- Author: Shermain Hardesty
The Food Safety Modernization Act
Comments about these revised rules are due to the FDA by December 15, 2014. If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to review the key revisions summarized on the FDA FSMA website (http://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/fsma/default.htm), as well as my comments below regarding some of the key revisions. You might also want to look at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's excellent review of the FSMA: http://sustainableagriculture.net/fsma/; I reviewed their materials and borrowed some their language for this article.
You can submit your comments to the FDA at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0921-0973 (for the Produce Rule) and http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0920-1553 (for the Preventive Controls Rule).
Revised Definition of Covered Farms
However, the FSMA's $500,000 sales threshold (adjusted for inflation) for a farm to be eligible for modified requirements through a qualified exemption still relates to total farm revenues, rather than just produce sales. This cannot be changed because the text of the FSMA legislation specifically refers to “all food sales” A farm is eligible for modified requirements if it:
- has less than $500,000 in annual gross sales (adjusted for inflation) of all food products (includes commodities, hay, dairy, livestock as well as produce) over a previous three-year period AND
- sells the majority of the food directly to “qualified end-users”--consumers, restaurant and retail food establishment (e.g., a grocery store) that is located in the same state as the farm or not more than 275 miles from the farm.
Complying with the modified requirements means that a farm only needs to:
- Provide the name and complete address of the farm where the produce was grown on either a food packaging label or on a sign at the point of purchase;
- Comply with the “compliance and enforcement requirements” of the Produce Rule; and
- Be subject to the provisions regarding the withdrawal of your status as a partially covered (“qualified exempt”) operation; FDA can revoke your “qualified exempt” status in certain circumstances.
Broadened Definition of a “Farm”
Under the revised FSMA provisions, a farm that packs or holds raw agricultural products grown on another farm under a different ownership no longer has to register as a “food facility”. The original rule would have required a farm that aggregates produce from multiple farms for a CSA program to meet the Preventive Controls requirements. The revised rules will allow the farm to comply only with the Produce Rule. The “farm” may also:
- Pack or hold raw agricultural products;
- Manufacture or process food for on-farm consumption only;
- Dry/dehydrate raw agricultural products, as long as there is no additional processing; and/or label and package raw agricultural products as long as there is no additional processing.
Please be aware that the FSMA's terminology is very nuanced. Chopping or slicing fresh produce for sale – like carrots or apples – is considered to be processing, which means that you operate a “facility.” (Certain harvesting activities like trimming outer leaves of produce, or removing stems or husks, are not considered processing.). Washing is considered part of harvesting when done in the field. But, if it is done during the production of fresh-cut produce, for example, it is considered manufacturing or processing. Labeling and packaging are considered manufacturing activities unless you are labeling or packaging a raw agricultural product and are not doing any additional manufacturing or processing to the product. If there is no additional manufacturing or processing, labeling and packaging are considered farm activities and do not trigger the facility definition.
Revised Water Quality Standard and Testing Are More Flexible
For farms that have to test their water, the FDA is proposing three numerical standards below for testing.
- No detectible E. coli present per 100 ml of water: This standard would apply to water used for an activity during and after harvest, water used to make agricultural teas, and water used in sprout irrigation. The quality of untreated surface water used for these purposes must be tested from each source of the water “with an adequate frequency to provide reasonable assurances that the water meets the required standard”. You must have adequate scientific data or information to support your testing frequency.
- Farms using untreated groundwater for purposes that trigger a testing requirement will now have to test their water supply a maximum of 5 times in the first year (4 per year/growing season plus one test per year) rather than testing on a quarterly basis as originally proposed. Their untreated groundwater used to irrigate in a manner that directly contacts the harvestable portion of the crop will have to meet the following standard: a geometric mean of no more than 126 colony forming units (CFUs) per 100 ml.
