The Food and Drug Administration will partner with state departments of agriculture to help implement the produce safety rule.

In a Sept. 16 news release, the FDA said announced a new cooperative agreement with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture related to regulations from the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act. The agreement will help provide the input and resources necessary to help plan and carry out implementation of a national produce safety rule, according to the release.

“Our state partners have expertise in produce safety and unique knowledge of local food production activities, and thus have an essential role to play in helping to implement the FSMA produce safety rule,” Michael Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, said in the release.

“This cooperative agreement will provide critical information on state legal authorities and resources to address produce safety and lay the foundation for working with NASDA and other state partners to develop a realistic and workable plan for nationwide implementation of the produce safety rule.”

The agreement will provide the funding and support necessary to determine the current status of state law, the resources needed by states to implement the produce safety rule, as well as develop a timeline for successful implementation once the rule is finalized, according to the release.

NASDA will partner with the Association of Food and Drug Officials, the International Food Protection Training Institute, and other public health partners in the development of a national produce safety plan, according to the release.

“The progress we have made in the past year towards a state-federal partnership with the FDA is incredible,” Chuck Ross, outgoing NASDA President and current Vermont Secretary of Agriculture said in the release.

Ross said the agreement will help ensure that the produce rule is implemented correctly.

“NASDA will help the FDA develop and implement a national produce safety plan in a way that makes sense to the producers and processors that feed American consumers,” he said in the release.

David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said the agreement makes sense.

“With potentially 190,000 farms added to their list of regulated operations, FDA doesn’t have the resources to put boots on the ground to enforce the Produce Safety rule,” he said in a Sept. 17 e-mail. “Many growers already have a working relationship with their State Departments of Agriculture, and we know that food safety practices at the farm can have regional differences.”

Gombas said FDA, NASDA and other groups have the ability to develop a fair and inclusive plan to enforcing the rule after it is finalized.