By BRAD CARLSON
The Idaho State Department of Agriculture this month plans meetings on the state’s new handling of the federal Food Safety and Modernization Act’s rule related to produce. Comments at the meetings will influence the administrative rule-making process prompted by state legislation passed this year.
FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule means some farms will be inspected. ISDA said this is the first time food safety has been regulated at the production-farm level.
But a law the Idaho Legislature passed in March means ISDA will administer the federal Produce Safety Rule and conduct the inspections for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as the state’s agriculture industry requested.
The federal Produce Safety Rule took effect in January 2016 and mandated full compliance by many farms starting in January of this year. FSMA requires food-safety inspections in some instances for production agriculture.
The rule establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables for human consumption, according to ISDA, which three years ago formed an advisory committee on the rule. The minimum standards were developed to ensure the safe production and harvesting of produce by domestic and foreign farms.
House Bill 537, which the Idaho Legislature passed March 20 and which takes effect July 1, shifts FDA-contracted inspections of food processors to ISDA from the state Department of Health and Welfare by Fiscal Year 2020. And significantly for farms facing on-farm inspections under the federal Produce Safety Rule, the new state law authorizes ISDA to administer and enforce the rule.
Idaho’s agriculture industry requested the Idaho State Department of Agriculture implement the federal Produce Safety Rule for FDA in Idaho largely because the industry already has relationships with the state agency, ISDA Chief of Staff Pamm Juker said in an interview.
The federal rule — which pertains to on-farm growing, picking or harvesting and holding produce that can be eaten raw — will be incorporated into the Idaho rule, and public input will be considered, she said.
Juker said the current rule-making process involves on-farm produce safety regulation only. A rule-making process for food processors or manufacturers would be carried out separately if necessary, she said.
Comments are due May 31. Meetings are slated for:
• 9 a.m. to noon Mountain time on May 15 at Clarion Inn, 1249 Tapadera Ave., Ontario, Ore., a key city for the fruit and vegetable industry in southeast Oregon and southwest Idaho .
• 10 a.m. to noon Pacific time on May 22 at Fairfield Inn and Suites, 1000 W. Pullman Road, Moscow, Idaho.
• 10 a.m. to noon Mountain time on May 29 at Best Western Plus Burley Inn, 800 N. Overland Road, Burley.
Direct comments to Juker by mail at the Idaho Department of Agriculture, 2270 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise, ID 83712. Phone: (208) 332-8500.