This Fall's On Farm Readiness Reviews
Published: October 25, 2018
'On Farm Readiness Reviews' (OFRR) were discussed in the July MPG Bulletin and have concluded for this year. To recap, these farm visits are a partnership between Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) and MU Extension specialists. An OFRR is requested by the grower, and takes place on the farm. The only other requirement is that someone with that farm must have attended a FSMA training. The format is similar to future FSMA inspections; it consists of a walk-through of the farm's production and produce handling areas. The OFRR team will ask extensive questions of the farmer, and the farmer is encouraged to ask questions as well. Following the walk through, the OFRR team leaves a short report to help the grower correct any problems and prepare for an eventual inspection. A booklet to assist in understanding the report is also provided.
About 10 OFRR visits took place at Missouri farms, with at least five that market at produce auctions. Many of the host farmers invited neighboring produce growers to follow along. This is completely up to the farmer if they are comfortable with it, and it certainly increased awareness in those communities. As an overall comment, all are trying to follow safe production and handling practices and largely doing so. However, each farm had several areas where improvement was needed. Among these areas of improvement, the following were noted:
- Animal management in production fields and at harvest. Animals should be clearly separated from the harvested part of covered crops. Any manure issues, especially in production fields, must be treated as a contamination situation. Care must be taken to prevent cross contamination when handling animals and then handling produce.
- Record keeping requirements. A wide range of records are required for farms subject to the FSMA PSR, and growers were generally starting the process. Growers are encouraged to use templates which are available from your local Extension office.
- Training programs for workers. All persons working on the farm must receive training in safe production and handling practices, including children. Training materials must be appropriate for the audience, which can be a challenge given the wide range of ages among people working with produce on a typical farm.
- Policies for farm visitors. Visitors to the farms, both family and strangers, were common. All visitors to the farm must understand farm policies relative to food safety. Commercially available signage can meet this requirement.
- Sanitation of harvest gloves. Most farms did not have policies in place relative to glove use. Farms using gloves for harvest and handling must launder the gloves when soiled.
- Cleaning and sanitation of harvest containers. Harvest containers must be cleaned when visibly soiled, and then sanitized.
- Water quality profiles for agricultural production water and harvest/postharvest water. Most farms are at the beginning of developing water quality profiles. The FSMA PSR has allowed additional time to meet the requirement to develop a water quality profile. All water sources other than public water must be tested. If multiple wells are used for production water, each well must be tested. Growers were interested to learn about the water quality standards for agricultural water used for production. Growers were equally interested to learn that water used during harvest and postharvest handling must be potable. Finally, growers were interested in locating a convenient testing lab that offered the approved water testing protocol. Kansas State University is currently offering free water testing. Check with Kenny Struemph for details.
- Managing sanitizing solutions used to wash produce. Farms generally did not have protocols in place to validate the concentration of sanitizers in water for batch or multiple pass use. Several growers were interested in ways to reduce the use of harvest/postharvest water.
- Design of storage areas relative to rodent control. FSMA PSR mandates control of rodents in places where produce is handled, as well as storage areas for containers and tools. A common recommendation was to allow a clear area around the interior perimeter of buildings, to observe any rodent activity. A second recommendation was to place and check rodent monitoring traps (not baits).
- Cross contamination risks. As animals are commonly used in crop production and manure is a common soil amendment on farms, cross contamination was discussed in depth. Designated clothing for animal handling, lining wagons and carts with plastic tarps, using aprons or coveralls over clothing, and proper glove use were practical solutions to this risk.
OFRR visits will continue in 2019 and start earlier in the season. The OFRR is most effective when scheduled during production and harvest. To schedule an OFRR, contact Kenny Streumph at MDA (Kenny.Struemph@mda.mo.gov or 573-751-1134). Editor's note: Patrick Byers is now assigned ½ time to food safety due to grant support by MDA.