Produce Safety

Vermont Produce Safety Survey & Interactive FSMA Resource

Take the Vermont Produce Safety Survey to learn how your farm may be imapcted by FDA's Produce Safety Rule. All Vermont farmers who grow, harvest, pack, or hold fresh produce—even if primarily engaged in another type of farming—should take this survey. This survey will help VAAFM understand how the Produce Safety Rule will affect Vermont farms and prepare to assist farmers before the rule is implemented. It will help farmers determine whether the rule applies to their operations, understand their requirements under the rule, and learn about compliance timelines.

The Produce Safety Rule, officially titled Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, is one of seven new rules proposed by FDA under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The Produce Safety Rule will be finalized in October 2015 and implemented over the next 2 to 5 years. The rule covers the production of raw agricultural commodities that are commonly consumed raw, such as strawberries, lettuce, melons, and spinach. 

In order to complete the survey, respondents will need estimates of their farm, business, or organization's annual sales of both produce and all food—including animal feed—as well as general knowledge of their farm, business, or organization’s food safety practices. VAAFM requests that only one response be submitted per farm, business, or organization.

The survey is publicly available at www.surveymonkey.com/s/vtproduce. Respondents may call Kristina Sweet at (802) 522-7811 to take the survey over the phone. VAAFM will not use data collected through this survey to identify any individual, farm, business, or organization. Please contact Kristina Sweet at kristina.sweet@vermont.gov or (802) 522-7811 with comments or questions about the survey. 

Produce Safety Pack Shed Design & Construction Videos

Check out these new videos produced by UVM’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture on pack shed design and construction. They star Vermont farmers and offer tips for operations of all sizes and styles. The Vermont Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and USDA Risk Management Agency provided funding for this project.

Produce Safety at VAAFM

Produce safety is of growing concern to fruit and vegetable operations, the regulatory community, and consumers as a result of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a federal law that grants the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) broad new regulatory authority over several types of farming and food production. While FSMA was signed into law in 2011, many key regulations will be implemented only after FDA promulgates final rules in 2015 and 2016. To learn more about FSMA, see our Food Safety Modernization Act page.

While some Vermont produce and added-value operations will not likely be subject to FSMA regulations due to their relatively small size, wholesale buyers will increasingly demand documented food safety practices from their suppliers, just as retail customers look to become more aware of how their food is produced.

VAAFM is committed to working with our state partners to provide outreach, education, and technical assistance to producers as they prepare for FSMA implementation and industry-wide changes. Over the next two years, the Agency will undertake the following key actions:

  • Assess the impacts of FSMA implementation on Vermont’s produce industry
  • Help growers prepare for the implementation of new regulations and changes within the produce industry
  • Explore opportunities for a statewide produce safety program

In July 2013 and November 2014, VAAFM partnered with the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Food & Markets and the Northeast Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NEASDA) to host FSMA listening sessions, offering farmers and processors the opportunity learn more about the proposed rules and ask questions. The Agency continues to seek input from farmers and processors and will schedule additional public events as FSMA rules are finalized and implemented.

National Partners

The Agency has forged strong partnerships with FDA and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), which brought the perspectives and experiences of Vermont producers to the forefront during the rulemaking process. VAAFM will continue to work closely with these national partners as rules are finalized and throughout the implementation phase.

State Partners

Agency staff also work closely with the Center for Sustainable Agriculture, University of Vermont Extension, the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association (VVBGA), and the Vermont Department of Health, among other state partners, on produce safety issues and FSMA implementation.

Producers may be particularly interested in the Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s Practical Produce Safety program and the VVBGA’s Produce Safety Accreditation program. While voluntary, these programs will help producers to meet market demand by providing tools for implementing produce safety plans on their farms.

USDA GAP

VAAFM also conducts Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audits for fresh fruit and vegetable producers. GAP is a voluntary certification program overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). For more information about GAP, visit our USDA GAP & GHP page.

Resources

Contact

If you are a producer or operator with questions or concerns about FSMA or produce safety, we want to hear from you! Contact Kristina Sweet at Kristina.Sweet@vermont.gov or (802) 522-7811 to share your story.