South Carolina's Ag Commissioner Hugh Weathers is pleased to introduce the state's new Food Safety Coordinator, Weatherly Thomas. Weathers explains that the purpose of a state-wide food safety coordinator is to help farmers and to better serve consumers. The Food Safety Modernization Act focuses on preventing food contamination, and while a lot of the new requirements are not known at this time, it will be Thomas' role to help farmers get into and stay in compliance with the new regulations as they are implemented.
“We have recently added a food safety coordinator through some grant funding. That person is Weatherly Thomas, a young woman who has been with us and just finishing up a farm to school program. She has hit the ground running and is working hard.
This Food Safety Modernization Act is going to change a lot of things, with more emphasis on food contamination. We want our farmers to be ready when those things come down the pipe.
The Act is going to be implemented in stages, giving producers the opportunity to ease into it. Part of our responsibility is to be ahead of the game; knowing what the regulations are, how they will impact the farmer, and how it will affect someone who wants to take advantage of the school market or retailers who are requiring more standards. For example GAP- Good Agricultural Practices certification, which is voluntary, but for much if the industry its mandatory.
Weatherly’s job will be to take them from 10,000 feet down to ground level. She estimates it might take a farmer 30 hours to get to where he needs to be. She will also help with food safety audits. She will be out there and do the training to have someone ready for a GAP audit so they get that certification. It’s a lot of little things to be done and she can help. They have to pass, at least a B grade, in order to get it.
Farmers who want to know more, they can call Weatherly at 803-737-4373. On the web they could look at agriculture.sc.gov”