Penn State Extension to assist with farm readiness reviews

Credit: Penn State Extension

Penn State Extension said recently that it has partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture on a program to help produce growers comply with the new requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Educators from the extension will accompany Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture inspectors on On-Farm Readiness Reviews. These voluntary, informal, no-cost farm evaluations will help farms determine their level of compliance with the new Produce Safety Rule under FSMA and identify potential areas for improvement.

Compliance dates for enforcement of the new regulations are being phased in according to average annual produce sales. Large produce farms with annual sales of more than $500,000 were to begin complying in January of this year. Medium-sized farms with annual sales between $250,000 and $500,000 have until January 2019, and smaller farms with annual sales between $25,000 and $250,000 have until January 2020.

Within each farm category, an additional two years is allowed for compliance with microbial standards for water that can come in contact with the harvestable part of the crop or food contact surfaces.

On-Farm Readiness Reviews will take approximately two hours depending on the size of the operation and are intended only to help farmers. They are not an official audit, inspection or regulatory assessment.

“This is an opportunity to have their preharvest, harvest and postharvest conditions and practices evaluated, assess what they are doing well, and identify areas for improvement in food safety practices on their farms,” Jeff Stoltzfus, an extension educator and coordinator of the On-Farm Readiness Reviews program for Penn State Extension, said. “It is very important that routine farm processes and operations — such as harvesting, washing and packing activities — are happening during the visit so reviewers can make accurate recommendations for produce-safety improvements specific to farms.”