WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service is requesting comment on the creation of a voluntary National Leafy Green Marketing Agreement that would assist all segments of the leafy green industry in meeting commercial food quality and safety requirements.
To reflect the different climates, production practices and markets handling leafy green produce, USDA is proposing that there be eight regional zones represented on the board.
Representatives from these zones, appointed by the secretary of agriculture, would form a board to manage the agreement. The board would have 26 representatives: 12 handlers, 10 farmers (at least two of which must be small farmers), one importer, one retailer, one foodservice representative and one member of the public.
"This proposed agreement and governance structure provides an opportunity for farmers, handlers and retailers of all sizes to work together and develop a practical program," Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said in an April 26 press release. "We are striving to create a voluntary program so that all types of farmers and handlers can more effectively comply with quality and food safety requirements."
The secretary would also appoint a Technical Review Committee to assist the board in the development of technical requirements, commonly referred to as Good Agricultural Practices, Good Handling Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices. The committee members would be one producer, one handler and one food safety expert from each of the eight zones. At least one of the eight producers must be a small farmer, and one must be a certified organic farmer. In addition to these 24 members, the secretary would appoint a representative from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and may also appoint members from other USDA agencies such as the National Organic Program and other federal agencies such as the Food & Drug Administration. All technical requirements developed by the Technical Review Committee for the board would be made available for public comment, be consistent with FDA regulatory requirements and approved by the secretary prior to implementation.
"We are asking for extensive public participation with input from farmers and handlers as well as the public to develop a comprehensive, voluntary agreement that will meet the needs of everyone," AMS Administrator Rayne Pegg said in the release. "This agreement is a proposal at this point, and we encourage your comments over the next 90 days. We will analyze the comments and decide how or whether to proceed with an agreement."
The National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement was proposed to AMS in June 2009 by a group of 14 different organizations representing a cross-section of producer and handler representatives from the fresh produce industry.
USDA conducted seven public hearings across the country and received hundreds of letters and comments on the initial proposal. Adjustments have been made to the agreement and its structure to better reflect concerns that were raised during the hearings.
Visit the AMS website at www.ams.usda.gov for more information on this proposal and how to comment on the proposed National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.