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NGFN Food Safety Conference Call

May 11, 2010


Listen to the archived recording of the call.


Call Agenda:  

1:30PM to 1:35PM:  Welcome and introductions

1:35PM to 1:50PM:  Legislative update from NSAC

1:50PM to 2:20PM:  GlobalGAP Group Certification example:  Chelam Fruit Co-op

2:20PM to 2:30PM:  USDA group certification pilot project update


Discussion of ongoing Topics:

Legislative / Regulatory Update


The Financial Reform legislation has jumped ahead of Senate Bill 510 on food safety, so that bill is currently stalled.  We estimate that it will not be considered until after Memorial Day.

All of NSAC's priorities have been integrated into the HELP (US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions) manager's bill although issues remain around the proposed amendment from Senator Tester (D, MT) to exempt farms under a certain size ($500,000 in annual sales) and also issues around traceability.  This amendment is being put forward despite the prevailing mantra that “no one gets a pass on food safety”.

For more on Senate Bill 510 visit this page on the NSAC site.

The persistent drumbeat for exemption and “special treatment” of small producers on food safety is seen by some as a focal point of the recent Republican backlash against the KYF2 program.  (See the letter from Senator's McCain, Enzi, Chambliss).  NSAC is also organizing an “Ag of the middle” fly-in and briefing for Senators and USDA staff in an attempt to broaden the picture of agriculture that exists and is seeking to thrive outside beyond agribusiness.  While small scale and hobby farms are the fastest growing sector in US agriculture according to the most recently published census figures, middle sized farms continue to disappear.

It is important that NGFN members and others who support the idea of scaling up to meet market opportunities work to counter the impression that there are separate “food systems” defined by their markets.  A more inclusive approach that would support the full range of opportunities for local and regional producers who are scaling up would be to work toward  a sustainable food system includes farms of all scales with fairness at all scales.


USDA/FSIS HACCP Comment request:

The next frontier in food safety implementation that threatens opportunity and choice for consumers and producers is USDA's recent updating of HACCP requirements for meat processing plants.  The proposed requirement for reporting all updates to HACCP plans would have disproportionate effect on small processors.


FDA Produce handling guideline request:

To read the guidance request, and submit your comments go to

Michelle Smith, the FDA GAP project leader has specifically suggested that this opportunity can give aggregators a chance to state whether they have a particular view about on-farm food safety and how responsibility for food safety can and should be handled by aggregators.  If any Advisory Council members or other network members want help developing a position, let us know.  She also said that arranging for multiple deliveries of a form letter would not increase the relevance or weight of its content.  Unique responses will each be given equal consideration.

GAP Harmonization initiative:

GAP Harmonization Technical Working Group (TWG) presented its work to date to the steering committee on April 19th 2010.  Steering committee (SC) members were very appreciative of the work done thus far, expressing satisfaction with the speed with which the process is moving forward.

TWG members emphasized that the success of the harmonization effort would depend on buyer acceptance, and in response SC member spoke up and reiterated their intention to support the harmonized product that is projected for delivery in October.

The SC also set up an “operations committee” to develop a plan for implementation of the Harmonized GAP standard.  Options for ownership and administration of the standard were discussed in a general way.  The OC (Operations Committee) will have members who also sit on the TWG, but has been selected specifically in order NOT to draw resources away from the TWG.  SC members made clear their desire that momentum toward a timely completion of the harmonized GAP delivery not be lost or diluted by other commitments.

The TWG meets next on Mary 12-13 at US Foods in Rosemont, IL. Food Safety planning tool:

The Family Food Safety planning Technical Working Group (TWG) met on May 3rd to review progress with the food safety “decision tree”.  An implementation timeline has been developed in draft form, and bridge funding is being sought to continue the technical work while larger grants are being developed to support taking the decision tree from its “paper/document” form to its eventual web form, and for dissemination of training and access to the finished product to many thousands of farmers across the US.

Wild Farm Alliance initiative to support NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Services):

A three-year Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) proposal was submitted to NRCS in late April.  

WFA is waiting for word on whether they will be asked to submit a full proposal. If they do get asked to submit, a representative of the project will be invited to present on our June 8 food safety call to talk about the project.

Global GAP group Certification and other “alternative” GAP approaches:

Global GAP has released a new document called “Success factors in Option 2 Certification”.

GlobalGAP has convened its North American NTWG (National Technical Working Group) which works to make necessary adaptations to its Global standard so that unique needs and concerns in a given nation or region  are addressed.  This process is running in parallel to the GAP Harmonization initiative that is being facilitated by United Fresh Produce.

GlobalGAP standards address sustainability issues beyond food safety and also include a food safety component that is referred to as PFA (Primary Farm Assurance)

Wallace Center / NGFN Commitment to evaluate and create Quality Management System (QMS) support tools:    

Wallace Center / NGFN continues to seek partnerships and opportunities to test group certification for food safety compliance.   NGFN Food Safety coordinator has developed an outline of the steps to develop and implement a QMS.

Discussions are ongoing with USDA/AMS (Agricultural Marketing Service) about a partnership to support pilot projects during this growing season in order to develop some real cost and time estimates for the implementation of QMS.  Initial analyses of the cost and implementation timeline of a QMS program show that it takes longer and costs more in the first year to implement such a plan (as compared to individual farms directly seeking their own compliance certification).  These costs and time issues have to be addressed in order for producers and aggregators to achieve the long term reduction on costs and improvement in access to technical support that are possible through a QMS based system.  The proposed USDA/AMS partnership would help quantify those costs.

We hope there will be further information about progress in the discussions with USDA by the time of this month’s Committee call on Tuesday 5/11.



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