Revised Food Safety Modernization Act exemptions

A breakdown of who is required to comply with the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act.

New rules are here for produce growers. As many growers are aware, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) for the first time regulates the growing of fresh produce under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FSMA spans over 500 pages and is extremely complex. Part of this complexity begins when growers try to determine if they are exempt or qualify under the rule.

The federal government has determined all growers that gross less than $25,000 are considered exempt from the rule. Those growers who gross between $500,000 and $25,000 are considered “Qualified exempt” under FSMA. They have been given an extended timetable for implementation of the rules on their farm and, by all indications, will have to comply just like those businesses that gross more than $500,000 with one notable exception. If growers are under that $500,000 and sell the majority of the products directly to a restaurant or retail food establishment in the same state or within 275 miles, they are exempt.

One thing to keep in mind is gross earnings are calculated based on the total amount of produce generated on the farm. If, for instance, a produce grower shipped $450,000 in processing vegetables and sold $50,000 in fresh vegetables, the gross earnings from the farm put the farm over the $500,000 threshold and the farmer must comply.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the FDA reserves the right to revoke exemption if there is a potential risk of foodborne Illness. There are protocols in place and the FDA will make every effort to work with the grower to correct the problem before revoking the exemption, but it can happen irrespective of the farm’s size.

These rules are law and all growers who sell produce, irrespective of size, will need to make at least some changes as a result of them. Taking the time now to become familiar with what was published is imperative.

If you have specific questions about the produce rule or have difficulty tailoring good agricultural practices (GAPs) to your farm, contact Michigan State University Extension’s Agrifood Safety Work Group at or 517-788-4292.

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