(Feb. 1) A California senator is introducing the California Produce Safety Action Plan, comprised of three separate bills focusing on leafy greens.

Dean Florez, D-Shafter, said he plans to introduce the bills Feb. 1.

Florez said the proposed legislation, outlined in a Jan. 31 news release, would transfer oversight of food safety programs to the California Department of Health Services. The bills are designed to address what Florez sees as vulnerabilities to the food supply, covering areas ranging from irrigation water, processing and traceback systems. Leafy green growers would be assessed to pay for the food safety program.

The first bill would give the health department authority to manage future outbreaks by allowing the agency to recall, quarantine or destroy tainted produce. Growers would be required to obtain licenses only after they provide evidence to the department of any risk factors, such as wildlife, located near their growing areas. These license fees would finance a new DHS inspection program that would send inspectors to farms throughout the state to conduct tests of water, soil and produce.

The second bill would give DHS authority to establish good agriculture practices, which all leafy greens growers would be required to follow. It would prohibit the use of creek water for irrigation or raw manure for fertilizer. Tests on irrigation water would be conducted every two weeks during the growing season and immediately prior to harvest. And growers would be required to maintain records that must be reviewed prior to transporting any leafy greens.

The third bill would require DHS to establish the minimum requirements of a traceback system in order to track possible contamination from fields to retailers.

“The bottom line is we all want food safety and no one wants to ensure that more than California farmers,” said Ann Schmidt-Fogarty, spokeswoman for the California Farm Bureau Federation, Sacramento. “Our main goal is to follow the science to ensure all the practices we put into place really work.”

Schmidt-Fogarty said the organization will thoroughly review the proposal, but would not comment on the initial news release announcing a Feb. 1 news conference on the proposal. She said the federation wants to see the proposed legislation before commenting.

“There may be some good things that he wants to put into law,” she said. “But we want to hear what he has to say in its entirety.”