Mixing Reason With Reality

As part of the celebration for this magazine’s 100th anniversary last December, we asked some of our columnists and advisory board members to make predictions on where the vegetable industry will be 50 years from now. One that caught my eye was from AVG’s “In The Greenhouse” columnist, Rick Snyder, who noted, “The magazine will be 90% concerned with greenhouse vegetables, but there will be one or two articles each year covering the old school methods of using soil and exposing crops to the elements outside.”

While Snyder’s comments may have been somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the more extreme today’s food safety regulatory environment gets, the more his comments could become reality.

In the past couple of months, we’ve witnessed a growing debate over how strict food safety regulations can and should become, and to a greater extent, how growers who are diverse in geography, size, and market can compete in the face of regional or crop-specific guidelines. Just recently, we’ve heard from growers in the West, wondering why they must follow different standards than growers across the country.

Points To Ponder

If there’s one thing that is clear in the food safety discussion, it’s that nothing is clear. A lot of gray areas still need to be addressed, especially when considering the needs of the entire vegetable industry. Here’s just a sampling of the questions that need to be asked, even if they don’t have clear answers at this point:

• How can we develop reasonable food safety policies that all growers can meet? While the only current mandatory standards apply to growers of leafy greens, produce buyers (as well as consumers) have specific demands of their own, such as third-party audits and the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices.

• If a set of national standards were developed, who would finance grower compliance? The costs of proper enforcement would undoubtedly be high, both for small and large growers. How can this enforcement take place without putting producers at risk?

• Can you really prevent every form of contamination of your crop? This alludes to Snyder’s comment; unless you’re growing everything in a protective bubble, it’s impossible to keep birds from flying overhead.

Our Position

Despite these and other lingering concerns, we at American Vegetable Grower know that food safety needs to remain at the top of the list of grower priorities, both on an individual and collective basis. As a voice for the industry, we offer the following take-home messages.

1. Any further regulations that develop from today’s food safety problems must be realistic. While the standards for raising vegetables are certainly changing for everyone (for example, the days of family pets wandering the field may be coming to an end), a sense of reason must prevail.

2. Growers should be proactive in communicating information about their food safety programs, whether they’re dealing with retail buyers, or directly with the public.

3. Above all else, growers should be mindful of what they are doing at all times. As we stated in the February issue of AVG, it only takes one food safety-related incident to affect your entire business. If there’s a news crew visiting your farm for a feel-good story and they happen to notice something out of the ordinary in your field, you can bet the cameras will quickly shift away from you. Suddenly you’ll have a new story on your hands — one you didn’t want.

If you choose to stick your head in the sand about food safety, it’s your decision. But there’s a risk in doing so, a risk that could do unending damage to your business and our industry.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories

Farm ManagementIndustry Organizations Sound Off On President’s Immigration Plan
November 21, 2014
Agriculture is not given the attention it so sorely deserves when it comes to the immigration debate. Read More
Insect ControlDon’t Turn Your Back On Striped Blister Beetles
November 21, 2014
Learn how to ID, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable pest. Read More
CitrusRamped-Up Predatory Mite Production To Benefit Growers
November 21, 2014
Biologics company Beneficial Insectary now rearing two species in its California facility. Read More
NutsArizona Pistachio And Pecan Growers Benefiting From High Prices
November 21, 2014
Pecan production alone is expected to double in the next 10 years. Read More
Apples & PearsOn The Road With The International Fruit Tree Association Study Tour To Italy Part 2 [Slideshow]
November 21, 2014
Attention to detail is evident in the production of high quality feathered apple trees at GRIBA’s nursery. Read More
Fruits2014 California Winegrape Harvest: Outstanding
November 21, 2014
It’s the earliest crop of the decade, but still a third in a string of great vintages. Read More
FruitsFetzer Vineyards Pioneers Zero Waste
November 21, 2014
Company achieves top sustainability certification by diverting 98% of its waste from the landfill. Read More
VegetablesFormer Harris Seeds Co. CEO, Per Jensen, Passes At 85
November 21, 2014
A passion for plants defined longtime industry influencer. Read More
GrapesPerfect Storm Hurts New York Concord Grape Growers
November 21, 2014
More than 10,000 tons of juice grapes are abandoned because of too much production and no market. Read More
FruitsClassic Turkey Day Dinner Costing Consumers More This Year
November 20, 2014
Despite increase, a family of 10 can still get stuffed for less than $50. Read More

