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Food Safety Call - 13 April 2010

 NGFN Food Safety Conference Call

April 13, 2010

 

Archive

 

Call Agenda

  1. Introduction to Family Farmed.org Food Safety Planning Tool
    Follow up with Will directly if you would like: will@ebfarm.com
  2. Presentation of Wallace RMA Grant Proposal Summary
  3. Legislative Update (NSAC)

 

Details

FamilyFarmed.org Food Safety Planning Tool

Follow up with Will directly if you would like: will@ebfarm.com

The Family Farmed.org Food Safety planning TWG will meet next on April 26th to review progress with the food safety “decision tree”.  Will Daniel of Earthbound Farm may be available to speak to NGFN Food Safety committee members during the April call (April 13).  In addition, a more complete update will be available next month, and hopefully Will can join the May call if it is not possible for him to do so this month.

 

Legislative / Regulatory Update

The Congressional Easter recess has brought a flurry of activity at the staff level as Senate Bill 510 is being prepared for open debate.  The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) continues to press its points of concern.  Some of these concerns, such as language describing wildlife impact on food safety are being addressed in the language of the bill.  But the major concerns are being directed toward amendments that will be offered by several senators.  NSAC is trying to get these Senators to present as a “group of 8” for additional strength in their presentation.  The consensus among Senate leadership is that the bill should be presented and passed with no debate or amendment, just as HR2748 was last summer.  Supportive senators are promising to push for discussion and amendment.

Some groups who favor stronger resistance to the key points of S510 have developed their own action alert and related language, and are asking supporters to lobby against the bill.

LINK: Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) Action Alert
LINK: Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance Action Alert

It is unlikely that “resistance” of this sort will actually change the trajectory of the bill.  More likely to be impactful are ongoing efforts by NSAC and other allies to get the most response possible within a track of support, while planning ahead for action in the House/Senate conference to address differences in the bill, as well as preparation for heavy pressure during the subsequent rule making process.

The NSAC position and how you can support it are linked here, and they should be issuing an updated Action Alert this week:

LINK: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Food Safety Update

Wallace Center staff and consultants have written a draft response to the FDA request for public comment on “fairness and scale appropriateness in food safety regulation”, which aims to take an “above the treetops” view of several important issues around food safety that are in the process of being addressed “on the ground”.  We welcome comments on this draft document, at contact@ngfn.org.

LINK: NGFN Draft Comments to FDA (PDF)

GAP Harmonization Initiative

The Technical Working Group (TWG) continues to meet regularly and is preparing a presentation to the Steering Committee, a group of major buyers and producers who launched the harmonization process based on their desire to end pointless competition and redundancy in food safety standards.  This presentation will occur at the United Fresh Produce Association annual meeting in Las Vegas on April 19th

By the end of the most recent TWG meeting in Orlando, Florida, hosted by Darden Restaurants, members had completed a first draft of harmonized standards on two-thirds of the 60 topic areas that were identified among the 12 GAP standards being considered.  The TWG predicts that it will complete the full draft standard by the end of its June meeting in Houston.  Meanwhile, a fully compiled draft of the standard in its current form will be made available via the United Fresh web site by late April.  A mechanism for comment will also be developed.  There is still a lot of work to do to streamline and wordsmith the standard, but the overall concepts and approach will be clearly evident in the draft.   

Discussion has also begun as to how a completed standard will be administered, and by whom.  There are a range of considerations to take into account, as the administration of a standard requires an assurance program so that auditors who use the standard are trained and verified, and reviewed for their consistency in implementation.  It makes sense for the standard to be benchmarked by an international actor such as Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) or GlobalGAP.  It is possible that the details surrounding implementation of a nationally accepted GAP standard could follow some aspects of the pattern of the National Organic Program (NOP).  It is also possible that a more private and even international “flavor” could better support the continuous improvement and implementation of the new standard.   The Wallace Center/NGFN staff and consultant team are working to assure that lessons learned in the NOP are carried forward to this discussion.

In the end, the effectiveness of a unified GAP approach will depend on buyer acceptance, and that will be a major focus of the meeting between the TWG and the Steering Committee in April.  How can we assure that buyers will adopt/endorse the new standard, so that multiple audits, audit creep, and auditor inconsistency can be reigned in? 

For people interested in examining the progress of the GAP TWG right away, the United Fresh Produce Association site includes a link to the TWG and there is a meeting summary, and detail from the working group for each of the meetings it has held. 

LINK: United Fresh Produce Association Technical Working Group Meeting Summary
(scroll to bottom)

Wild Farm Alliance Initiative to Support Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS)

The Wild Farm Alliance initiative to develop a Conservation Innovation Grant proposal to support harmonization of soil, water, and wildlife conservation best practices with food safety best practices quietly continues.

LINK: Wild Farm Alliance March Update

 

Global GAP Group Certification and other “Alternative” GAP Approaches: 

Wallace Center/NGFN Commitment to Evaluate and Create QMS Support Tools

The implementation of an effective group certification program by an aggregator or a group of farmers revolves around a Quality Management System (QMS) for that group.  GlobalGAP, the international pioneers of on farm group certification are working with Wallace Center staff and consultants to make availabl existing tools to help groups develop their QMS.

A work plan designed to identify and evaluate existing QMS tools and to refine as possible and develop as needed is being developed by Wallace Center staff and will be submitted to USDA RMA very soon for possible funding.

Details on the RMA proposal are not ready for release and review as of the time of this update, but should be available by the time of the NGFN Food Safety Committee call on Tuesday April 13th.

In addition, several NGFN RLTs are working to develop themselves as groups for GAP verification and certification:

  • A San Diego Farmers Group has determined that they will pursue the development of a group QMS.  Limited funding has been developed to support this process. 
  • A northern Michigan Amish Farmer's group has received intensive GAP training through MSU, sponsored by SYSCO, Grand Rapids. Two farms and a packing house are working to develop a coordinated verification process.

GlobalGAP Standard Manager Dr. Elme Coetzer reports that she is also very close to releasing documents related to preparation of group QMS.  She expects to release drafts on approximately April 17th.   We will send another update and links to these resources as soon as they are available.

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