Last week the leafy greens fields of Salinas Valley were visited by government officials charged with oversight and implementation of new food safety regulations and by two members of the US House of Representatives.

On Aug. 25, at the invitation of California Congressman Sam Farr, Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia made his first visit to the Salinas Valley and toured the “salad bowl of the world” for the first time.  Rep. Kingston chairs the House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee.  Rep. Farr is the ranking member on the same committee.

"While I did not think it possible after all Sam Farr has told me, the Salinas Valley was truly impressive beyond expectations,” said Kingston.  “The enthusiasm of the growers was contagious and their work ethic and productivity rivals any I have seen.  We are united in support of a safe and abundant food supply.”

“Many of the challenges I saw for growers are the same I hear about from blueberry and Vidalia onion farmers in my neck of the woods,” said Kingston.  “I appreciate Sam's hospitality as well as that of the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and look forward to working with them to advance food safety and American agriculture."

“While politics often pull us apart, the important work on the ground pulls us together.  Food security and food safety are bipartisan issues,” added Farr.  “The fact that the chairman and ranking member of the House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee joined for this tour of Salinas Valley agriculture demonstrates that.”

The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement uses mandatory government audits to verify that a set of science-based food safety practices are being followed on leafy greens farms.  The LGMA program was initiated in 2007 to protect public health.  Since its inception, over 200 billion servings of leafy greens have been produced under this system of mandatory government audits.

“We are very pleased these officials have taken time to visit our program, meet our farmers and see for themselves the success of this program,” said LGMA Chairman of the Board Ryan Talley of Talley Farms, Arroyo Grande.  “The LGMA is an excellent example of a public-private partnership between government and farming communities.”

In recent months, the announcement of Produce Safety rules under the new Food Safety Modernization Act has been expected, but has not yet been issued.  In the meantime, the California leafy greens industry has been operating under a comprehensive program with the oversight of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.  The program requires producers to be in 100 percent compliance with all food safety practices and then verified by government auditors.   

Earlier in the week, the LGMA hosted a visit from four FDA staffers – two from FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) and two who are with Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network (CORE).

“We are hopeful the Produce Safety Rule will be announced soon and are working closely with the U.S. FDA to make them aware of what is already being done with respect to food safety by the California Leafy Greens industry,” said LGMA CEO Scott Horsfall.  “Tours such as those conducted last week are very important in demonstrating our commitment to food safety.  It appears the officials who experienced our program last week; recognize all that our farmers are doing to make their products safe.”

For more information about the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, please visit their website at www.caleafygreens.ca.gov.