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

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

The Latest

CitrusHarness The Marketing Power Of Video
September 1, 2014
Multimedia platform is an effective and inexpensive marketing tool for you to attract new customers and keep existing ones loyal to your brand. Read More
Citrus Achievement AwardDespite Industry Challenges, Florida Citrus Leader Has …
September 1, 2014
2014 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Mike Sparks feels confident in crop sector's ability to regain strength. Read More
Florida Ag ExpoFood Safety Modernization Act Is On The Plate
September 1, 2014
Florida Ag Expo agenda to serve up important features of looming regulations. Read More
CEU SeriesCEU Series: Put Weeds Out To Pasture
September 1, 2014
No matter where they are, plants out of place can be problematic. Read More
TomatoesProduction Reaches An All-Time High For Processing Toma…
August 29, 2014
A record high is predicted for the 2014 processing tomato crop. Read More
CitrusFlorida Department Of Citrus Knocks NPR Piece Over Juic…
August 28, 2014
Agency goes to bat for the industry regarding statement slighting OJ's health benefits. Read More
Disease ControlLate Blight Update Reveals Heightened Activity
August 28, 2014
While several states in the Northeast have confirmed the presence of late blight, the disease has not been reported in North Dakota or Minnesota. Read More
CitrusFlorida Energy Firm Charged Up About Citrus Biomass Pot…
August 28, 2014
Machine called a game-changer when it comes to a cost-effective, efficient way for tree removal and re-purposing. Read More
EquipmentNew Tractors Improve Maneuverability And Operator Contr…
August 28, 2014
The Magnum Rowtrac tractors from Case IH meet growers’ cropping needs through a wide variety of row spacing and belt options.   Read More
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