By Kim Burns & Kristina Sweet, VT Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
The Vermont Produce Program works with fruit and vegetable farms to enhance produce safety and promote public health. Our vision is a safe, local, and thriving Vermont produce industry.
In short, produce safety means preventing produce from being contaminated with pathogens—bacteria, viruses, and parasites—that can make people sick. But improving your on-farm produce safety practices can also lead to increased efficiency, staff satisfaction, and new market access. We work with University of Vermont Extension produce safety experts to make sure all Vermont growers have the resources and technical assistance they need to grow produce safety on their farms. Have a question about produce safety? Let us know at AGR.Produce@vermont.gov or 802-461-6152.
We recently reorganized our webpages to best serve Vermont growers and help you understand key requirements under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR). Stay tuned for more information about a new grant opportunity for produce safety improvements coming later this fall!
The Produce Safety Rule
The PSR (21 CFR Part 112) is the federal food safety standard for farms that grow, harvest, pack, or hold produce. The PSR establishes minimum science-based standards to prevent microbial contamination of fresh produce and reduce foodborne illness outbreaks. Produce farms are covered by the rule, qualify for an exemption, or are excluded from compliance.
Covered Produce Farms
A covered produce farm is a farm subject to the requirements of the PSR. In Vermont, covered produce farms undergo routine inspections conducted by an Agency of Agriculture produce safety specialist.
Exempt Produce Farms
A produce farm is eligible for a qualified exemption under the Produce Safety Rule when:
- The farm’s average annual food sales over the past 3 years are less than $500,000. (Adjusted for inflation, the average 3 year value for 2019–2021 is $584,908.)
- More than 50% of the farm’s average annual food sales over the past 3 years were to qualified end-users, which include the consumer of the food OR a retail food establishment, such as a restaurant or grocery store, located in Vermont or within 275 miles of the farm.
Qualified Exempt farms must meet recordkeeping and labeling requirements to maintain the exemption. Find the Qualified Exemption Self-Certification Form on our website at agriculture.vermont.gov/food-safety/produce-program/exempt-produce-farms.
Excluded Produce Farms
Farms that meet one of the following criteria are excluded and are not required to meet Produce Safety Rule requirements or undergo farm inspections.
- Farms with less than $25,000 in average annual produce sales over the past 3 years. (Adjusted for inflation, the average 3 year value for 2019–2021 is $29,245.)
- Farms that grow produce only for personal consumption.
- Farms that only grow produce that FDA considers “rarely consumed raw.”
The Produce Program is committed to assisting Vermont farms with the educational and technical resources they need to comply with the Produce Safety Rule, and we are continually updating resources for growers. Visit agriculture.vermont.gov/produce to determine your farm’s coverage. You can also contact the Produce Program team with questions. Contact Tucker Diego at 802-622-4412 or email@example.com or Kim Burns at 802-461-6152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.