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Insight Idaho Farmers Face Damaging Proposed Regulations

The rulemaking process surrounding the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011, has begun. The proposed rules, currently open for comment with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through November 15, 2013, call for drastic changes to the regulatory regime aimed at ensuring the U.S. food supply is safe and avoiding foodborne illness. One part of the proposed rules, Subpart E, is of special interest to many Idaho farmers. Subpart E deals with Agricultural Water Standards and, as currently proposed, would require agricultural water which “directly contacts the harvestable portion of the crop prior to harvest, or during, or after harvest” to undergo tremendous scrutiny at great expense to the producer.

For example, a producer of onions in the Treasure Valley would be required to inspect their water sources at the beginning of the growing season, then conduct periodic testing on the water with frequency depending on the water source – flowing surface waters such as rivers, streams, creeks, and canals would require more frequent testing than underground aquifer water due to greater risk of surface waters being contaminated. If water is found to not reach the standards set by the regulations, the farm must immediately discontinue use until corrective action is taken. Both the preventive measures of inspection and testing, and the consequences of not meeting the standards set by the FDA, will create a significant burden on farmers. Of note, these proposed regulations only will affect covered produce (fruits and vegetables which are consumed in their raw or natural state), and does not include cereal grains, like wheat and corn and produce that is rarely consumed raw, such as potatoes.

For more information contact a member of our Business Group or to submit comments concerning the proposed rules click here.

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