The Food Safety and Modernization Act went into effect early in 2011. However, the rules are just now being decided by the FDA. A comment period will end Nov. 22. After review, FDA is expected to issue final rules.
Roy Ballard, Hancock County Extension ag educator, is watching it closely. He says the rules as proposed during the comment period could be devastating for some local farm operations that grow vegetables or process other value-added products on the farm.
"This is a big deal," says Ballard. "It could mean some people can't afford to enter this business any more, and it may mean some in the business have to get out. The rules that were proposed would be costly to meet if they're left to stand as they are."
Ballard works with producers raising vegetables and products to sell to local consumers, often through farmers markets. He also helps supervise a food hub, which brings growers and consumers together. The hub he works with is based in Greenfield.
Ballard notes upfront that it shouldn't affect growers who produce vegetable crops and sell directly to consumers at farmers markets. However, once they store apples or any crop for a neighbor, or collaborate with a neighbor in any way on business, the rule kicks in, he says.
It will bring a lot more sanitary procedures which could be difficult for a local grower to meet. It also brings tons of recordkeeping, including on such things as tests on surface water after irrigation, well water and much more.
"The problem is we're not totally sure what will be affect ted and what won't be," Ballard says. "It does not appear that someone growing livestock and selling meat locally will be affected. However, I didn't think people who make and sell cheese would be affected either. Now it appears that they will fall under the law, at least for the record keeping portion of it."
Ballard intends to keep a close eye on FSMA rules as they come out. He's not sure when the rule will demand compliance. Some have said 2015. It may be rolled out in phases, he notes.