Harvest and Post-Harvest Agricultural Water Requirements Start in 2023 Under the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule

Wes Kline, Ag & Natural Resources County Agent, Cumberland Co., Rutgers University; wkline@njaes.rutgers.edu

The water rule under the Food Safety Modernization Rule (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR) has been under review for some time. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finalized the harvest and post-harvest water portion which includes water used during harvest, for hand washing, cleaning equipment, cooling, and cleaning produce.

As with other FSMA rules, the FDA plans to take an “educate before and while we regulate” posture as they begin implementing the harvest and post-harvest requirements. The harvest and post-harvest rule go into effect on the following dates:

  • January 26, 2023, for all farms with sales over $500,000.
  • January 26, 2024, for small businesses (total sales more than $250,00 but less than $500,000); and
  • January 26, 2025, for very small businesses (total sales more than $25,000 but less than $250,000).

Growers are required to test ground water sources (wells) four times in the first year and once each year thereafter. If the water does not meet acceptable levels (non-detectable generic E. coli) the farm would need to stop using the source and determine the cause, make corrections then return to testing four times. If a municipal water source is used the report from the municipality testing program is sufficient. Remember untreated surface water can not be used for harvest or post-harvest activities.

Growers will also need to do a water distribution inspection each year that evaluates the water source, connections going into harvest or post-harvest systems and any water delivery systems in a packing house. Records will need to be maintained for two years showing the inspection results. There will be more details presented at the New Jersey Agricultural Convention & Trade Show at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City February 8, 2023, during the afternoon food safety session.

Pre-Harvest (Irrigation) Agricultural Water Requirements

It is not yet known when the pre-harvest rule will be finalized. However, when the proposed rule is finalized, it will require farms to conduct an annual systems based agricultural water assessment to determine and guide measures to minimize potential risks associated with pre-harvest agricultural water. When the rule is finalized, FDA proposes the following compliance dates:

  • Nine months after the effective date for all other businesses (farms over $500,000);
  • One year, nine months after the effective date for small businesses (farms more than $250,00 to $500,000); and
  • Two years, nine months after the effective date for very small businesses (farms more than $25,000 to $250,000).

This article was originally published in Plant & Pest Advisory and is reprinted with permission from the author.