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What You May Have Missed at the Food Quality & Safety Symposium

Convening in the heart of Lodi Wine Country, Almond Board of California (ABC) hosted its Nineteenth Annual Food Quality and Safety Symposium at the Wine & Roses Hotel on June 22, 2017. The one-day symposium featured seven sessions, highlighting everything from the latest technological advancements in the orchard to a comprehensive overview of Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules and implications for both growers and processors. Key Session Takeaways   Grow What You Know About Almonds Kicking off the day, Richard Waycott, ABC president and CEO, opened with a discussion of the industry’s shared story and common goal, encouraging everyone to proactively participate in a dialogue about how we grow almonds. Reminding us that ‘Big’ can also mean good, he noted that our ‘Big’ industry is primarily made up of small, family-run farms, and this sum of all parts is what makes continued research, sustainable innovation and industry leadership possible. With new phases of evolution for both the California Almond Sustainability Program[1] and Accelerated Innovation Management initiatives, emerging biomass usage opportunities and expansion across all global markets, accounting for a 25% increase in almond consumption, the industry maintains its leadership position and is poised for even greater accomplishments in the coming years. FSMA is Upon Us and Applies to All! While FSMA guidelines are complicated and vary based on type of almond operation, Elizabeth Fawell, Almond Board’s FMSA consultant from Hogan Lovells, has done an incredible job of sorting through the hard stuff for us, going over each rule and implication and determining what this means for any stakeholder within the almond industry. During the symposium, Elizabeth outlined a four-step approach to help understand what rules apply to different operations, and when you need to comply: Step 1: Understand which entities are covered by which rules. In short, figure out if you are considered a ‘Farm.’ Step 2: Determine how the activities you conduct are classified by the FDA. Do you harvest, hull/shell, etc.? Step 3: Look at each rule and determine whether any exemptions apply. Do you conduct certain low-risk activities, have smaller average annual sales, etc.? Step 4: If you are covered by the rule, determine your compliance date. This will largely vary based on the size of your operation. Steve Patton, from the California Department of Food and Ag (CDFA), contributed another layer of perspective from a FSMA enforcement point of view. With CDFA contracted by Food and Drug Administration for Produce Safety compliance in California, his team has been prioritizing compliance activities to be phased in over a period of time. Most work has been focused around planning and setting up the infrastructure to effectively monitor and audit farms for Produce Safety compliance. He noted that there is a mutual trust between the FDA and the almond industry; as long as growers and handlers are making the effort to move toward FSMA compliance, the FDA will be understanding of the transition process/learning curve. You can find a helpful breakdown of all FSMA rules and compliance dates at: almonds.com/growers/fsma or almonds.com/processors/fsma. No Industry is Immune to Risk or External Threats Be it foodborne illness, intentional adulteration or external terrorism, we learned of the various risks that consistently pose a threat to the almond industry. While the industry as a whole follows strict protocols and standards, both Dr. Linda Harris’s and David Goldenberg’s sessions reiterated the importance of establishing and preserving strong food safety plans, with the goal to establish strong preventive strategies before any potential response or reaction is needed. Advanced Harvesting and Other Lessons from Down Under Down where the almond harvest follows a different cycle, the Agricultural Machine Research and Design Centre team of the University of South Australia is experimenting with novel methods of almond harvesting and processing, aimed at addressing environmental and quality concerns of a growing industry. Michael Coates, one of the lead members of the team, presented the Centre’s latest research – examining the impact of an early ‘green’ harvest and shake and catch systems, as well as on-farm hulling and mechanical drying. While the shake-and-catch systems are not refined for the almond industry, yet (the technology has mostly been utilized for pistachios), the team has identified several positive key takeaways after preliminary research: early harvesting offers a harvesting method independent of the weather; reduces mold, bacteria and pest infestation; significantly reduces dust and is easier for hulling. Find the full presentations here. [1]Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.
Newsletter
Jul 14, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety

