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Ohio Produce Marketing Agreement addresses food safety concerns
As federal officials continue to work on national food safety standards, Ohio farm groups are developing their own guidelines to better fit the needs of the state’s diverse farming community.
Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) has been working with the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association and other organizations on the Ohio Produce Marketing Agreement. The agreement, funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, is still in the draft stages but may be completed by the end of this year. It is a voluntary food safety and certification plan that would evaluate producers based on the size of their operation. It would fit the needs of all producers, including small and medium-sized operations, and sustain Ohio agriculture by opening new markets or expanding them.
The agreement is partially in reaction to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed on-farm produce production standards and the National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (NLGMA), a one-size-fits-all approach to food safety that was developed for large California growers, said Adam Sharp, OFBF’s senior director of legislative policy. These proposals are not always environmentally friendly, too difficult for small producers and require a lot of resources, he said. It is not a good fit for Ohio, which has different demographics, land, environmental conditions and market structure than California or other large production areas of the country.
“Ohio Farm Bureau is very interested in the development of this Ohio agreement because the state’s produce growers need to be able to market their products effectively and compete not only in state but out of state,” he said. “We will continue to work with the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association and others to make sure this agreement is beneficial and useful for Ohio producers.”
“In addition to these two proposals, we don’t know what the passage of the new federal food safety bill will mean for produce growers yet,” he said. “Ohio is developing a response to all those things in order to ensure that the state’s fruit and vegetable farmers will be able to continue to produce and sell their products in the manner they choose.”