The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently received a five-year, $5.3 million grant from the Food and Drug Administration to enhance produce safety.
The funding will be used to ensure that North Carolina farmers and producers are ready to comply with the stricter production and harvest requirements of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act.
“This funding will help our Food and Drug Protection Division support farmers and producers in getting their businesses ready to meet these new requirements,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “I am a firm believer in educating before regulating, and this funding will support training opportunities, on-farm readiness reviews and other education and outreach opportunities. This funding allows us to develop our inspection programs to meet the specific growing and harvesting needs of the farmers in our state.”
The funding will also support infrastructure development at agricultural research stations across the state for training and outreach. Funds are targeted to upgrade classrooms and provide hands-on indoor and outdoor demonstration areas. The goal is to provide training in best practices, from planting to post-harvest. These include demonstrations of growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce.
The division will also partner with N.C. State University for on-farm readiness reviews. These two-day reviews will utilize NCSU produce specialists, as well as NCDA&CS staff, and provide direct feedback to farmers on produce safety implementation efforts.
FDA awarded a total of $21.8 million to 42 states to help implement FSMA’s produce safety rule. The rule, which the FDA finalized in November of 2015, establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.
The NCDA&CS Food and Drug Protection Division protects the health, welfare and economic interests of consumers of foods, drugs, livestock feeds, fertilizers and medical devices by ensuring, through inspections and analysis, that these products are wholesome and properly labeled.