Ohio Farm Bureau’s efforts to make new food safety rule workable for produce growers

A new rule released as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act will affect how some Ohio farms grow, harvest, pack and hold produce. The Produce Safety Rule is one of seven main FSMA rules created by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in reaction to several large-scale foodborne illnesses. Exempt from the rule is produce that is not a raw agricultural commodity, food grains, produce used for personal or on-farm consumption and farms that have an average annual value of produce sold during the previous three-year period of $25,000 or less.

The produce rule has new requirements in the areas of water quality, employee health and hygiene, wild and domesticated animals, biological soil amendments of animal origin (such as compost and manure) and equipment, tools and buildings. Based on member input, Ohio Farm Bureau had concerns about some parts of the rule and provided written comments to FDA. The 801-page release, which includes the rule and FDA’s explanations, addresses those concerns.

Specifically, Ohio Farm Bureau was concerned about how much time there should be between the application of raw manure as a soil amendment and harvesting of the crop. The original proposal was nine months, but OFBF pointed out that was unreasonable because of the state’s climate. Farm Bureau proposed farmers comply with the standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, which has a 120-day interval between the application of raw manure for crops in contact with the soil and 90 days for crops not in contact with the soil. The produce rule did not set an interval, saying it needed more time for research, but noted the FDA “does not object” to farmers complying with the organic program standards.

Farm Bureau also was concerned with how farmers would comply with the highly technical new water quality testing requirements. FDA is looking into developing an online tool that farmers can use to input their water sample data to calculate the required values. While the water requirements remain a concern, the rule does give growers time to make changes in order to comply through extended compliance dates. Visit ofb.ag/Jan2016BFN for more information about the rule.

Compliance deadline for the Produce Safety Rule

Size of farm Ag water requirements for produce, (not including sprouts) compliance date1 Compliance date for all other portions of rule
Very small business $25,000>$250,000* 6 years (Jan 2022) 4 years (Jan 2020)
Small business $250,000>$500,000* 5 years (Jan 2021) 3 years (Jan 2019)
All other businesses >$500,000* 4 years (Jan 2020) 2 years (Jan 2018)

*Average annual produce sales during the previous three year period.

1Extended compliance dates do not apply to the requirement to develop a microbial water quality profile (MWQP) for untreated surface water. An MWQP is established through taking multiple water samples over a 2-4 year period.

Published in the January/February 2016 issue of Buckeye Farm News.


Ohio Farm Bureau’s work on making the FSMA rules more workable for farmers is supported by membership dollars. Join, renew or contribute to Farm Bureau today.