
Panel to examine issues facing today’s growers including labor, food safety, and regulations. Read More
Citrus
April 26, 2017
Perdue Sworn in as Ag Secretary
USDA launches Twitter account to help promote the industry. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 26, 2017
Debunking the Myth of Calcium and Fruit …
Nutrient management and crop quality clearly go hand in hand. But not always in the ways you might think. In Read More
Crop Protection
April 26, 2017
A Guide to Experts Tips on Vegetable Ins…
Here's a resource to quickly reach advice on how to handle insect pests in most regions of the U.S. Read More
Berries
April 26, 2017
Tips To Manage Winter-Damaged Blueberrie…
While low-chill varieties in Southern states may have experienced freeze damage for the second year in a row, giving those plants extra care will help ensure a good start to the 2018 growing season. Read More
Potatoes
April 25, 2017
Frustrated by Overwintering Culls and Vo…
It sometimes seems that culls and volunteers survive even winter conditions, while your desired crop needs coddling. Taking a look at how feral potatoes behave will give you insights that will help you get the results you need for your crop. Read More
Pest Control
April 25, 2017
How to Manage Three Key Potato Pests
Learn identification and control strategies to protect your crop. Read More
Grapes
April 25, 2017
Examining the Effectiveness of Biologica…
Growing conditions in the East are breeding grounds for pathogens, and coupled with highly susceptible Vitis vinifera cultivars proves to make sustainable grape growing practices a challenge. Read More
Citrus
April 24, 2017
Who Will Be Florida’s next Woman of the …
Nomination period now open for longstanding recognition from FDACS. Read More