The Latest

Farm ManagementIndustry Organizations Sound Off On President’s Immig…
November 21, 2014
Agriculture is not given the attention it so sorely deserves when it comes to the immigration debate. Read More
Insect ControlDon’t Turn Your Back On Striped Blister Beetles
November 21, 2014
Learn how to ID, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable pest. Read More
CitrusRamped-Up Predatory Mite Production To Benefit Growers
November 21, 2014
Biologics company Beneficial Insectary now rearing two species in its California facility. Read More
NutsArizona Pistachio And Pecan Growers Benefiting From Hig…
November 21, 2014
Pecan production alone is expected to double in the next 10 years. Read More
Apples & PearsOn The Road With The International Fruit Tree Associati…
November 21, 2014
Attention to detail is evident in the production of high quality feathered apple trees at GRIBA’s nursery. Read More
Fruits2014 California Winegrape Harvest: Outstanding
November 21, 2014
It’s the earliest crop of the decade, but still a third in a string of great vintages. Read More
FruitsFetzer Vineyards Pioneers Zero Waste
November 21, 2014
Company achieves top sustainability certification by diverting 98% of its waste from the landfill. Read More
VegetablesFormer Harris Seeds Co. CEO, Per Jensen, Passes At 85
November 21, 2014
A passion for plants defined longtime industry influencer. Read More
GrapesPerfect Storm Hurts New York Concord Grape Growers
November 21, 2014
More than 10,000 tons of juice grapes are abandoned because of too much production and no market. Read More
FruitsClassic Turkey Day Dinner Costing Consumers More This Y…
November 20, 2014
Despite increase, a family of 10 can still get stuffed for less than $50. Read More
Insect ControlFlorida Vegetable Growers Gain Access To New Nematicide
November 20, 2014
Methyl bromide alternative Nimitz approved for use on tomatoes, peppers, okra, eggplant, cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, and squash. Read More
EquipmentHighlights From EIMA International In Italy [Slideshow]
November 19, 2014
The 2014 edition of the International Agricultural and Gardening Machinery Exhibition (EIMA) boasted a record number of attendees from 124 countries. Read More
Farm ManagementVegetableGrowerConnect Delivers Results For Growers And…
November 19, 2014
Suppliers and growers got down to business in San Diego discussing current needs, solutions, and ways to increase efficiencies on the farm. Browse this slideshow for VegetableGrowerConnect highlights. Read More
FruitsFixing Farm Labor Woes Worth The Extra Effort [Opinion]
November 19, 2014
40th annual Ag Labor Relations Forum encourages outreach and action. Read More
BerriesPackaging Company’s Campaign To Benefit Future Organi…
November 19, 2014
Sambrailo Packaging of Watsonville, CA, has partnered with California Certified Organic Farmers and will donate a portion of the sales of clamshells made from plastic bottles. Read More
Apples & PearsOn The Road With The International Fruit Tree Associati…
November 19, 2014
Win Cowgill of Rutgers University details a trip through the one of the most concentrated fruit growing areas in the world, the South Tyrol region of Italy. Read More
IrrigationAlmond Grower Honored For Water Efficiency
November 18, 2014
Ongoing drought highlights the efforts of third-generation Madera County grower Tom Rogers. Read More
CitrusWomen’s Impact On Agriculture Impressive [Opinion…
November 18, 2014
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the long-term sustainability of farming depends on our youth. Read More