My Farm is Exempt from the Produce Safety Rule, Now What?
There are several circumstances that will result in a farm being 'Exempt' from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety rule. This document will more clearly explain those circumstances and explain how the Produce Safety rule may still impact your farm.
Why is my farm 'Exempt' from the Produce Safety rule?
The 'Exempt' status is largely determined from documentation of the quantity of produce the farms sells (in annual dollars averaged over the three previous years, adjusted for inflation based on 2011 dollars), the type of produce grown and sold, and if the produce is sold to a commercial processor. The following are circumstances that result in a farm being 'Exempt':
Micro Exempt – These farms on average (in the previous three years) sell less than a base level in produce (for 2017 that value was under $26,632).
Rarely-consumed-raw Exempt – These farms grow and sell only produce commodities that are rarely consumed raw and therefore pose a very low risk to consumers. A potato farm is a good example.
Processed Exempt – These farms grow and sell only produce that will "receive commercial processing that adequately reduces the presence of microorganisms of public health significance." Examples would be farms that only sell produce to a canning facility.
Even though my farm is exempt from the Produce Safety rule, how might the rule impact my farm?
Though your farm is currently exempt, business can change. Your farm may sell more produce or begin to sell produce to a different set of customers, and as a result your exemption status may change to being 'Qualified Exempt' or fully 'Covered.' To be prepared for such events, there are a number of simple tasks you can do to stay well prepared.
Retain Sales Records – Invoices of produce sales for each commodity sold should be maintained for up to 4 years. Invoices should be organized and divided into those sold for commercial processing, those sold to "qualified end users" (consumers, or restaurants and retail food establishments, in the same state or Indian reservation, or within 275 miles of your farm), and those sold to wholesalers.
Review the Produce Safety rule – the FDA has provided a Fact Sheet and the full text for the Produce Safety rule is available.
Attend Grower Training – Covered farms must have at least one person (usually an owner or farm manager) who has received FDA approved Grower Training. This training is beneficial to any farm committed to minimizing the likelihood of produce contamination by dangerous microbes.
Covered farms need to provide documentation of various activities associated with the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce. These records should be immediately logged and retained for inspection purposes. The Produce Safety Alliance has a document that contains recommended recordkeeping templates.