UPDATED: USDA halts national LGMA

12/04/2013 06:10:00 PM
Mike Hornick

(UPDATED COVERAGE Dec. 10) The U.S. Department of Agriculture has terminated the proposed National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, drawing mixed responses from the produce industry.

The formal announcement of its demise was in the Dec. 5 Federal Register .

“With the advent of (the Food Safety Modernization Act), it just wasn’t something they wanted to pursue,” said Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer of Sacramento-based California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.

The California LGMA (and a sister organization in Arizona) supports the termination. Western Growers Association president Tom Nassif criticized the move.

“Western Growers is extremely disappointed with USDA’s termination of the proposed National Marketing Agreement for Leafy Greens,” Nassif said in a statement. “After investing hundreds of man hours in the development of a proactive approach that would have afforded leafy green producers across the country an opportunity to craft their own food safety programs with oversight from USDA and FDA, the agency has opted to step back.

“We hoped that the model could be advanced on a national level,” according to Nassif’s statement.

California and Arizona account for 90% of U.S. leafy greens production, Horsfall said.

“The framework of food safety in produce has changed so much since this (national agreement) was proposed four or five years ago, and with FSMA on the horizon I can understand why they’d make that decision,” Horsfall said. “It doesn’t change how we work with our industry in California or how Arizona does through their marketing agreement. We’ll continue to verify compliance with our rules, which will also verify compliance with FSMA down the road.

“But from a national outlook, they’ll rely on the rules under FSMA to make sure everyone’s following good practices,” he said.

Through the LGMA, California and Arizona growers “are in a different place,” Horsfall said. Through the organization, state employees inspect facilities.

Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, LaGrange, said the time has passed for a national LGMA.

"When we filed the petition it was a different day," he said. "We were trying to establish the guidelines that growers could voluntarily follow. The rules are different now, or will be when the FSMA regulations are finalized."


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Ben    
USA  |  December, 05, 2013 at 12:30 PM

It looks like, USDA noticed in the last months and years, the LGMA didn't made the produce safer with all the recalls we had. It was just another attempt to stop FSMA.

Eric    
usa  |  December, 05, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Yeah, the FSMA is going to stop all the recalls? Wow. Part of having recalls is proof that the food safety system is working. You can't honestly believe any food safety standard, especially a gov't run program, is going to prevent 100% of food adulteration....seriously! They could have modified the program in place but decided that gov't official knew more about leafy greens than the people that grow them. The real test is how many fewer people have been sickened by leafy greens since the program was put in place. Someone knows that number.

Kurt    
Virginia  |  December, 05, 2013 at 07:26 PM

You have to look at this from a consumer standpoint. There are too many food product trade organizations and what their role is isn't clear to anyone but the trade organizations themselves. So the consumer is supposed to look to the LGMA for marketing or quality control, or food safety or what. Remember the Beef and Pork and Corn and Wheat Check-offs, the consumers and a good number of producers never understood them and probably never benefited from them. I can understand a Washington State Apple Growers Association and I think a consumer can too, but the Leafy Greens Marketing Association - it's hard to comer up with a mental picture of that for a lot of people.

Ray    
USA  |  December, 06, 2013 at 02:27 PM

LGMA ist just another certification using USDA to promote their products. If a small farmer can't afford one or many of these one-day-snap-shots of what's going on by a 3rd party, he can't sell to some of the big buyers. If he sells it cheap enough, then they don't care about any certification! All those certifications are worthless for the consumer, just a protection shield for the retailer in case there is something wrong. See Jensen Farms and others!

LGMA    
California  |  December, 10, 2013 at 11:28 AM

We believe the USDA’s action is appropriate. A lot has changed since the NLGMA program was conceptualized, largely because of FSMA. Consumers and industry members should know that the LGMA exists to protect public health. The most important part of our program is that drives a culture of food safety on the farm where everyone from the top down is focused on prevention and continuous improvement. Our program already meets or exceeds FSMA's requirements and we have asked FDA to consider certified LGMA members compliant with new food safety laws. With our proposal 90% of the Nation's leafy greens could quickly meet or exceed FSMA's requirements at no cost to taxpayers, leaving the FDA to focus on other areas of implementing the law.

frank    
usa  |  December, 13, 2013 at 02:20 PM

Cost to the taxpayer doesn't really matter to the FDA, does it? Isn't the plan to pass the cost of the government regulated FSMA on to the food producers anyway? That won't be cheap. The NLGMA was ahead of it's time and certainly set the model for many other food safety programs.

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