The produce industry should support the formation of the National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.
The proposed national agreement would be based on the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, formed in 2007 after the 2006 E. coli outbreak linked to bagged spinach. Arizona handlers are also covered under a similar agreement.
Leafy greens handlers across the country found out that they lost business during the outbreak as government sources were trying to find the guilty parties.
They should have an agreement such as this national proposal to formalize and standardize their food safety practices and be able to prove it to government and consumers.
California and Arizona represent roughly 90% of the nation’s leafy greens production, leaving about 10% that could be covered through the national agreement.
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture begins the process of establishing such a proposal, it should keep in mind state agricultural differences, which might be perfectly safe, but different than what goes on in California.
The issue of small growers who may not be able to afford to meet the metrics has been brought up.
While we’d hate to see a small grower go out of business because of the potential rules — which would still be voluntary under the proposal — and its business implications, the risk that mistakes on any sized farm could bring down an industry and kill consumers in a food safety outbreak necessitates supporting a national agreement.