Apr 27, 2011
Comments sought on leafy greens agreement

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is requesting comment on the creation of a voluntary National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (NLGMA) that would assist all segments of the leafy greens industry in meeting commercial food quality and safety requirements.

To reflect the different climates, production practices and markets handling leafy green produce, USDA is proposing that there be eight regional zones. Representatives from these zones, appointed by the secretary of agriculture, would form a board to manage the agreement. The board would include 26 representatives: 12 handlers, 10 farmers (at least two of which must be small farmers), one importer, one retailer, one food service representative and one member of the public.

The secretary would also appoint a technical review committee to assist the board in the development of technical requirements commonly referred to as Good Agricultural Practices, Good Handling Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices. The committee members will be one producer, one handler and one food safety expert from each of the eight zones. At least one of the eight producers must be a small farmer and one must be a certified organic farmer, according to USDA.

“We are asking for extensive public participation with input from farmers and handlers, as well as the public, to develop a comprehensive, voluntary agreement that will meet the needs of everyone,” said AMS Administrator Rayne Pegg. “This agreement is a proposal at this point, and we encourage your comments over the next 90 days. We will analyze the comments and decide how or whether to proceed with an agreement.”

NLGMA was proposed to AMS in June 2009 by a group of 14 organizations representing a cross-section of producer and handler representatives from the fresh produce industry.

USDA conducted seven public hearings across the country and received hundreds of letters and comments on the initial proposal. Adjustments have been made to the agreement and its structure to better reflect concerns that were raised during the hearings, according to USDA.

You can visit the AMS website at www.ams.usda.gov for more information on this proposal and how to comment on the proposed National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.

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