January 15, 2016
A brand new handbook by NSAC member organization Wild Farm Alliance (WFA) explains how farmers can implement conservation activities while also complying with new food safety regulations.
The guidebook, entitled Co-Managing Farm Stewardship with Food Safety GAPs and Conservation Practices, A Grower and Conservationist’s Guidebook, addresses the misconception that conservation efforts, such as installing buffers or wildlife habitat, result in reduced food safety. Co-management refers to farm system approaches that respond to site-specific conditions. Co-management approaches integrate the cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that promote ecological balance and public health by conserving biodiversity and natural resources, while also reducing pathogen hazards associated with food production.
This type of approach has become especially useful for farmers following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) finalizing of new rules for produce farms under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The final rule explicitly states that nothing in the new rules requires covered farms to exclude wildlife from outdoor growing areas, or to destroy wildlife habitat–a strong statement of support from the FDA for farmers using co-management techniques and a big win for the sustainable agriculture community. Nonetheless, concern that efforts to conserve natural resources may make food safety compliance more difficult remains among some producers.
WFA’s 2016 conservation handbook is well timed to dismiss any lingering doubts following the FDA’s ruling. The handbook addresses both biotic and abiotic factors for pathogen pathways on the farm; including those stemming from humans, wildlife, domestic animals, soil, water, and air. In an effort to minimize food safety risk on farms and in watersheds, the guidebook gives detailed instructions for and advice on conservation practices associated with co-management, and also lists buffer and barrier options that can intercept and reduce pathogen presence.
For more information on co-management, readers can refer to handbook author Jo Ann Baumgartner’s NSAC guest blog from August 2015, where she comments on a study on the co-management of fresh produce for nature conservation and food safety.
WFA provides additional information on the effects of the FSMA Produce Rule on farms and surrounding landscapes, specifically regarding wildlife, biodiversity, agricultural water, and biological soil amendments, on their website.
More information on FDA’s new food safety rule can be found in NSAC’s blog post, Understanding FDA’s New FSMA Rule for Produce Farms.