FSMA Files: Straight Talk from the Experts – All About Compliance

Welcome back to our FSMA Files column! This month, we’re focusing on questions we’ve received regarding FSMA compliance dates. These questions are timely, as FDA recently announced a delay in the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule. We’ve also fielded a number of questions about whether operations are considered farms or facilities and how to cancel a facility registration with the FDA. Please keep your questions coming! You can send them to Tim Birmingham at tbirmingham@almondboard.com with the subject line “FSMA Files,” and we’ll be sure to address them in upcoming columns. Question: When does FSMA compliance begin? Straight Talk: Your FSMA compliance dates depend on the specific rule that applies to you. This is related to the size of your business and whether FDA has delayed any portions of the rule applicable to you. For example, FDA has delayed the compliance dates for the written assurance of commercial processing requirements in the Produce Safety, Preventive Controls and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) Rules and has announced plans to delay the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule. For a better idea of how different rules apply to different business, read on. Explanation: Each FSMA rule has its own set of compliance dates. These dates vary based on the size of the operation, as defined under each rule. Generally, a “large business” is a business with more than 500 full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees. A “small business” is typically defined as fewer than 500 FTE employees. Each of the rules has its own definition of a “very small business,” which is based on food sales plus the value of food held without sale (see the next question below regarding these dollar amounts). In addition, due to various comments regarding implementation challenges, FDA has delayed the compliance date for certain components of the rules. Specifically, FDA has announced plans to delay the compliance date for the agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule. The original compliance dates for these requirements were set to begin in January 2020 (but certain sampling would have had to begin sooner). FDA is exploring ways to simplify these requirements after receiving feedback from stakeholders that some aspects of the rules are too complex to understand and implement. FDA has not yet determined the new compliance dates, as “the length of the extension is under consideration.” Other extended compliance dates address: The requirement to obtain customer assurances for food that will be subject to further processing. Note that the original compliance dates remain in effect for the requirement to disclose that a hazard has not been controlled when relying on a subsequent entity to control the hazard. Compliance with the Preventive Controls rules for facilities solely engaged in packing and/or holding activities conducted on nut hulls and shells. This extension covers almond brown skin facilities that only size, sort, grade or pack almonds, as well as facilities that only hull and shell almonds, as long as the facility does not engage in manufacturing or processing activities (i.e., chopping, grinding, mixing, roasting, pasteurizing, salting). Compliance with the Preventive Controls rules for facilities that would qualify as “secondary activities farms” except for ownership of the facility. Facilities that meet the definition of “secondary activities farms” except for the ownership criterion can take advantage of an extension for compliance with the Preventive Controls rule if: The operation is not located on the primary production farm; The operation is devoted to harvesting, packing and/or holding of raw agricultural commodities (RACs) (including operations that hull, shell and/or dry nuts without additional manufacturing); and The operation is under common ownership with the primary production farm that grows, harvests and/or raises the majority of the RACs harvested, packed and/or held by the operation. Examples of common ownership include: An operation owned by (or that owns) one or more primary production farms (e.g., a packing house owned by a cooperative of individual farms) Operations that are managed within the same business structure as the primary production farm (e.g., the farm and packinghouse are separate operations owned by parents and their children, respectively, and both operations are part of the same business jointly owned by the parents and the children) In general, FDA has delayed compliance by two years in order to align the Preventive Controls rule compliance date with the Produce Safety rule compliance date for those facilities that can look to the Produce for compliance guidelines. For specific compliance dates with each of the FSMA rules, please explore the resources available at almonds.com/processors/fsma. Question: What is the definition of a “very small business” for the purposes of determining FSMA compliance dates? Straight Talk: Each of the FSMA rules has its own definition of a “very small business”. “Very small businesses” are typically exempt from complying with the rule. Determining whether or not you qualify for this exemption is based on the dollar value of sales of human food plus the market value of human food manufactured, processed, packed or held without sale (e.g., held for a fee). There are baseline values set in each of the FSMA rules, but FDA will adjust these values over time due to inflation. Thus, the exact cutoff value will change from year to year. Basic guidance is provided in the table below. Explanation: Each FSMA rule has its own definition of a “very small business” based on the value of food sales and food held without sale. “Very small businesses” are exempt from rule compliance due to their size, as defined by sales. The rationale is that these operations do not have the resources to comply with the rule and exempting them represents a low risk to the food supply. Because the compliance obligations and risks are different from rule to rule, the sales values that determine the definition are different as well. An operation must review the definitions in each FSMA rule to determine whether it meets the definition and to determine its compliance date. FDA will adjust the baseline values established in the regulations for inflation at the end of March each year. To do this, FDA will use the federal calculation for the gross domestic product price deflator, provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Below we provide a table with the average three-year inflation-adjusted values for the FSMA rules, which are the values that need to be taken into account when determining whether an entity meets the very-small-business-related definitions under the various FSMA rules as of 2017. By way of example, the Preventive Controls for Human Food definition of “very small business” includes a threshold of an average of “less than $1 million, adjusted for inflation, per year, during the 3-year period preceding the applicable calendar year in sales of human food plus the market value of human food manufactured, processed, packed or held without sale (e.g., held for a fee)” (emphasis added). Using the inflation-adjusted values provided by FDA, in 2017 a facility’s average annual income now would need to be below $1,065,291 to qualify as a “very small business.” FSMA Inflation-Adjusted Cut Off Values     Regulation and Definition  Baseline Value for Cut-offs (2011) Average 3-Year Value for 2014 - 2016  Preventive Controls for Human Food: “Very Small Business”  $1,000,000  $1,065,291 Preventive Controls for Animal Food: “Very Small Business”  $2,500,000  $2,663,227 Produce Safety Rule: “Qualified Exemption”  $500,000  $532,645 Produce Safety Rule: “Not Covered Farm”  $25,000  $26,632 Foreign Supplier Verification Programs: Human Food: “Very Small Importer”  $1,000,000  $1,065,291 Foreign Supplier Verification Programs: Animal Food: “Very Small Importer”  $2,500,000 $2,663,227  Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food: “Non-covered Business”  $500,000 $532,645 Intentional Adulteration: “Very Small Business”  $10,000,000 $10,652,906  Question: If my farm is registered with FDA, but based on the new definition of a “farm” I am not required to register it, what should I do? Straight Talk: If your operation was previously registered with FDA, but now no longer needs to be registered, you should cancel the registration. Explanation: Operations that meet the definition of a farm do not need to register with FDA. If your operation was registered, but now meets the definition of a “farm” under the new regulations, you should cancel your registration. You should go online to FDA’s facility registration portal and cancel your registration electronically (through https://www.access.fda.gov/). Alternatively, you can cancel your registration by paper (mail or fax). This form is available here: https://www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFDA/ReportsManualsForms/Forms/UCM072017.pdf. You will be asked to provide information such as registration number, facility name and address. This column was prepared by Elizabeth Fawell and Maile Hermida, who are lawyers with Hogan Lovells US LLP in Washington, DC. The FSMA Files column is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
Newsletter
Jul 14, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety

