COLUMBUS — Produce farmers who are concerned about complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act’s agricultural water requirements can breathe a temporary sigh of relief, according to the Ohio Farm Bureau.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued a proposed rule that, if finalized, would extend the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements by an additional two to four years (for produce other than sprouts).
The proposed extension will give the agency time to take another look at the water standards to ensure that they are feasible for farmers in all regions of the country.
The need for an extension was evident when FDA received feedback that some of the requirements were too complex to understand and implement. Ohio Farm Bureau has submitted comments to FDA on this issue twice before, each time identifying particular concerns with the water testing requirements and the practicality of implementing the requirements on farms throughout the state.
“There were a lot of questions about testing methods,” said Leah Curtis, OFBF policy counsel. “There were questions about what the right tests were and how many labs in each state were even available to conduct the tests needed to gauge whether or not the requirements were being met.”
With those questions still in need of answers, FDA decided to push the deadline back.
“It gives everyone more time to come into compliance,” Curtis said.
The purpose of the agricultural water standards is to set the criteria for microbial water quality and test the water source for the presence of generic E.coli and other pathogens.
In other FDA news about FSMA:
Eight additional testing methods are listed from the EPA and other public health entities that FDA has determined are equivalent to the method referenced in the Produce Safety Rule. FDA plans to add more testing methods as they are identified.
Farms with more than $500,000 in sales are expected to meet all produce safety requirements, except those related to agricultural water, by the original Jan. 26, 2018 compliance date. However, farm inspections will not begin until 2019.
Proposed agricultural water requirements compliance dates are:
Farm Sales (average annual produce sales during the previous three year period and proposed compliance date (not including sprouts)
More than $500,000 – Jan. 26, 2022
More than $250,000 – Less than $500,000 – Jan. 26, 2023
More than $25,000 – Less than $250,000 – Jan. 26, 2024
Less than $25,000 – Exempt from rule.