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Area farmers to share thoughts with officials on proposed FDA changes

HADLEY — State and federal officials will be at a Hadley farm Thursday to hear from local farmers about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed new food safety rules.

The FDA says its proposed rules on standards for growing, harvesting, packing, holding and processing produce on farms will protect consumers from foodborne illness. But local farms and organizations such as the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation contend the rules are overly burdensome and will negatively affect farmers in New England disproportionately because most farms here are smaller and will have a harder time dealing with the costs associated with compliance. Farm Bureau and the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association are hosting the session along with Plainville Farm so farmers can share their concerns with officials and suggest changes that could make the rules more reasonable for Massachusetts farms.

Among other things, the rules would require farmers who produce food generally eaten raw to test irrigation and wash water frequently and keep animals out of fields. It also says farmers cannot apply manure as fertilizer to their fields any less than nine months before harvest. “I think it’s crucial to have communication between the two sides,” said Plainville Farm co-owner Wally Czajkowski.

The event takes place at Plainville Farm at 135 Mt. Warner Road from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Officials in attendance will include FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor, FDA Director of Produce Safety Samir Assar, FDA Senior Advisor at the Office of Food Safety Jenny Scott, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner Greg Watson and state Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan. No registration is required, according to a press release from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The FDA officials heard from farmers at similar events in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. After the public comment period on the proposed rules closes Nov. 15, the FDA will make any necessary revisions before finalizing the regulations. For more information on the rules or to comment, visit www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA.

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