State agriculture departments are starting to offer training courses for farms that are covered by the Food and Drug Administration’s new produce safety rule.
The training is one of the main requirements of the rule, which covers farms that grow produce likely to be consumed raw.
“Every farm covered by the produce rule has to have somebody trained in the produce safety rule and they have to attend an approved course,” said Stuart Reitz, an Oregon State University cropping systems extension agent in Malheur County.
FDA officials are training state regulators to conduct the one-day courses, which are the same across the nation.
“This particular training is the only training recognized by FDA to meet a requirement in the rule that requires one person from each farm to have this training,” said Idaho State Department of Agriculture Chief of Staff Pamm Juker. “All growers in all states will get the same training, so it’s very uniform and standardized.”
A lot of farmers who are covered by the produce rule have been most concerned with its water testing requirements, Reitz said, but while those are effectively on hold while FDA revisits them, the other standards of the produce safety rule are proceeding and their initial compliance dates are looming.
Some people “are so focused on the water rule that I think they don’t appreciate all of the requirements of the rule that they will have to be compliant with,” he said.
One way to find out about them, he said, is to attend the training courses, which begin next month in Idaho, Oregon and Washington and have already started in California.
While five training courses are scheduled in Idaho for now, “If we have the demand for it, we’ll schedule more,” Juker said.
Stephanie Page, the program director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s food safety program, said she would encourage all produce farmers to get the training, even small farmers who don’t grow enough to be covered by the rule.
“It’s important for all growers to understand what the requirements are, whether they are covered or not, because they could grow into coverage,” she said.
There is a shortage of accredited trainers right now and that’s something FDA and ag departments are working to address, Page said.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told state ag department directors last month during their annual meeting that the agency knows more training opportunities need to be established.
“Training of state regulators will be a top priority for the FDA in 2018,” he said.
For a list of all states’ training classes and information on how to register, visit http://bit.ly/2yPVC0u
Click on “Produce Safety Rule” on the left side of the page, then on “Training” on the top left and then on “Grower Training Course” on the left and then on “Upcoming Grower Trainings” on the left.
For specific information about Idaho’s produce rule education efforts, visit http://bit.ly/2ihYdcx
For Oregon information, visit http://bit.ly/2kWIlNB
For Washington information, visit http://bit.ly/2x3lCB5
For California information, visit http://bit.ly/2x2zxqP