- Author: Penny Leff
Welcome to the newest edition of Small Farm News, the newsletter of the UC Small Farm Program. We no longer publish a traditional print newsletter, but have transitioned to this online-only format. We hope you find this new edition interesting, useful - and easy to share. You can read it all now or bookmark Vol. 1 2013 for later, or print a pdf version of the newsletter.
In this issue:
- California Small Farm conference 2013There is still time to register for the California Small Farm Conference, being held on March 10-12, 2013. Join 500 farmers and representatives from the University of California, USDA agencies, farmers markets organizations and other nonprofits, as they gather at the Fresno Convention Center. Read more...
- Homemade Food Act/AB 1616California's Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) became effective on January 1, 2013. The bill allows individuals—including small-scale farmers--to market certain non-potentially hazardous foods made in private-home kitchens referred to as “cottage food operations” (CFOs), subject to several conditions--as described below. Read more...
- Microloan Program for Small-scale and Family Farm Operations Launched by USDA
USDA launched the new year by announcing an exciting new program that it has developed: microloans designed to help small and family farm operations, and socially disadvantaged farmers obtain loans under $35,000. The microloan program also has a more simplified application process in comparison to traditional farm loans. Read more...
- Food Safety Modernization Act
How can I begin to describe the draft regulations for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)? On January 4, 2013, FDA came out with two sets of proposed rules, stating that comments from the public are due by May 16, 2013. One set of proposed rules relates to processed foods and the other one to produce. There are three additional sets of proposed rules yet to come... Read more...
- CDFA Food Safety Cost Reimbursement
Small-scale growers can get reimbursed for part of their food safety audit, testing, or training expenses. California’s Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has a reimbursement program to assist specialty crop producers with the cost of first time food safety audits, informational assessments, water and/or soil testing, and training regarding Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). Read more...
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Activities on Sunday include five Field Courses and the Tasting Reception. On Monday and Tuesday, there will be 25 workshops organized across five themes—Farmers Markets, Production, Farm Management, Marketing and Emerging Issues, along with keynote speakers at the plenary sessions.
For more information, check out: http://www.californiafarmconference.com//span>
A two-tier cottage food operator registration and permitting system has been established to be enforced by local county or city environmental health agencies:
1) “Class A” cottage food operators are those operations that sell CFO prepared foods directly to the public (at the home where the cottage food operation is located or at a community event, such as a farmers market); and
2) “Class B” cottage food operators are those operations that sell CFO prepared foods either indirectly through restaurants and stores or both directly to the public as well as indirectly to the public via sale to retail food facilities such as restaurants and markets.
All individuals involved with the CFOs are required to complete a food processor training course within three months of registering. Information about this training is available at:
More information about the qualified foods and the requirements to become a CFO, along with an excellent set of Frequently Asked Questions, are available at the CDPH website, http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/Pages/fdbCottageFood.aspx. You may find some surprises on this page, including the following restrictions:
- Delivery -- CFOs are not allowed to mail or ship their shelf-stable products directly to their customers (FAQ #9).
- Direct Sales Restrictions -- Direct sales of cottage foods are limited to their county of origin (where the farmer lives, in the case of farmers who are also CFOs—FAQ #7.)
- Planning and Zoning Restrictions--All CFOs need to obtain approval from their local city or county planning department (FAQ #12).
CCDEH (California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health) is considering proposing a clean-up bill to remedy these unexpected restrictions. If you share these concerns or have others related to CFOs, please email me (email@example.com) so that I can share your input during the next AB1616 Stakeholders Advisory Group conference call./span>
USDA launched the new year by announcing an exciting new program that it has developed: microloans designed to help small and family farm operations, and socially disadvantaged farmers obtain loans under $35,000. The microloan program also has a more simplified application process in comparison to traditional farm loans.
Producers can apply for a maximum of $35,000 to pay for start-up expenses such as season-extending hoop houses, tools, irrigation systems, delivery vehicles, as well as operating costs such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rental, marketing, and distribution expenses. The current interest rate is 1.25%. Repayment terms vary, but do not exceed seven years. Annual operating loans need to be repaid within 12 months, or when the crops produced are sold.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) recognizes that some microloan applicants will not have traditional farm experience. FSA will consider an applicant’s small business experience, as well as any self-guided farm apprenticeship, as possibly fulfilling the farm management experience requirement. More details about the Microloan program are included in the Fact Sheet. Producers interested in applying for a microloan may contact their local Farm Service Agency office./span>
How can I begin to describe the draft regulations for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)?
On January 4, 2013, FDA came out with two sets of proposed rules, stating that comments from the public are due by May 16, 2013. One set of proposed rules relates to processed foods and the other one to produce. There are three additional sets of proposed rules yet to come; they are related to: imported produce and other foods; accreditation of third-party auditors in other countries; and preventive controls at animal food facilities that are similar to those proposed for human foods. For now, I am limiting my commentary to the produce-related rules.
This proposal applies to the produce industry (including farmers) and is called the Standards for Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption Proposed Rule (144 pages); it focuses on areas of risk for fruit and vegetable production, including agricultural water; biological soil amendments; health and hygiene; domesticated and wild animals; and equipment, tools and buildings.
The FDA estimated that 1.75 million cases of foodborne illness would be prevented annually by this regulation, with an annual benefit of $1.04 billion. They estimated that compliance with the proposed rule will cost domestic farms $459.6 million. The estimated average annual cost for very small farms (less than $250,000 in annual revenues) is $4,697, $12,972 for small farms (between $250,000 and $500,000 in annual revenues) and $30,566 for large farms.
Reading through the proposed rules is not a simple process. I suggest starting with the published summary, which is available at:
Small farms would be eligible for the qualified exemption; they must meet all of the following conditions during the 3-year period preceding the applicable calendar year:
1. Their average annual revenues were less than $500,000 (adjusted for inflation);
2. Their average annual revenues from products sold directly to consumers, stores and restaurants exceeded the average annual revenues of the farm’s sales to all other buyers;
3. Their direct market sales occurred in the same state as the farm, or within 275 miles of the farm (whichever is greater); and
4. The name and complete business address of the farm where the produce was grown are conspicuously displayed at the point of purchase, if the produce is not otherwise labeled.
I will be back with more information regarding the FSMA’s proposed rule for produce by the end of February.
Shermain Hardesty, firstname.lastname@example.org