FRANKFORT – As planting season begins, Kentucky’s produce growers are entering a busy time of year. While producing delicious, nutritious food is the ultimate goal, Kentucky producers always work hard to put safety first.

“Kentucky produce growers are responsible for some of the freshest, nutrient-rich, and delicious products offered in grocery stores, farm stands, and farmers’ markets across the state,” Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles said. “Part of that is the dedication it takes to keep our food, environment, and people safe. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Produce Safety Rules help growers do exactly that.”

In 2011, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, a law that tasked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with implementing new food safety protocols aimed at increasing food safety across the nation. Instead of allowing the FDA to inspect Kentucky farms, Commissioner Quarles worked to secure passage of legislation in 2020 which allowed the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) to enter into a state-led program. The KDA’s Produce Safety Program helps producers comply with federal regulatory standards for the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce.

For Kentucky growers, the first step in the process is to complete the Produce Farm Survey. The survey, which can be completed on-line or via a mail-in-survey card, is a requirement of Kentucky’s Produce Safety Regulation for all produce growers regardless of farm size or sales. If you have not already completed this survey, you can do so on-line by visiting the KDA’s Produce Safety page on its website.

The survey also helps the department determine if growers are subject to further requirements under the federal Produce Safety Rule. In addition to the survey, fruit and vegetable growers averaging $25,000 or more in annual sales during the previous three years must complete a Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training course.

In partnership with the University of Kentucky, KDA provides free grower training courses to all produce growers through the department’s cooperative agreement grant. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the courses will be online through September. Class sizes are limited and participants must register in advance. For more information on the PSA Grower Training or to register for a course, contact the University of Kentucky Food Systems Innovation Center at 859-257-1546 or go to the KDA website.

The survey and grower training course help KDA determine if an inspection is required for a produce farm. Kentucky’s produce safety statute passed in 2020, eliminates the need for federal inspection of Kentucky produce farms and places inspectional oversight under the KDA Produce Safety Program.

For more specific information regarding the new federal and state requirements for growers, as well as the full text of the federal and state rules noted above, visit the KDA Produce Safety page on the Department’s website at https://www.kyagr.com/marketing/produce-safety.html.

For more information about the survey, the grower trainer course or the inspection process, contact Melissa Rutledge, KDA Education & Outreach Coordinator at 502-229-4032 or Melissa.rutledge@ky.gov.