- Testing of untreated surface water used for growing produce other than sprouts involving direct contact with the harvestable portion will require the collection of 20 samples over the first 2 years, followed by an annual minimum sampling of 5 per year, rather than monthly or weekly as previously required. The water will have to meet the following standard: a statistical threshold value (STV) of 410 CFUs generic E. coli per 100 ml for a single water sample, and a geometric mean of no more than 126 CFU per 100 ml. If your water testing shows that you exceed these values, you can still use your water, as long as you apply an appropriate time interval between the end of irrigation and harvest as determined by calculating the “microbial die-off”.
Clarification of Provisions on Wild Animals
Manure Application Interval Will Be Studied Further
The FDA had previously proposed a nine-month minimum time interval between the application of untreated soil amendments of animal origin (including raw manure) and harvesting. This requirement conflicted directly with the USDA National Organic Program's standards, which require a 120-day interval between the application of raw manure for crops in contact with the soil and 90 days for crops not in contact with the soil. The FDA now proposed to conduct a risk assessment and extensive research to strengthen scientific support for any future proposal. Additionally, the FDA is proposing to eliminate its previously proposed 45-day minimum application interval for compost.
Significant Compliance Costs Remain for Small-scale farms
The provisions reviewed above all were improvements over the original FSMA Produce Rule. The revised rules reduced the estimated number of farms in the United States covered by the FSMA by 4,708, of which 2,885 are “very small”. However, some of the provisions still impose disproportionately high compliance costs on smaller-scale farms, as indicated below in Table A. Smaller-scale farms typically have very constrained cash flows. The added expenses to comply with the FSMA makes their cash flows even tighter and reduces their already low level of profitability. If a "very small" farm loses over a fifth of its net cash farm income, this could have significant impacts on its sustainability. And these decreases do not include the one-time capital expenses that a farm may have to incur, such as to modify restrooms or handwashing facilities and to build fences!
The percentage decrease in net cash farm income attributable to the costs of complying with the FSMA declines as farm size increases. Clearly, there are economies of scale in complying with the FSMA. The FSMA includes delayed implementation of FSMA compliance for smaller-scale farms. Policymakers should also consider providing subsidies and/or no-interest loans for the capital expenditures smaller-scale farms need to make to comply with the FSMA.
Again, please consider submitting comments to the FDA about the proposed FSMA Produce Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule. You can post your comments using the links at the beginning of this article. You can review the FSMA's key revisions summarized on the FDA's FSMA website (http://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/fsma/default.htm). Also consider reading at least part of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's excellent review of the FSMA.
- Author: Julia Van Soelen Kim
The workshop opened with a warm welcome from Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt (District 2) and Supervisor Shirlee Zane (District 3) and thoughtful facilitation from Joseph McIntyre with Ag Innovations Network. These leaders “built a foundation of trust, care, and urgency for the work, resulting in a productive and energizing day for the audience and presenters alike,” explained Pamela Swan with Sonoma County's Department of Health Services.
“Many farmers weren't aware of the range of options for value-added production that can help them use the abundance of their harvest, diversify their operations, and generate new income for their ag businesses,” stated UC Cooperative Extension Agricultural Ombudsman, Karen Giovannini. “These emerging opportunities support farmers and food entrepreneurs, as well as regional economic development and help to build a more robust local food system,” added UC Cooperative Extension Food Systems Advisor, Julia Van Soelen Kim.
The workshop was offered as part of the “Opportunities in Ag Business” series presented by UC Cooperative Extension and Sonoma County Department of Health Services and was generously sponsored by American Ag Credit. The workshop complemented the work of the Sonoma County Food System Alliance and helped move forward the goals of the Food Action Plan, the countywide vision for a vibrant local food system.
- Author: Penny Leff
The conference will be March 7 - 10, 2015 at the Marriott Mission Valley in San Diego County.
Attracting approximately 500 participants yearly, the California Small Farm Conference is the state's premier gathering of small-scale farmers, farmers' market managers, university researchers, federal and state agriculture agencies, agriculture students, food policy advocates, consumers and others.
The important work of the Local Planning Committee volunteers ensures the success of the California Small Farm Conference. We are looking for dedicated individuals with a passion for agriculture, who work or live in the San Diego area, to join our 2015 Local Planning Committee!
There are still openings for several volunteers to participate in planning by taking leadership roles on conference committees. These "super volunteers" will receive complementary registration and meals at the conference.
