Sept. 12, 2017 – – The FDA today issued a proposed rule that, if finalized, would extend the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements by an additional two to four years (for produce other than sprouts).  The proposed extension will give the agency time to take another look at the water standards to ensure that they are feasible for farmers in all regions of the country, while protecting public health. The new agricultural water compliance date the FDA is proposing for the largest farms is January 26, 2022. Small farms and very small farms would have until January 26, 2023 and January 26, 2024, respectively. The proposed rule is open for public comment for 60 days.

Water Testing Methods:  In a recent letter to Western Growers, the FDA listed eight additional testing methods from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other public health entities that it has determined are equivalent to the method incorporated by reference (Method 1603) in the Produce Safety Rule.  Numerous stakeholders have asked for the FDA to recognize other methods that are appropriate for use in agricultural water testing.  The FDA has posted the list of methods it has determined to be equivalent on its website, and intends to add other methods to the list as they are identified.

Produce Farm Inspections:   Large farming operations will still be expected to meet all produce safety requirements set by the rule for produce other than sprouts, except those related to agricultural water, by the original January 26, 2018 compliance date. However, Dr. Gottlieb announced that inspections to assess compliance with the non-water requirements of the Produce Safety Rule for produce other than sprouts will not begin until 2019. The FDA and its state partners will use this time to provide more education, training and outreach on the new requirements.  In particular, states — in conjunction with NASDA and the FDA — will expand On-Farm Readiness Reviews, already piloted in six states, in which a team of state officials, cooperative extension agents, and FDA produce experts provide farmers with an assessment of their “readiness” to meet the new requirements. State points of contact will receive further information on the change this week in the form of letters from the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs and calls are being scheduled to answer any questions.