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Monday, April 22, 2024

UF/IFAS researchers providing training to farmers in southeastern US

The updated Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011, intended to promote food safety by creating new regulatory guidelines.

Since October, IFAS researchers have provided training mandated by the law across the southeastern U.S. for farmers, Michelle Danyluk, an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher, said.

The training is designed to make sure farmers know about the new produce safety regulations like the minimum standard quality of water and standard manure quality, she said.

“(Farmers) all take food safety very seriously,” Danyluk said. “They have been actively engaged in food safety for quite some time.”

Pushback from farmers comes from the new changes and added regulatory pressures, Danyluk said. Many of the farmers already followed the now-mandated safety requirements through work with large retailers.

The trainings cost about $150, IFAS researcher Keith Schneider said, which helps cover costs of the researchers performing the training.

“They’re really no more difficult, in my opinion, than what some of the large stores require a supplier to do anyway,” Schneider said.

With as many as 3,000 farmers needing to be trained under the new law, IFAS has been training third-party instructors to meet the demand, he said.

“Honestly, we are in a quandary because we can’t actually meet demand,” Schneider said.

Kiley Harper-Larsen, who operates a banana and plantain farm in Palm Beach County, Florida, also provides trainings as a former extension agent with UF.

As a farmer, the 33-year-old has seen the pushback but said it was a normal response to increased regulation.

Harper-Larsen said she feels that the trainings will help create a standard. Because not all farmers have received formal education, the trainings will help provide them with resources and knowledge, she said.

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“There’s not a degree at the University of Florida that you go and you get if you want to be a farmer,” Harper-Larsen said. “(Farmers) don’t necessarily have all of the resources that a food scientist would have in their educational pallet, and this training is providing a lot of those benefits that I think our farmers are going to see as a central element.”

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