FSMA Basics for Produce Growers

New federal food safety regulations are starting to take effect. If you grow, harvest, pack, or hold produce for human consumption you may need to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule. Compliance dates for some produce farms start at the beginning of 2018.

Does my farm need to comply with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule?

The FSMA Produce Safety Rule has different compliance levels based on operation size and type.

The CCOF Foundation hosted a How Do I Need to Comply with FSMA? Webinar to help produce growers figure out what compliance level they fall into. The webinar also reviewed compliance timelines. Watch a recording of the webinar.

Another resource to help growers understand FSMA Produce Rule compliance is the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition “Am I Affected?” FSMA flowchart. The flowchart asks a series of questions to help growers determine whether their operation needs to fully comply with the new food safety regulations for produce farms, or if their operation qualifies for a full or partial exemption from the law.

Note, even if your farm is exempt from the FSMA Produce Rule, you still need to keep records to verify that your operation qualifies for the exemption. The How Do I Need to Comply with FSMA? Webinar reviews these recordkeeping requirements for exempt and partially-exempt operations.

When do I need to comply with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule?

Compliance dates for the FSMA Produce Safety Rule are staggered by farm business size. See the chart below for more details.

Total Farm Annual Sales FSMA Compliance Date
$500,000 +* 1/26/2018
$250,000 - $500,000* 1/28/2019
$25,000 - $250,000*
1/27/2020
 
Less than $25,000** exempt

*Three-year average of gross annual sales, including all farm products, not just produce.

** Three-year average of gross annual produce sales.

Among other requirements, farms that must fully comply with the FSMA Produce Rule must have a farm supervisor complete a standardized food safety training prior to the compliance date. The CCOF Foundation will host five of these standardized trainings in 2018. Visit the CCOF website for more information on the trainings and to register. 

Do I need to get a third-party food safety certification to comply with FSMA?

No. The FSMA Produce Safety Rule does not require farms to obtain a third-party food safety certification. Produce buyers may require a third-party food safety certification prior to purchasing produce from a farm.

My farm has a third-party food safety certification. Is my operation compliant with the Produce Safety Rule?

Not necessarily, but many third-party food safety certifiers are in the process of aligning their metrics with FSMA requirements. Check with your food safety certifier for more information. Even with third-party food safety certification, produce farms that must fully comply with FSMA are still required to have a supervisor complete a standardized food safety training, as well as meet all other FSMA requirements. 

I’m still confused. Can I get help figuring this out?

Watch a recording of the How Do I Need to Comply with FSMA? Webinar for more information on complying with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. 

The CCOF Foundation will offer FSMA food safety technical assistance in 2018. Information on technical assistance will be posted in the CCOF Newsletter.

Aren’t there new federal food safety regulations that impact handlers and manufactures too?

Yes. The Produce Safety Rule is just one of the new federal food safety standards established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under FSMA. Farms that handle produce and other food may also need to comply with the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. Other regulations established under FSMA include the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) for importers, the Sanitary Transportation rule, Intentional Adulteration rule, and the Preventative Controls for Animal Food rule. You can find more information on the compliance dates for these rules on the FDA website.

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