Kansas Farmers Union was recently selected as a collaborator on the National Farmers Union Foundation’s Local Food Safety Collaborative project funded by a cooperative agreement with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The goal of this work is to provide outreach, education, and training to small local food producers and processors on the Produce Safety and Preventive Controls rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

National Farmers Union Foundation is the lead organization for this work and partners include: Cornell University, Maryland Department of Agriculture, Washington State Department of Agriculture, National Young Farmers Coalition, Deep South Food Alliance, and New England Farmers Union. The ten state Farmers Union organizations collaborating in year one are: California, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, New England, Pennsylvania, Rocky Mountain and Wisconsin.

The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 4, 2011. The FSMA has given FDA new authorities to regulate the way foods are grown, harvested and processed. The law grants the FDA a number of new powers, including mandatory recall authority, which the agency has sought for many years.

Food safety is a concern of all producers. The importance of producing and selling a safe product starts at the farm. The value of GAPS (Good Agricultural Practices) and FSMA (Food Safety and Modernization Act) with the produce safety rule is very valuable to producers of all size and stage of experience.

Proper training in the aspects of food safety is very critical to the livelihood and success of specialty crop producers. The old saying by Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is very applicable meaning that it is much easier to do things in a manner that prevents a problem than to have to find a solution and deal with it later. Such is the importance of producing a safe product that humans consume. The product needs to be safely grown, and handled in a way that preserves its nutritious integrity.

The consumer wants to know their food source and producers should know how to advocate and represent their product with useful information.  Produce growers that attend our events will be making business improvements that protect their livelihood and are looking forward to the future.

The goal of KFU collaborating with National Farmers Union is to provide outreach, education, and training to small local food producers and processors on the Produce Safety and Preventive Controls rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act. KFU will also work with Kansas Beginning Farmers Coalition, Kansas Veterans Coalition and many other beginning farmers of various kinds.

We will particularly focus on organic, sustainable, value-added and diversified farmers and processors. The project will build upon existing available resources and modify the delivery of the required trainings to serve local food producers in particular. It will focus on identifying and better understanding the unique needs of the sector in attaining compliance with FSMA and establishing targeted resources and training to address their needs.

Because many of the producers that we work with are beginning farmers and new to agriculture, we will meet them at the level they are and work from there. By that, we need to offer some entry level education on food safety and farming practices before we throw them into a FSMA training session. This grant is for three years, over which time total beginners could start at a level they understand and with some help can get their operations started with proper food safety as they build up to a bigger volume of product to sell. This will also allow them to build their business correctly the first time.

FSMA Certification will include training in agricultural water quality and testing protocol, biological soil amendments, sprouts, domesticated and wild animal concerns, worker health and hygiene training, safe handling of equipment, tools and buildings.

Delivery details, activities and training sessions are currently being planned. Stay tuned for further announcements.