NC's Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler was pleased so many producers turned out at the FDA's listening session on the new proposed Food Safety rules a couple of weeks ago.
These new rules could mean big changes for fruit and vegetable producers, in many cases changing the way they've always done business. The commissioner says that the common theme among the producers was a concern on water regulations, especially water used as frost protection that's pumped from farm ponds.
To hear the listening session in it's entirity go to www.ncagr.gov/fdalisten.
“We know that the proposed rules can mean big changes for produce farmers and packers. This was about giving them the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the proposed rules. We had several FDA officials on hand to present information, including Mike Taylor who is the very top of FDA in this area. NC was only one of five states to hold these sessions.
The session was simulcast into SC and they had the opportunity to participate as well. We also had our mountain producers able to get involved through the web. We were very pleased with the turn out, over 135 people here in Raleigh and other 300 watching it on the web. We had questions not only from NC, but from as far as California and Vermont.
Any change is hard and we are going form a non-regulated industry to a fully regulated one so there was a lot of concern about how these regulations would affect their ability to produce the product that they always have. A lot of the concerns centered around water. It is one of the major areas that FDA is looking at, especially microbes in water, and we all are concerned that it will cause a problem with frost protection. You get to a point when the weather gets cold and you have to frost protect. Its normally done with overhead irrigation water, and the ponds are the normal source of that water. So how will the rules affect frost protection and irrigation.
Also the cost of implementation of these rules was a major concern. Every step, especially for larger producers, will be costly. We have to plan to try to help our producers with pre-assessments.
During the sessions, there was a lot of ‘we can’t answer that question yet’. Right now they are proposed rules, and growers and packers need to go ahead and post a response to these with FDA so when the final rules come out we have something we can live with. Its easier to change them ahead of time then to go back later.
With NC Department of Ag, we will have a pre-assessment program, where if we are invited, we will go to the farm or the packing facility and look at it and let the people know what will be expected of them if the FDA were to come out. We want to get there first and get compliance.”