- Livestock in close proximity to fruit and vegetable growing areas can pose a problem for growers seeking food safety certification. With proper mitigation strategies, the two can coexist. Without these strategies, passing an audit may be difficult.
It’s important to remember that all animals pose a food safety risk to fresh produce. Any time growers aggregate animals, the risk to contaminating adjacent cropland goes up. Therefore, for the purposes of this article, livestock refers to all domesticated animals, regardless of size or number. This means that domesticated animals kept as 4-H animals or temporarily, such as summer broilers, all fall within the scope of this document. The auditor makes no distinction between these forms of livestock and others.
Depending on the audit scheme, the distance between livestock and your growing area may be greater than or less than 100 yards. Always check the standard setback distances in the audit you are looking to have for actual setbacks. If the livestock are too close, the best solution is to move either the production area or the livestock to comply with the setbacks.
In some cases, growers will not be able to move either the livestock or the growing area. In these cases, a mitigation strategy must be put in place. The mitigation strategy should impede the movement of manure and particulate into the growing area under most weather conditions.
Possible mitigation strategies could include berms high enough to prevent manure-laden water flow into the orchard or vegetable field. If these earthen barriers were planted with fast growing trees, such as poplars, a particulate barrier can be established in short order.
Most auditing schemes also require that the perimeter fence around the livestock area be maintained and periodically inspected. As with all inspections, you will need to keep a record of the inspections and any repairs that need to be made.
It is important to remember that the auditor is looking for evidence of a system written in the GAP Manual to minimize incidence of foodborne illness. This includes visual evidence that it is taking place and documentation that it has been taking place in the past. Writing a Livestock Policy is the first step. Implementing changes or developing mitigation strategies on your farm is the next step. Documenting that you are monitoring fences and discarding contaminated produce is the final step.