(UPDATED COVERAGE May 3) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposal for a voluntary national leafy greens marketing agreement includes more regions and more grower board members than trade associations originally outlined.
The USDA posted the 239-page proposal and a podcast at www.ams.usda.gov.
On April 29, the site was to link to the Federal Register’s 90-day public comment section.
Beside the podcast, the USDA also posted three radio interviews. The first interview discusses the proposal. The second interview encourages comment. The third interview says farmers would have a voice in the agreement.
“It’s the next step in a long process to try to establish a voluntary structure that would allow handlers, growers and government stakeholders to collaborate to make leafy greens safer across the country,” said Hank Giclas, senior vice president of science, technology and strategic planning at Western Growers.
Participation would be voluntary, but members would be subject to mandatory audits by the USDA or other auditors.
The proposal reflects the results of seven public hearings plus hundreds of letters and comments on the draft, said Rayne Pegg, Agricultural Marketing Service administrator.
“This will assist all segments of the leafy greens industry in meeting commercial food safety requirements,” Pegg said. “This proposal is a compromise.”
More regions, board members
One change is the creation of new regions — up from five to eight.
“A number of comments from the public (said) that the five zones really did not reflect different climates, production practices and markets,” Pegg said.
The original five zones were designed to include a major leafy greens production area in each, though the bulk is grown in the West.
Another difference is a larger board, up from 23 to 26 members, including 10 growers instead of six. Two of the 10 must be small growers. The prior draft provided for 13 handlers; there are now 12. There’s no change in the remaining makeup: one representative each from retail, foodservice, import and the general public.