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Michigan set to aid farmers with FSMA's implementation

LANSING, Mich. — The federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed years ago, but part of it, regarding produce safety, is only being implemented now for large-scale farmers.

Michigan state officials have plans in place to help farmers come into compliance with this large and complex law.

FSMA, the most sweeping reform of the country’s food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law by then-President Obama on Jan. 4, 2011. FSMA aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting focus from responding to food contamination to preventing it.

Michigan growers and processors are especially affected because of the diversity of crops and types of operations in the state, officials say. Implementation of FSMA here will be administered by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

Some aspects of FSMA affecting farmers, including the feed directive, are already in place; however, other aspects of the law are only now coming online. State officials are looking to help growers and processors comply with these parts, regardless of the size and scope of their operations.

For farms with $500,000 or more in sales, the compliance date is Jan. 28, but really it’s for the growing season, said Tim Slawinski, food safety modernization unit manager at MDARD’s food and dairy division. For farms with $250,000-$499,000 in sales, the compliance date will be 2019. And for those with less than $250,000 in sales, compliance will begin in 2020.

“We’re getting to the implementation stage for large farms, obviously beginning in the growing season,” he explained. “Our goal is outreach and education as well as technical assistance, to get the word out so that farmers will know what to do and be compliant.”

Forty-two states have opted to enter into a Produce Safety Cooperative Agreement with the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for administering FSMA. This means MDARD will conduct routine inspections of farms to ensure compliance with the new law.

This agency is also working with four conservation districts as well as Michigan State University extension to provide technical assistance to farmers. The conservation districts will work with farmers outside of their districts as well as inside.

States that have entered into cooperative agreements have received money from the FDA to do education, outreach and enforcement activities, Slawinski said.

An example of how the law will affect farmers is with labor and documentation of practices. Farmers with employees who handle food products will be required to provide written evidence those employees are washing their hands after they use the bathroom, Slawinski explained.

Last summer the National Assoc. of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) announced the FDA had committed $30.9 million to 43 states and territories to support implementation of FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule. “Congress envisioned the states and FDA working together as an integrated food safety system when it passed FSMA,” said NASDA CEO Barbara Glenn, last July.

NASDA and FDA entered into a cooperative agreement in 2014 and have been working on strategy for FSMA implementation funding, according to NASDA. NASDA is a nonprofit organization.

According to the FDA, the only states that haven’t received any funding related to FSMA are Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Three states – Oregon, Iowa and New Hampshire – have received funding for FSMA for infrastructure, education, technical assistance and an inventory program, but have not received any funding related to compliance and enforcement.

For more Michigan information, go to