October 21, 2019

Contact: Hannah Packman, 202-554-1600
[email protected]

WASHINGTON – Although local food producers are broadly committed to food safety on their operations, there are still some barriers to implementing food safety best practices, according to a Needs Assessment Report released today by National Farmers Union Foundation’s Local Food Safety Collaborative (LFSC) and Cornell University.

The publication is the result of a multi-year, two-tiered effort. It includes findings from a Needs Assessment Survey, which was designed to determine the food safety practices, knowledge, attitudes, barriers, and needs of local producers, with a particular focus on food processors and fruit and vegetable growers. Following the completion of the survey, LFSC and Cornell University organized a series of listening sessions across the country, during which small groups of local food producers had the opportunity to discuss the aforementioned issues in greater detail. The combined results will inform the organizations’ Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) educational outreach in the future.

In general, participants expressed an interest in improving food safety practices on their farms or facilities but perceived many barriers that may prevent them from doing so. Financial resources were the top concern, followed by time and farm infrastructure. More than half of respondents reported that these barriers were either moderately or greatly limiting to their farming operations. Other concerns include the need for skilled labor, technical assistance, appropriate supplies and equipment, and knowledge and information.

More specifically, participants expressed the need for greater assistance with the following:

  • Food safety audits – seven out of ten participants had not received or were unsure if they had received a third-party audit.
  • Worker training – four out of ten participants reported that food safety training provided to workers was not applicable to their individual operations.
  • Water testing.
  • Recordkeeping.

When seeking assistance, however, many participants reported that they had trouble finding experienced, competent and trusted trainers. This often negatively impacted their ability or motivation to implement food safety practices, underscoring the value of capable, trustworthy, and accessible trainers. In addition to high quality technical assistance, a number of participating growers also indicated that financial assistance would help them access educational resources  and implement food safety practices.

Given the role of food safety in the context of public health and farmers’ livelihoods, National Farmers Union (NFU) has prioritized farmer education through LFSC. “All farmers understand the importance of food safety on their operations,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “First and foremost, they want to keep American consumers healthy by protecting them from foodborne illnesses. But they also want access to markets to sell their products, and that often means complying with food safety regulations. This assessment will help us ensure that farmers have access to the resources they need in order to comply with those regulations, which will, in turn, ensure their economic viability and the health of the public at large.”


About NFU
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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One Comment

  • What I didn’t see in this report was the issue of having Insurance companies and lawyers trump food safety laws making it even more onerous on the farmer then the law requires. As per our farm where we grow micro greens in compost medium. Whole Foods now requires us to have a HACCP plan to sell to them, which would be accurate under current federal food safety laws for sprouts. By needing a HACCP plan by this business in order to comply we would in effect have to steralize our farm which would then effect the vitality of our plant based compost medium we have cultured from cut trays of micro greens over the past 25 years in recycling back onto the farm. We are not sprouts, we are designated under federal food safety laws as micro-greens which places our food safety designation as GAP good agricultural practices under federal food safety laws. Because this business is allowed to do this we lost a $55,000 a year account. This is not tenable to the family farmer who relies on local markets here on an island to make its living. These misconstrued laws, based on fear of liability keeps the health and nutrition of a product such as ours out of certain market places. The feedback we receive from those who value our products is that they have a very long shelf live and are flavorful. This is due to the compost medium we have developed over all these years where the food safety regulations being implemented by companies insensitive to individual cases has in part kept our practices from providing the community in some sectors our greens.

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