AgCenter receives grant to inform produce growers about food safety

Olivia McClure  |  10/28/2016 6:43:48 PM

(10/28/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – The LSU AgCenter is participating in a $3.3 million grant to help produce growers improve their safety practices ahead of the implementation of a new federal rule.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration grant was awarded to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. The LSU and Southern University agricultural centers are collaborators on the grant, with the LSU AgCenter receiving about $614,000.

The FDA presented a total of $21.8 million in grants to agencies in 42 states.

The funds will help prepare growers for the Produce Safety Rule that is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, said AgCenter food safety specialist Achyut Adhikari. The act, which reforms food safety laws to focus on preventing contamination and foodborne illnesses, was signed into law in 2011.

The Produce Safety Rule was finalized in November 2015 and sets standards for growing, harvesting, packing and storing fruits and vegetables. It addresses water quality, the use of soil amendments, farm personnel hygiene and equipment sanitation, among other issues.

Large farms must comply with the rule by January 2018. Smaller operations have more time to comply.

The state agriculture department will use its portion of the grant to develop a multi-year plan for produce safety and programs to assist growers.

The two ag centers will work together to educate growers on safety practices and rules. Several workshops are being planned for early 2017 so growers can learn how the new regulations will affect their farm and what steps they must take to get in compliance.

The ag centers will also create an inventory of Louisiana farms subject to the Produce Safety Rule and related state regulations, Adhikari said.

On Nov. 7 and 8, several LSU AgCenter extension agents and specialists will travel to Overton, Texas, to take a train the trainer course taught by experts from the AgCenter, Texas A&M and the Produce Safety Alliance. This will give them the background they need to teach food safety workshops, Adhikari said.

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