The long awaited Grower Training for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is finally ready. Individuals to lead or assist with these trainings prepared for their role(s) in Olathe, KS at the end of November; this included the authors of this article. The curricula for the trainings, a comprehensive manual and complimentary visuals (slides) are high quality and obviously had a thorough review by the Produce Safety Alliance. The purpose of this article is to review what to expect with upcoming trainings.*
Who will need to take it?
In brief, produce auction growers who sell more than $25,000 annually of fresh produce will eventually have to take this training. Even growers who are GAP certified will need to. A fact sheet from MU/Kansas State University was sent in the April MPG Bulletin that reviews this matter completely.
Growers with annual produce sales of between $25K and $250K will have until Jan. 2020 to comply. Growers with greater sales than $250K will need to comply by Jan. 2019.
Where will trainings be offered?
The first is being offered at Great Plains Growers Conference on Jan. 12, 2017, in St. Joseph, MO. After that we’ll take the trainings closer to the communities of auction growers. One each is planned for the Fall of 2017 in the SW, near Jamesport, and in Morgan County (Patrick, Tim & Jim, respectively). Another is planned for Great Plains Growers Conference in Jan. of 2018, and later that winter for Rich Hill (Patricia). A training near Windsor is expected in the Fall of 2018, and again in Morgan County. We’ll adjust and add trainings depending on demand/need. Training is not to exceed 50 individuals at once, so we’ll likely need to return to communities twice or more.
How much will it cost? How often is it needed?
The minimum cost for Missouri growers is $105, which is comprised of the following, $50 manual, $35 certification, and $20 MU Extension fee. We do expect some grant support or similar, that may reduce this cost, or at least keep it at $105. There are other costs like lunch, travel expenses for presenters or room rental. The training is only needed once, by a given individual. But the certification is specific to that person. So if they move or leave the operation, that farm will need to get another person certified.
How long does it take?
It takes almost 7 hours. So with some breaks, it really needs about 8½ hours, like 9 am to 5:30 pm. Spreading the training over 2 days has a number of benefits, but given travel time and schedules probably isn’t likely.
Once I’m trained, then what?
You then need to keep records and carry out a number of processes to be compliant. These are similar to the requirements for GAPs certification. The big difference is one does not get an annual inspection or audit, so there is no annual fee. The FDA is working with the Missouri Department of Ag regarding inspections of FSMA compliant farms, but if an inspection occurs, there is no cost. We would hope that by the Fall of 2017 we would have more information on the inspection process and could have a MDA representative at these trainings to answer questions.
* Background information on this topic was covered in an April MPG Bulletin “Complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act- use GAPs or not?”.
GroupGAP Offers a Cost Effective Alternative
Please note the insert about the USDA program that was made available in April 2016. Because it was sprung so late in the growing season, only growers with prior experience were able to use it, and this included a grower group from Rich Hill. These growers have been ahead on GAPs certification, because a large buyer/distributor has required GAPs certification efforts a number of years ago. For the entire state of Missouri, the USDA has about 30 farms listed as GAPs certified and of those, over 25 are from the Rich Hill area.
The GroupGAP model applies very well to produce auctions in that many growers are producing in a similar fashion and they are organized around a common delivery facility. GroupGAP allows farms to be inspected by an ‘Internal Producer Auditor’, and then only a sample of those farms are inspected by USDA inspector. This substantially reduces the cost. The ‘Internal Producer Auditor’ must go thru a specific course for this. GroupGAP is explained in detail in a thirty page ‘User’s Guide’ at www.ams.usda.gov/services/auditing/groupgap. Let your local extension specialist know if you’d like a copy. There would be time organize a GroupGap in 2017 but one would need to move on it quickly.
In a future article we’ll look at this process that the Rich Hill growers used. We’ll try to get some of their comments and suggestions for others considering GroupGAP.
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REVISED: December 20, 2016