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SCRI High Tunnel Planning Project

Posted: February 17, 2011

As part of a large nationwide project, berry crop researchers are working to identify grower research and Extension needs in the area of high tunnel berry production. Paper surveys are being conducted at many meetings across the country; however, we’d like to gather input from all growers with an interest in high tunnel berry production. So, for those growers who may not have the opportunity to fill out a paper survey, we’re asking you to participate in an online version whether you are a current high tunnel berry grower, used to grow berries in high tunnels, or are just thinking about it. If you fill out this online survey, and are asked to fill out an identical paper survey at a meeting sometime later this winter or spring, please let personnel at the meeting know you’ve already filled out the online survey. Please read on… and thank you!

Dear Berry Grower,

 

Researchers at The Pennsylvania State University and Michigan State University ask for your assistance and participation in a research project funded by the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative to help researchers and ultimately, growers nationwide.

The purpose of this research is to gather input from growers to ascertain the directions in which to take future high tunnel research and extension efforts on berry crops. High tunnels refer to temporary protective structures and include hoop houses, temporary greenhouses, unheated greenhouses, and rain or sun shelters, but not permanent greenhouses that are temperature-controlled.

We ask that you provide input through a 15 minute survey about your experiences and/or concerns with growing berries in a high tunnel, and if applicable how production and marketing differs between production in high tunnels and in the field. You will also be asked to comment on issues and challenges you've encountered or expect to encounter and what educational information you believe will assist you in achieving your production and marketing goals.

Your decision to be in this research is voluntary. You can stop at any time. You do not have to answer any questions you do not want to answer. You must be 18 years of age or older and either be someone who has produced berries in a high tunnel (including a hoop house, temporary greenhouse, and rain or sun shelter), or someone who is considering producing berries in a high tunnel to take part in this research study.

If you have questions or need additional information please contact: Kathy Demchak, Department of Horticulture, 107A Tyson Building, University Park, PA 16802 Email: efz@psu.edu * Phone: (814) 863-2303

We thank you in advance for your help with this project.  To participate in the study please click on the link:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/hightunnel

 

 

Changes in the Law for Produce Growers and Farm Marketers: Things You Need to Know!

Steve Bogash, Regional Horticulture Educator, Penn State Cooperative Extension, and Luke LaBorde, Associate Professor, Department of Food Science, Penn State University

 

 All farmers market stands that sell food to the public are considered individual food retail facilities and must each pay the $82 annual renewal fee unless considered exempt. A farmers market will no longer be considered the license holder. This relates to prepared ready-to-eat foods, not raw ingredients such as produce. Each stand / booth will now be a license holder.

 

Unless you’ve avoided talking to any other growers recently and / or don’t read any grower news, you’ve heard about the Federal (FDA) Food Modernization Act. There’s been a lot of scare tactics and confusing information sent out over the web on this act. After reading through the law and related amendment, this is not nearly as bad as some of the stories I’ve read make it out to seem. While the specific rules and regulations will need to be written by the FDA within 1 year of the signing date (January 5, 2011) and implementation sometime after that, there are some things that growers will want to consider now.

1)      The safe handling and production of raw produce is being taken seriously at the Federal level. This act gives the FDA relatively broad powers to create standards for the production, handling and packaging of raw produce. These standards must use the best science available, so will change over time.

2)      An amendment that was included in the act provides for the exclusion of businesses that do less than $500,000 in sales if they:

a.       Sell in-state directly to the public or end user. For example, sell directly to grocers and restaurants.

b.      Sell out-of-state if the market is within 275 miles of their operation. This includes farm markets and farmers markets.

3)      Included under these new powers is the ability of the FDA to regulate all sales through remarketers. Although we’ll have to wait for the final rules, this will probably require that produce auctions require their growers to fall under whatever standards the FDA implements.

4)      This will all probably mean that GAP and related food safety standards are going to be part of every grower’s production standards.

5)      For certified organic growers, there is provision within the act that prevents conflict or duplicate requirements. Organic growers are not excluded from this bill, but are protected from excessive regulation as long as basic GAP practices that protect public health are adhered to.

6)      Specific fruits and vegetables that are considered riskier or have a history of being linked to foodborne illness outbreaks are considered priority items.  Read this as greens, berries, melons, tomatoes, herbs, and green onions.

7)      The Commissioner of the FDA is charged in this bill with keeping the rules and regulations flexible and practical for all sizes of businesses and on-farm food processors.

8)      Although specific purchasers such as Wegman’s may require third party inspections, they are not required under this act. Read this to mean that this will be very similar to maintaining a pesticide license. You must keep certain records as well as grow and package your produce under modern, scientifically determined standards, but the FDA will be determining what specific types of inspections will be required.

Labeling is a hot issue. Individual produce will not be required to be labeled. However, there must be prominent signage on display at the sales point giving purchasers the business name and address of the producer.