After an initial sign-up period by growers, shippers and handlers, Arizona Department of Agriculture (ADA) Assistant Director of Citrus Fruit and Vegetable Division, Jim Nowlin, approved the creation of the Arizona Leafy Green Products Shipper Marketing Agreement on October 2. The voluntary program is similar to the one initiated in California earlier this year to address food safety and consumer confidence.
“Although Arizona’s unique climate makes our produce much less vulnerable to food safety issues, the leafy greens industry is being proactive in preventing food-borne illnesses from ever occurring,” Nowlin says.
During the 22-day initial sign-up period that ended on September 27, 32 shippers signed up for the agreement. That represents approximately 75 percent to 85 percent of all leafy greens produced in Arizona, according to Ed Hermes, public information officer for the Arizona Department of Agriculture. Additional shippers may still voluntarily join. Once they have signed the agreement they will be subject to mandatory compliance with the adopted safety procedures and inspections.
The next step will be establishing a marketing committee consisting of five members elected by the signatories of the agreement. Three will be elected from Yuma County and two others from any leafy green producing area in the state. The committee will then decide on leafy green safety procedures that all signatories must abide by. The committee will also establish an assessment rate to support the marketing agreement.