Food Safety Modernization Act: Are you on the hook?

There is much confusion regarding who is and is not required to comply with the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act. Learn some of the specifics about qualifications.

New rules are on the way 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 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 they qualify under the rule.

The federal government has determined that all growers that gross less than $25,000 are considered exempt from the rule. Those growers who gross between $25,000 and $500,000 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 that the gross earnings are calculated based on the total amount of food generated on the farm. If for instance a dairy farmer were to open a farm stand that grossed only $15,000, but the gross earnings from the dairy put the farm over the $25,000 threshold, the farmer must comply.

Another thing that needs to be kept in mind is that the FDA reserves the right to revoke exemption if there is a potential risk of foodborne Illness. This revocation of exemption is size nonspecific and no protocols have been established to reinstate the revocation of exemption once the risk has passed.

These rules will become law and all growers, 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 is being proposed and commenting when necessary is the only way to shape the process. Waiting until Nov. 16 is too late.

You can submit comments electronically. Comments can also be written and faxed to the FDA at 301-827-6870 or mailed to:

Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061
Rockville, MD 20852

Read more about the rule or if you would like to comment on the proposed rule.

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

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