07-13-17 CFVGA President Addresses International Association for Food Protection

CFVGA President Robert Sakata, second from left, was one of only a few farmers attending the International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting July 9-11, in Tampa, Fla. Other panelists included Bob Zeil, J&J Farms; Chelsea Matzen, National Farmers Union, Dr. Elizabeth Bihn, Produce Safety Alliance; and Dr Samir Assar, U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

CFVGA President Addresses International Association for Food Protection
Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (CFVGA) President Robert Sakata July 11 was one of two growers on a panel at the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Annual Meeting in Tampa, Fla. The panel, titled It’s going to take a Village: Grower Perspectives on FSMA Implementation, was one of many sessions at the meeting which draws more than 3,400 of the top industry, academic and governmental food safety professionals from six continents.

“Interestingly, there were very few farmers at this meeting; Colorado was fortunate to be represented,” said Sakata. “It takes a village but sometimes for vegetable growers it feels like an island,” he told the audience in regard to the challenge facing growers in implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act or FSMA.

“The challenge for family farm operations like ours is that the family is HR, payroll, production, food safety, procurement, R&D, crisis management, accounting, and everything else,” he said. “During the production year, we may be putting in 120 hour weeks. FSMA might not take me out of business, but it’s death by a thousand cuts. I need audits for food safety, sustainability, workers, etc. It’s the culmination of a thousand small pricks that are going to bleed us dry.”

Sakata also told participants that growers struggle with connecting their current practices with FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule requirements. He suggested researchers help by providing validation studies for local operations.

When asked how to bring growers who have not previously had to deal with audits or other regulatory food safety programs up to speed on FSMA requirements, he replied: “We are struggling to make FSMA work on our farm. It requires a sizeable investment. We value the partnership with Rocky Mountain Farmers Union that is providing small operations the opportunity to get FSMA training locally and at an affordable price.”

Sakata also noted the importance for potential growers or any type of food processing business to utilize resources, like those offered by CFVGA, which enable them to understand the food safety investments they will need to make.

The CFVGA continues to grow and is now comprised of more than 250 members, including growers of all sizes and types of production throughout the state, as well as representatives of allied industries. The Colorado fruit and vegetable growing sector contributes nearly $300 million to Colorado at the farm gate and is multiplied as it goes through the distribution chain. Over 60,000 Colorado acres are in fruit and vegetable production. For more on CFVGA, see: https://coloradoproduce.org