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Are you selling to schools or food hubs? FSMA Produce Safety Rule - reminders about what farms need to comply

Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator, food safety

Are you starting to sell more produce to farm to school programs, food hubs, or wholesale distributors? These sales can impact your status under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. That is because where you sell your food, along with the total annual food sales from your farm, determines your coverage status under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. Read on to ensure you know your status for this important federal food safety law.

Will my farm need to comply with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule?

Follow along with these questions to determine which of three categories your farm falls under for the FSMA Produce Safety Rule and take the necessary steps to comply.

First category - Excluded

If your farm’s adjusted average annual produce* sales during the previous 3-year period were less than $25,000**, your farm is not subject to the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. You will not have a routine inspection and do not need to keep records for the rule. 

Attending a FSMA grower training and understanding Good Agricultural Practices are still a great idea though, and you are still required to sell safe food as per other existing federal and state laws.

*What is included in produce? Produce includes crops such as fruits and vegetables, dried beans, herbs, sprouts, and mushrooms

**Note that the $25,000 figure changes every year and is adjusted for inflation, and the current figure is $30,509.

Ok, that is pretty straight forward. But, what if you sell more than $25,00 in produce annually (average adjusted for inflation)? Then your farm might be covered by the FSMA PSR, and you move on to the next step to answer more questions.

Second category - Qualified Exempt 

The next question is where your food* was sold. Were more than 50% of your farm's average annual value of food sales over the previous 3 years to qualified end users*

*Food includes all food or drink for human or animal consumption sold by your business, including grain, hay, pies, juices etc.

*A qualified end user is the consumer of the food, such as a customer at a farmers’ market or a CSA, regardless of location; OR a restaurant or retail food establishment such as grocery stores in the same state or Indian reservation as the farm, or within 275 miles of the farm.  It generally includes farm to school sales as long as you are selling directly to the school district and not another entity. 

  • If your farm sold more than 50% of the food to qualified end users, your farm is eligible for a qualified exemption. You would not be subject to most of the requirements in the Produce Safety Rule and will not get a routine inspection. However, you need to keep sales records to prove this exemption, and also follow rules for signage including displaying your complete business address at the point of sale.

  • Remember you still must sell safe food! Learning about food safety can help your farm and protect you from liability.

  • But if more than 50% of your food sales are to non - qualified end users like wholesale buyers, distributors, or food hubs, your farm does not qualify for the exemption and you would be fully covered. (This is why it's important to consider your status under the FSMA rule if you are starting to sell to more wholesale buyers, as if your sales shift, so can your status!). If you are not eligible for the exemption based on your sales, you move to the final category.

Third Category - Fully Covered  

If you do not meet the criteria for the qualified exemption as detailed above based on where you sell your food, your farm is likely fully covered by the Produce Safety Rule. 

For example, you sell $40,000 in produce on average each year, but $30,000 on average went to a food hub, you would not qualify for the exemption, since more than 50% went to a buyer that is not a qualified end user. Your farm is covered by the Produce Safety Rule and you need to comply with it. 

Your farm is also fully covered if the adjusted average annual produce sales during the previous 3-year  period were more than $25,000 (adjusted for inflation), and your adjusted food sales were over $500,000*. 

*This adjusted for inflation, the current figure is $610,182.

*There are other exemptions - for example some products that are rarely consumed raw, like potatoes or winter squash, are never covered by the FSMA Produce Safety Rule and will not be included in an inspection.  Produce that goes through a verified "kill step" is also eligible for a processing exemption.

So, my farm is fully covered by the FSMA rule. What is next? 

  1. If you want help verifying your farm’s status under the Produce Safety Rule, reach out to the MDA Produce Safety Program and they will walk you through your sales and any questions you might have. 

  2. Take a FSMA Produce Safety Rule Grower Training course. This course meets the training requirement for farms that are covered under the rule. These trainings are co-hosted by the UMN Extension and MDA Produce Safety Program and will be hosted both in person and online this winter in MN, and will be made available for registration soon here on the MDA Produce Safety Program website. You can also take them from any other state. You can find a complete list of courses on the Produce Safety Alliance website.

    At the training you will hear from farmer trainers, UMN Extension experts and MDA staff who will help you understand how to use food safety on your farm and what is required for the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.

3. Your farm will be subject to inspection from the MDA Produce Safety Program. The program will work with you to set up the inspection ahead and time, and the training will provide you with all the information you need to be ready for the inspection.  Use the pre-inspection checklist.

Sign up for the MDA Produce Safety Program e-newsletter for more information from the MDA Produce Safety Program.

More resources

Use this new tool from Oregon Department of Agriculture that will ask a series of questions to determine your status under the Produce Safety Rule.

Watch a short video from UMN Extension that describes these status categories.

To read more about the FSMA rule, and for a printable factsheet version of this article: see this factsheet.  (Spanish version)  (Hmong version)

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