NAPLES, Fla. — As they were planting their fall crops, Florida fruit and vegetable growers discussed how food safety legislation and other issues could affect their livelihoods.
At the 67th Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association meeting Sept. 19-21, growers were urged to become involved in the fall state elections. The group also honored Sav-A-Lot Food Stores Inc. for its support of Florida and local grown produce.
Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director of the Center for Produce Safety at the University of California-Davis, used a Sept. 21 food safety session to announce the center is awarding $2.8 million to 17 food safety research project.
“In Florida, the industry has created safe food,” she said. “There is no better place in the produce industry for us to make announcement.”
Martha Roberts, University of Florida consultant and former deputy commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said Florida growers helped shape national produce safety standards through mandatory Florida tomato safety rules and urged them to remain involved in the Food and Drug Administration’s crafting of safety regulations.
“The more activity you have the more you stay engaged and the more you are at the table,” she said. “Do everything you can to stay engaged and to be prepared and involved. If your voice isn’t heard, there’s no chance of the proposed rules being changed.”
Roberts said FDA officials are planning a spring visit to Florida growing and packing operations to help develop the rules.
Because all of the state’s executive cabinet positions are up for election, Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., a candidate for Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, urged growers to advocate agricultural issues during the fall elections.
“That peoples’ livelihoods even in downtown Miami depend on a vital agricultural economy in Florida, as well as the airports and seaports, the future of agriculture is bright in the state with the right leadership,” he said during a Sept. 21 luncheon. “The future of Florida is bleak without agriculture. If we get it right, our children and grandchildren for generations to come will be able to talk about the benefits of agriculture to our state.”