The USDA is moving forward with rule-making for the National Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (NLGMA). The agreement was proposed in 2009 by produce industry representatives. USDA held 7 hearings across the country during 2009 and received over 5000 pages of testimony.
The full proposal text was published in the Federal Register on April 29. Go to www.ams.usda.gov for a copy. There is a 90 day comment period where anyone can comment anonymously if desired. All comments must be received by July 28, 2011. Read the document and make your feelings known. This will be critical for the leafy green industry in New Jersey.
They have made changes to the proposal after the first comment period among those are:
- Leafy greens are arugula, cabbage, chard, cilantro, endive, escarole, kale, lettuce, parsley radicchio, spinach and “Spring Mix (baby lettuces, mustards, chards spinach and chicories). Others could be added.
- The number of administrative zone were increased to 8 state groupings based on similar climates, production environments, crops , agricultural practices, etc. New Jersey is in zone 8 with Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
- The administrative board would be made up of 26 members of which 10 would be growers including two small growers, 12 handlers (buyers), 1 retail person, 1 public member, 1 foodservice person and 1 importer; all appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture.
- A Technical Review Committee would assist the board in developing standards for third party audits. The committee will be made up of growers, handlers, food safety experts, FDA, NRCS, etc.
- All standards that are developed would go out for public comment before taking affect.
- Any regulations developed by FDA for the Food Safety Modernization act would apply.
- This is a voluntary handler agreement, however if a handler signs up then he must buy his leafy greens from a grower who is third party audited.
- An assessment per carton will not exceed $0.05 per 24-pound carton of leafy green vegetables to cover administrative costs and verification audits for first handlers and their producers, research and education.
- If a handler signs up and imports leafy greens that product is also covered under the agreement.
- If you are a grower (no matter what size) that sells to a handler that is a signatory to the Agreement then you would need to follow the agreement.