Almonds in India: Helping Balance Work, Family and Health

India has a longstanding relationship with almonds with generations of mothers giving almonds to their children first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Aided by a sustained ABC program, the shipments of almonds from California to India have seen a 50% increase over the last 5 years reaching 126 million lbs. in 2015-16. In the current year, by April, India had already surpassed its highest ever annual shipment level to reach 139 million lbs., a 42% growth over the corresponding period last year. The per capita consumption (addressable population) of almonds in India currently stands only at 0.39 lbs., compared to developed markets like the US (1.97 lbs.), Germany (1.89 lbs.) and Canada (1.87 lbs.), thus signaling a huge opportunity for growth.   Trade Conference In India, the Trade is largely unorganized with limited number of players from a few families dominating the trade. Lately we are seeing newer players entering the trade as well. An annual trade conference is conducted to ensure that the Trade has continued faith in the growing almond potential in India. This year the conference was held on 23rd February in New Delhi and addressed global ABC updates, marketing updates and the status of market access discussions apart from developments in USA-India agricultural trade. The speakers included Richard Waycott (CEO, ABC), Julie Adams (Vice President, ABC), Sudarshan Mazumdar (Regional Director – India, ABC) and Scott Sindelar (Minister Counselor, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Embassy). Additionally, an external speaker, Dr. Padma Venkatasubramanian was invited to speak about her learnings of almond benefits as quoted in the ancient texts of traditional Indian medicine such as Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani. The conference was a resounding success with a 35% increase in attendance over the previous year, with presence of importers from different parts of the country as well as some almond handlers from California.   Discussion Over Almonds In India, the kitchen and taking care of the family’s needs is still the woman’s responsibility. With an increasing number of women working, they find themselves feeling guilty of their work coming at the cost of them taking care of their family. To highlight the issue, ABC conducted a panel discussion in Hyderabad, titled “Discussion Over Almonds- Working Mother’s Dilemma in Ensuring the Family Health”. Panelists included actress & model Namrata Shirodkar; nutritionist & wellness consultants, Ritika Samadar & Sheila Krishnaswamy; all of whom are facing the struggles of managing work and taking care of their families. Additionally, Senior Director, Global Marketing, ABC, Emily Fleischmann brought an international perspective to the subject. They discussed their individual mechanisms to manage while highlighting the importance of daily consumption of almonds for themselves as well as for all family members. The panelists provided useful tips from their experiences which other working women could also incorporate in their lives. The tactic was extremely successful in highlighting the health benefits of almonds in a broader social context and as a result the media was extremely excited about this activity and took the message to their readers.   
Newsletter
Jul 14, 2017 // About the Almond Board

