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The University of Maryland, University of Maryland Extension, and Maryland Department of Agriculture will host two Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Alliance Grower Trainings this fall. The first is scheduled for Monday, November 27 at the Cecil County Extension office in Elkton (register here), and the second is scheduled for Thursday, November 30 at the Charles Soil Conservation District Office in Waldorf (register here). The cost of the trainings is $25, which covers training materials, lunch and snacks, and training certificates.
I have posted about this topic in the past, but given how many growers remain confused about the FSMA, let’s dive into who needs to attend the upcoming November FSMA trainings.
One of the confusing things about the FSMA is that the law itself became effective in 2011 but the implementing Rules of the law have various effective dates. The FSMA Rules cover many topics including, but not limited to, produce safety, processing of human and animal food, sanitary transportation of human and animal food and foreign supplier verification programs for importers of food for humans and animals. The November trainings are solely focused on the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.
Farmers required to be certified in the FSMA Produce Safety Rule are those who grow, harvest, pack and hold produce covered by the FSMA, unless they fall into one of the following categories:
1. The produce grown by the farm is rarely consumed raw such as food grains or produce such as asparagus; black beans, great Northern beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, and pinto beans; garden beets (roots and tops) and sugar beets; cashews; sour cherries; chickpeas; cocoa beans; coffee beans; collards; sweet corn; cranberries; dates; dill (seeds and weed); eggplants; figs; horseradish; hazelnuts; lentils; okra; peanuts; pecans; peppermint; potatoes; pumpkins; winter squash; sweet potatoes; and water chestnuts.
2. The produce grown by the farm will be commercially processed in a manner that kills pathogens (for example: canned tomatoes).
3. The average annual produce sales of the farm over the last 3 years are less than $25,000 (adjusted for inflation the current number is $26,632).
Further, if a farm meets the following criteria they are eligible for a qualified exemption to the Produce Safety Rule:
The average annual food sales (produce and all other crops) of the farm over the last 3 years are less than $500,000 (adjusted for inflation $532,645) and more than 50% of those food sales are to qualified end users such as restaurants, retail food establishments (located in your state or within a 275-mile radius of the farm) and to consumers through direct marketing (farmers markets, CSA, internet sales, etc.).
A farm with the qualified exemption must still meet certain modified requirements, including disclosing the name and the complete business address of the farm where the produce was grown either on the label of the produce or at the point of purchase. These farms are also required to establish and keep certain documentation.
If you are still confused about applicability, check out this past post featuring a flowchart for the FSMA Produce Safety Rule and Preventive Controls Rule created by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
When farms subject to the Produce Safety Rule must come into compliance depends on the size of the farm:
Farms with more than $500,000 in average annual produce sales during the previous three year period must be in compliance by January 2018.
Farms with more than $250,000 but no more than $500,000 in average annual produce sales during the previous three year period must be in compliance by January 2019.
Farms with more than $25,000 but no more than $250,000 in average annual produce sales during the previous three year period must be in compliance by January 2020.
The Produce Safety Rule requires at least one supervisor from the farm to complete a Produce Safety Rule grower training like the ones being offered this November.
Even if you are not legally mandated to attend a FSMA training course, given the importance of food safety, it is still advisable for growers to attend either a FSMA course or a Good Agricultural or Handling Practices course this winter. Food Safety training course dates and locations will be provided on the ALEI website. For more information on the FSMA trainings, please contact Justine Beaulieu firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-405-7543.