SC Commissioner Hugh Weathers: Produce Safety Rule

Farmers can now apply online for a Produce Safety Rule exemption. Here to tell us more about this new tool is SC Ag Commissioner Hugh Weathers.

  • SCDA has created a new digital application tool for Produce Safety exemptions, making it easier to apply for and receive certificates of exemption.
  • The Produce Safety Rule was introduced in 2011 as a part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
  • This regulation focuses on setting federal regulatory standards for the production, harvest, and handling of fruits and vegetables, in an effort to prevent microbial contamination and reduce foodborne illnesses associated with fresh produce.
  • The Produce Safety Rule sets standards for things like water quality, soil amendments, and worker training and hygiene.
  • The Rule establishes traceability standards in case there is a foodborne disease outbreak – so it also focuses on record keeping.
  • Being exempt means that farms would not need to undergo the routine inspections by SCDA’s Produce Safety team.
  • While most of the 2,700 produce farms in South Carolina are eligible for exemption or are already exempt, farmers must reapply for exemption each year to avoid inspections.
  • Unless a farm has applied for an exemption and received a certificate from SCDA, they are not exempt.
  • To view exemption requirements and complete the application, please visit
  • If you are not sure if you are eligible for exemption, that link will also lead to a quick self-assessment you can utilize to find out.
  • If you have questions about the Produce Safety Rule and exemption, please contact Brooke Horton, SCDA’s Produce Safety Outreach Coordinator, at