Expected costs from proposed federal rules to make the nation’s food system safer are causing concern among some farmers and state agriculture officials.
The proposals are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act approved in 2011. The legislation is among changes within the Food and Drug Administration aimed at making the nation’s food system safer by pinpointing where contamination occurs. Officials are still determining how to implement the law, and regulations won’t be finalized for several years. But some farmers say they will no longer grow vegetables for local tables because the proposed requirements would cost too much.
Farms likely will be required to hire an auditor to inspect their operations for about $5,000 per audit, with some farms possibly requiring several audits.
The FDA estimates the cost of implementing the rules will be about $4,700 a year for very small farms, $13,000 for small farms and $30,500 for large farms. Size is determined by a farm’s annual business.
Farms selling less than $25,000 of produce annually and those selling directly to the public without going through a third party would be exempt. FDA estimates about 79 percent of all U.S. produce farms won’t have to comply. The agency’s figures show the rules are expected to save 1.7 million Americans from food-borne illness annually.
Farmers would have to maintain records on trucks transporting the produce and employees handling it, among other things.
Many farms already submit voluntarily to audits or inspections required by companies buying their produce. Most audits probably would be prompted more by customers than by regulators, but all farmers should take advantage of the public-comment period to voice their concerns.