July 24, 2017
Now that the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new food safety rules have been finalized and the compliance clocks have begun ticking, one of most common questions we hear at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is: Who is going to be enforcing these new rules on farms, and how? While many of the details surrounding how the rules will be implemented remain uncertain, we do know that FDA intends that – wherever possible – that state agencies serve as the primary enforcers of the new Produce Safety Rule on covered farms.
States had the option to apply for a cooperative agreement focused solely on investing in infrastructure, education, technical assistance, and the development of a “farm inventory” (called “Competition A”), or to apply for an agreement that also included developing an inspection, compliance, and enforcement program (“Competition A/B”). Not all states submitted proposals to develop their own Produce Rule programs; of the states that did submit proposals, some were from departments of agriculture, while others were from health departments. Click here to see which states received funding.
Forty-three states now have cooperative agreements with FDA, and the vast majority of those states received funding under Competition A/B. Three states (OR, IA, and NH) elected to pursue funding for only the Competition A components. Seven states (ND, SD, WY, IL, KY, MS, and HI) have not received funding through these cooperative agreements. For those states, and the three Competition A only states, FDA will presumably be the primary enforcer.
The first compliance date for the largest covered farms (those with $500,000+ in annual produce sales) is approaching in 2018. Although the compliance date is looming, however, relatively little information has been made available to the industry regarding how each state will proceed. State activities that require clarification include but are not limited to: setting up farm “inventories” (including what information is to be collected from farms); what information will be shared with FDA, and how that information will be protected from disclosure; how states will ensure th at inspection resources are allocated based on risk; and how state plans will address qualified exempt and exempt farms.
NSAC advocates for a participatory and transparent approach to Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) implementation that provides ample opportunity for stakeholders to understand and provide input on implementations strategies before they are implemented. We hope that with this additional support, the state agencies that received awards will engage with state-level stakeholders – particularly farm organizations – in the development of their implementation plans.