We need your input on local contacts for speakers, workshop topics, field tours and the tasting event! The second meeting of the Local Planning Committee will be held on Monday, September 15 at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Click here to RSVP to the September 15 Local Planning Meeting.
Questions? Contact Jennifer Roth, Conference Coordinator, 916-508-8937 or firstname.lastname@example.org/span>
- Author: Penny Leff
A guide for specialty crop promotion and education at California district and county fairs
Almost everyone in California enjoys our county and district fairs, but most people attending California fairs don't know much about local farmers or the crops that are grown in their own region. Many fairs and members of California agricultural communities are trying new ways to connect local farmers with fair attendees.
Specialty crops – fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, flowers, honey, and the products created from them – are a big deal in California. California farmers feed their local communities, provide about half of the fruits and vegetables eaten in the United States, and export their crops and products around the world. Fairs attract thousands of visitors from urban, suburban and even rural communities who have never met a farmer or visited a farm and often do not know what is growing in fields and orchards surrounding their communities. California fairs offer opportunities for the agricultural community to connect with these visitors.
In 2013 and 2014, the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Division of Fairs and Expositions collaborated with the University of California Small Farm Program to organize 20' by 40' interactive, fun and educational exhibits at four different California District Fairs to teach about local farms, crops and farmers' markets and promote fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, flowers and honey to fair-goers.
Project staff created a guide to specialty crop education and promotion at county fairs, based on the experience of the many farmers, educators, fair officials and community groups participating in that project. The guide is funded by a California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, as part of the "Mobile Agriculture Education Exhibit" Project.
The 22 page guide is available here as a downloadable pdf file:
- Author: Jeannette Warnert
Innovation allows livestock producers and rice farmers to solve each other's problems
The California drought has ranchers desperate for inexpensive livestock feed. Air quality protection regulations that limit rice straw burning leave the rice industry with an abundance of typically low-quality straw to unload. Though it has rarely been done, Nader believes special treatment of rice straw will make it a nutritious cattle food. Two problems solved.
Nader will introduce producers to this new way to get through the drought at a meeting from 9 a.m. to 12 noon July 29 at the Veterans Memorial Hall, 525 W. Sycamore St., Willows, Calif.
When rice straw dries, its value as a forage declines dramatically. For 15 years, UC researchers have been trying to figure out why, but the reason for the significant change is not understood at this time.
"At one time, we thought the problem was silica in the straw," Nader said. "We grew silica-free rice. That didn't work. We thought it was the crystallinity of molecules in the straw. We parsed apart the plant, and we still don't know."
Ultimately, it was a rancher who suggested the scientists to put aside their desire to know why quality declines when rice straw dries and look for practical ways to get around it. Nader postponed his retirement to comply.
Normally, rice growers bale the straw two to four days after harvest. Nader and his colleagues instead baled the straw immediately after it exited the grain harvester. They stacked the green straw bales and covered them with a tarp to retain moisture and prevent spontaneous combustion. The result is a product they named "strawlage." One worry is mold. The researchers found that treating the straw with propionic acid prevents fungus growth.
"We haven't figured everything out, but with the drought conditions as serious as they are, we feel the time is right to share our research with growers," Nader said. "We invite producers to come to the meeting to see if this will work for their operations. Several producers who have already fed strawlage to their cattle will speak at the meeting about their experiences."
Nader believes the UC research into using rice straw for livestock feed will be helpful throughout the world.
Asian farmers produce rice straw in great abundance and their livestock would benefit significantly if the farmers worked to maintain the plant's moisture until it reaches cattle feeding troughs.
The July 29 meeting will cover:
- Nutritional advantages of strawlage over rice straw
- The challenges of baling the straw at 50 to 60 percent moisture
- Additives to prevent mold
- How to stake and tarp strawlage
- The costs associated with the practice
- How cows that ate strawlage last year fared
"Our goal is to give producers information that will allow them to make rice strawlage during this fall's harvest," Nader said. "Both cattle and rice producers are encouraged to attend."/span>