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Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises

Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises

Food Safety

The availability of safe, fresh food is critical to maintain a healthy population.  Producers, ranchers, harvesters, handlers, and processors of all sizes need to pay attention to this aspect of their production to protect consumers and their own operations. All commercial farmers should complete farm food safety training. UF/IFAS Extension is constantly providing food safety trainings to help farmers and food processors reduce food safety risks in their operations and comply with federal and state regulations. For other related content, check out our Insurance, Labor, Farm Safety, Postharvest and Processing pages.

The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is administered primarily by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is the first significant change to federal food safety regulation in over 70 years. There are seven major FSMA rules that outline preventative strategies for safer crops, meat, and animal feed, as well as rules for safer transportation and trade. Check out the FDA’s FSMA Produce Safety Rule decision tree to determine which polices and regulations apply to your farm. Very small businesses with gross annual produce sales of $25,000 or less are exempt from FSMA’s federally mandated food safety inspections, but must still follow local and state regulations relevant to their operation. For example, all producers should be aware of Florida’s Tomato GAP (T-GAP) food safety program as well as other agricultural marketing orders administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

If your operation does not meet the criteria for an exemption or exclusion and you produce specialty crops covered under FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule then you are required to complete the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Course. The PSA Grower Course is the only federally approved course that satisfies FSMA’s requirement for food safety training. This course is taught by Lead Trainers from UF/IFAS throughout the state.

Even if you are exempt from federal oversight, your buyers may still require you to complete farm food safety training and meet other market-driven food safety criteria such as the Packinghouse HACCP training (for fresh fruit and vegetable packinghouses) to meet certain third-party food safety audit standards. Third-party food safety audit schemes (e.g., Primus Global Food Safety (GFS), Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Safe Quality Food Institute (SQF), and USDA Harmonized GAP) require written food safety plans and adherence to additional standards beyond the minimum federal standards outlined in the Produce Safety Rule.

In summary, you may need to complete several different food safety trainings, depending on your gross annual sales and the requirements of your buyers. Trainers from UF/IFAS currently offer the following food safety courses: the PSA Grower Course, Preventive Controls for Human Food (for produce and other food processors and handlers), Preventive Controls for Animal Food (for manufacturers of animal feed), Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (for food importers), Meat Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), and Juice HACCP. In addition, UF/IFAS offers trainings specifically for small farm operators on farm food safety including Build Your Own Farm Food Safety Manual, Cottage Food training, Food Preservation and more. Check our Calendar Page for all upcoming food safety training events.

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