By Eric Hansen, NYFC Policy Analyst
This is what we have all been waiting for, at least those of us with a stake in farm policy. On November 13 , the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the final version of Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, commonly known as the Produce Rule. This is the last new regulation we have been tracking under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) and our partners have been working on these rules for the past few years, and together our coalition provided FDA with a lot of feedback about how the rules could be effective without creating an unreasonable burden for farmers. You can check out some of our past work here.
The Produce Rule pertains to farms and covers the use of manure and compost; water quality; farmworker hygiene; and other potential causes of food-borne illness. NYFC has been watching this rule very careful, since it will be the primary regulation for food safety on farms. We raised serious concerns with the FDA when this rule was proposed two years ago, and we saw significant improvement in the draft released last year. The final rule closely mirrors the draft.
Our friends at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition have the full rundown here, but we thought it would be helpful to summarize the high points of what this means for your farm:
When do theses regulations take effect?
The earliest deadlines for compliance begin in two years, starting January 2018. For farms that qualify as “small businesses,” which gross no more than $500,000 in produce sales annually (based on a rolling three-year average), compliance begins in January 2019. And for farms that qualify as “very small businesses,” which gross no more than $250,000 in produce sales annually (based on a rolling three-year average), compliance begins in January 2020.
How can I prepare?
Since the rules are so new, there is not a lot of guidance on how farms should ensure they meet the requirements. However, in the next year, the FDA and others will be helping farms sort out these requirements. Keep an eye out for more information on guidance and training next year. In addition, the FDA is asking for specific questions and recommendations for implementing the rule. You can submit those here.
There is one step you can take now.
If you think you will qualify as a small or very small business (grossing less than $500,000 or $250,000 respectively), make sure you are keeping records that reflect that. The FDA is going to want you to demonstrate that your farm meets these thresholds as far back as 2016 once compliance begins. The FDA will release specific guidance on what these records should look like, but until then, it’s a good idea to make sure you save any records you have.