Updated: Nov 5, 2020
By Sarah Everhart
The article is not a substitute for legal advice. See here for the site’s reposting policy.
The Produce Safety Rule (PSR) of the Food Safety Modernization Act is a federal law, administered in Maryland by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), which requires produce growers to be trained in and adopt preventive food safety practices. If you have previously attended a PSR training this post will provide you with some important updates and reminders. If you have not yet attended a PSR training, please take a look at the scheduled trainings, listed below, and register today!
One of the initial considerations with the PSR is whether and how the law applies to a farm. The applicability of the law to a farm is based on the farm’s gross sales in the proceeding three years compared to an amount, in some cases, that is adjusted based on inflation.
For example, a farm is exempt from or not subject to the PSR if it had an average annual monetary value of produce sold during the previous 3-year period of less than $25,000. The $25,000 baseline value, however, is adjusted for inflation and is a rolling average, meaning a farm operator has to look at total produce sales for the last years and if the sales are less than $25,000 adjusted for inflation, which for the years 2016-2018 is $27,528, then the farm is exempt (the farmer, however, must retain annual sales records to prove this exemption).
The eligibility value for the qualified exemption to the PSR is also adjusted for inflation. Specifically, a farm is eligible for a qualified exemption if the average annual monetary value of all food sold during the 3-year period preceding the applicable calendar year was less than $500,000, adjusted for inflation, and sales to qualified end-users during such period exceeded the average annual monetary value of the food sold by such farm to all other buyers. The average 3-year value for the qualified exemption for 2016-2018 adjusted for inflation is $550,551.
Inflation adjusted cut-offs are updated annually in March. Be sure to check back on the FDA website in the future for these amounts!
Another important update to the PSR which was finalized in early 2019 is the water-related compliance dates. Compliance dates for most PSR provisions began January 26, 2018 for depending on the farm’s business size. A follow-up FDA rule in 2019 extended the compliance dates for the parts of the PSR dealing with agricultural water (except for sprouts) to begin in 2022, 2023, or 2024. Water sample collection and analysis must begin by the compliance date; the water quality profile that farmers must build also does not need to be completed before the compliance date.
Another upcoming compliance date for farmers who are subject to the PSR qualified exemption is January 20, 2020. By that date, farmers who are qualified exempt must label all of their produce. The labeling requirement consists of including the name and complete business address of the farm where the produce was grown either on the label of the produce or to display the same information at the point-of-purchase.
The Produce Safety Alliance has created some new resources to help growers implement the PSR. Including a guidance document on requirements for commercial soil amendment suppliers, a fact sheet on cleaning vs. sanitizing that can be posted on the farm, videos, and information to share with water testing labs.
Each winter the ALEI in partnership with the MDA and the University of Maryland hosts a series of PSR trainings. The locations, dates and registration information for the upcoming trainings is below, space is limited so please register soon.
University of Maryland Eastern Shore- 12/4/19, Princess Anne, MD Register here
Harford County- 1/24/20, Street, MD Register here
Montgomery County- 2/6/20, Derwood, MD Register here
Garrett County- 3/5/20, McHenry, MD Register here
Anyone with questions about the PSR can contact one of the ALEI legal specialists at 410-706-7377.