Farm safety highlighted at field day

Johnny Morgan  |  2/1/2019 4:37:18 PM

(02/01/19) BATON ROUGE, La. — Fruit and vegetable growers attending a Jan. 29 field day on farm safety at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden heard the latest information on the new Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA.

Growers from as far away as northern Louisiana braved some of the coldest temperatures of the year to hear how the new safety rules will affect their operations.

A large part of the field day was spent in areas where growers could see what inspectors would be looking for when they make visits to their operations.

The training sessions provided information on how growers should properly clean and wash their produce before taking it to market. The growers were shown how to bring their wash solution to the proper pH level by using chlorine, soda ash or vinegar.

They were also shown how to properly clean their packing area so there is a low likelihood of contamination.

In order to sell to the public, the growers must be aware of the steps required to make their produce safe. Some said they can never learn too much, so they came to get a refresher.

Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry inspectors took the group through a mock inspection of a packing facility, a break room and restrooms.

LSU AgCenter gardening specialist Kiki Fontenot led a field tour to show growers what they should be looking out for in their fields.

“Animals are one of the main hazards of produce production. Here at Burden, we have people who walk their dogs out here, so I have begun putting up signs to keep them out of the fields,” she said.

New regulations require that produce for sale cannot come in contact with animals or animal waste.

“We have a problem with Canada geese out here, and since I know that they are afraid of swans, we put these swan decoys out here to keep the geese away,” she said.

The indoor portion of the program featured a talk by Louisiana Farm Bureau public policy coordinator Brian Breaux, who discussed issues related to the recent farm bill and proposed labor legislation.

“The H2A migrant worker program requires growers to pay $11.33 per hour, and the grower has to provide housing for the workers that meet normal living standards with a washer and dryer, screens on windows, et cetera,” Breaux said.

The jobs have to advertised for two weeks, and if a U.S. citizen applies for the job, the grower has to give them first shot at the job before they can hire migrant workers, he said.

LDAF agriculture specialist Gene Cavalier discussed a new specialty crop grant designed to help in the eradication of feral hogs.

Cavalier said the grant support field days and information on best management practices for the control of feral hogs.

Fontenot said the inspectors will start with the largest farms and work their way down to those who have had farm income of less than $25,000 during each of the past three years.

Allison Dumas, LDAF program manager for FSMA, said growers should attend one of the training sessions being provided by LDAF and conducted by the AgCenter to find out more about the program and to see if their operation is exempt from inspections.

The next training sessions will be held in Amite on Feb. 6 and 7, Crowley on Feb. 13 and 14, and Bossier City on Feb. 20 and 21.

For more information on the trainings, contact Fontenot at 225-578-2417 or kkfontenot@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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LSU AgCenter food safety specialist Achyut Adhikari discusses the proper way to wash produce at the Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Vegetable Field Day at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on Jan. 29. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter gardening specialist Kiki Fontenot explains how a swan decoy can be used to keep Canada geese out fields. She led a farm tour of food safety practices at the Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Vegetable Field Day at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on Jan. 29. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter food safety specialist Achyut Adhikari shows fruit and vegetable growers how to use a sanitation station in the field during the Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Vegetable Field Day at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on Jan. 29. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter gardening specialist Kiki Fontenot explains what Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry inspectors will be looking for as part of the new Food Safety and Modernization Act. Growers heard about some of the details of the act during the Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Vegetable Field Day at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on Jan. 29. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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