On September 9, 2016, the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) awarded the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets $500,000 to develop a Vermont State Produce Safety Program. The award will support Vermont in its collaboration with FDA to cooperatively implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule. The $500,000 is the first award of a planned five-year, $3.625 million investment in Vermont’s program by FDA, pending congressional budget allocation.
This award will allow the Vermont Agency of Agriculture to prepare a multi-year plan for a comprehensive produce safety program; establish a Vermont produce farm inventory; develop a strategy for outreach, education, and technical assistance to all Vermont farms that grow covered produce; and develop an inspectional program for farms that must comply with the rule. The Agency will work closely with local organizations, such as the Vermont Farm Bureau, University of Vermont Extension, and other state agencies throughout the Northeast on program development and implementation of outreach, education and technical assistance.
“Vermont’s fruit and vegetable growers are an essential part of our local agricultural economy,” said Governor Peter Shumlin. “These funds will enable Vermont to build a produce safety program that protects consumer health, while also addressing the needs of our local, small-scale producers.”
In addition to this award, Vermont has been selected as a pilot state to assess producer readiness for compliance with the Produce Safety Rule through an on-farm readiness review program that will provide education and technical assistance to growers beginning during the 2017 growing season.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture and Secretary Chuck Ross have played key roles in the development of the final FSMA Produce Safety Rule and FDA’s approach to educating before and while regulating.
The FSMA Produce Safety Rule was finalized in November 2015 and impacts farms and other businesses that grow, harvest, pack, or hold fresh produce. Larger growers will need to comply with the rule in 2018, while smaller growers have additional time to come into compliance.
FDA awarded a total of $21.8 million to 42 states in Federal fiscal year 2016 to begin implementing the Produce Safety Rule. Vermont will receive the maximum amount for which it could apply based on the number of farms growing fresh fruits and vegetables covered by the rule. To view FDA’s news release for the award, visit go.usa.gov/xKeuH