BOISE — The Idaho State Department of Agriculture is developing tools and programs to help farmers prepare for the many requirements associated with the Food Safety Modernization Act.
FSMA includes seven new rules that address produce, human food, transportation and animal and imported food and the ISDA’s efforts are largely focused on the produce safety rule, which covers any crop that is likely to be eaten raw.
Although some of the compliance dates for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s food safety rules have been extended, they are fast approaching and farmers need to know whether they are ready to meet them, said ISDA Chief of Staff Pamm Juker.
The ISDA is conducting outreach, education and training efforts to help farmers comply with the rules.
The department recently unveiled a self-guided online tool that enables producers to know where their farm stands in relation to the produce rule.
“The tool is not designed to say you are absolutely covered or you are absolutely not covered ... but it helps you know if you’re likely covered or likely not covered,” Juker said.
It someone is likely covered, the tool will offer other resources to help the farmer find more information or assistance.
The online tool is included on the department’s FSMA web page, which can be found at the ISDA’s main website.
The department will also soon begin conducting on-farm readiness reviews for farmers who want them to help growers know where they stand on the produce safety rule standards.
These reviews, which are free for the grower, are voluntary and non-regulatory, Juker said.
“It’s non-regulatory so the people conducting the review are not taking anything away with them. There will be no notes, picture, anything,” she said. “Really, the idea is to (offer) two or three good suggestions for the grower on how they can improve on something to make sure they are in compliance.”
Stuart Reitz, an Oregon State University cropping systems extension agent in Ontario, said some of the FSMA rules are complex and the on-farm readiness reviews, which Oregon will also soon often, can help farmers understand them better.
“It’s difficult to determine what some of the regulations are saying. There is a lot of interpretation,” he said. “That’s where these on-farm readiness reviews will be a big benefit.”
The produce safety rule requires at least one person from each covered farm to undergo FDA-approved training on the requirements of the rule.
Starting in November, the department will begin offering a series of one-day training courses that enable farms to meet this requirement.
Kelly Henggeler, a member of ISDA’s FSMA advisory committee, said most growers are already doing most of what the produce safety rule requires but the training and education being provided by the department will help them ensure they document that correctly.
“Those are things we’ve always been doing but you have to document it and that’s the part that’s challenging because that takes time and resources,” said Henggeler, general manager of Henggeler Packing Co., one of Idaho’s largest fruit orchards.