Invest in Next Year’s Crop with Post-Harvest Irrigation

As growers are well aware, the almond harvest season is the busiest time of year. Prepping the orchard floor, timing tree shake in relation to hull split and achieving optimum moisture content during drying are just a few of the many factors growers will consider from August to October. Timely post-harvest irrigation is critical for bloom, fruit set and potential yield. It’s also during this busy harvesting season that the foundation for next year’s crop is laid in the form of fruiting-bud differentiation. This period – from July to October in normal years – is when floral buds develop and next year’s crop yield potential is set. The principle is simple: more flowers mean more nuts.    Many factors can affect crop yield, such as pollination efficiency, weather patterns and nutrient management decisions. With all of that being said, one of the biggest factors for maximizing potential yield of next year’s crop is post-harvest management of water.   Paying it Forward Think of your post-harvest and late season irrigation as “paying it forward” for next year’s crop. During this critical time, tree water need is significant and severe water stress can drastically reduce bloom, fruit set and yield. Bud development is a gradual process, with beginning and endpoints, depending on individual buds. For example, in Nonpareil and Carmel varieties, the initiation of flowers spans the period of July through mid-August, and bud differentiation is completed with pistil development, which occurs from August to mid-September.    Ensure Optimum Irrigation  An informative source to help growers better understand irrigation management – both post-harvest and year-round – is the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum. This resource, developed by Almond Board of California (ABC) in partnership with many trusted and respected technical experts, provides a step-by-step explanation of irrigation management and scheduling practices related to the following concepts: Measuring irrigation system performance and efficiency Estimating orchard water requirements based on evapotranspiration Determining applied water Evaluating soil moisture Evaluating plant water status The Irrigation Improvement Continuum provides a wide-ranging look at a grower’s site-specific irrigation system with the goal of improved efficiency and effectiveness.   Spencer Cooper, senior manager, Irrigation and Water Efficiency, is available to help almond growers reach their goals of increased water efficiency. Spencer meets growers in person for in-orchard consultations to discuss irrigation systems, address challenges and share ABC’s print and online irrigation tools. To schedule your own irrigation consultation, email Spencer at scooper@almondboard.com or call (209) 343-3211.     Additional post-harvest irrigation information UC Davis pomology professor, Ken Shackel, shares why irrigating after harvest is key for orchard success in this short Almond Update podcast, sponsored by ABC. More information about the impacts of water stress on fruit bud development in relation to growing regions and varieties is available in the UC ANR publication 8515, “Drought Tips: Drought Management for California Almonds,” which is available online at Almonds.com or the University of California.      
Newsletter
Jul 14, 2017 // Orchard Management

Almond Industry Gathers on Capitol Hill

From L to R: Richard Waycott, Gabriele Ludwig, Kent Stenderup, Ag. Sec. Sonny Perdue, Martin Pohl, Holly King, Julie Adams, Kelly Covello and Micah Zeff. Each June, Almond Board of California (ABC) staff and industry members visit Washington, D.C. The annual fly-in marks a week of hectic activity as the group, representing several ABC committees and the Board of Directors, as well as the Almond Alliance, meets with multiple Federal agencies and Congressional offices.   This year, we met with Congressmen Jeff Denham (R-Modesto), Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and David Valadao (R-Hanford). Both Representatives Denham and Costa sit on the House Agriculture Committee and Representative Valadao is Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. We also met with staffs of the House Agriculture Committee and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif). The focus of these meetings was the 2018 Farm Bill and the many programs leveraged by the California Almond industry. Meeting with D.C. representatives from the American Farm Bureau and Western Growers Association also helped to identify common interests and objectives.   No trip would be complete without seeing USDA staff from the various agencies with which we cooperate, including the Ag Marketing Service, the Foreign Agricultural Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Agricultural Research Service. Meetings were also held with the Food and Drug Administration and the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs.   Finally, we had the opportunity to meet privately with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Secretary Perdue is from Georgia and has a strong agricultural background. Georgia grows specialty crops including peaches and pecans, which should further his understanding of almonds.   There is a lot happening in Washington that will directly impact California Almonds and the way we farm. Having a relationship with key stakeholders is an essential part of making sure our issues are being considered. And having growers and processors talk directly about California Almonds is the most compelling way to do it!  
Newsletter
Jul 14, 2017 // Government Affairs

Prioritizing Sustainability on the Farm

Since completing his first California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) module in 2011, fourth-generation almond farmer Eric Genzoli said his participation has made him a better farmer. Over the last six years, he has done self-assessments in all nine modules, ranging from pest, irrigation and nutrition management, energy efficiency and air quality, to financial and ecosystems management and workplace and community.  Eric Genzoli is the fourth generation to farm the family’s almond orchard in Turlock and believes participating in the California Almond Sustainability Program is an investment in the future of the industry.Through this participation, he has learned to pay more attention to details such as calibrating his sprayers for sustainable pest management or keeping records of energy use in the field. The financial management module prompted a tighter look at tracking expenses and succession planning. Over the last five years, the operation has converted about half of its acreage from flood irrigation to double-line drip, and the rest will be converted as older orchards are replanted. While there are some differences within the nine blocks Genzoli farms on 300 acres in Stanislaus County, the online CASP system is designed so that Genzoli can import duplicate information, or clone data, on different blocks to expedite the self-assessment process. “That’s a real time-saving device,” he said. “I’m not a computer-savvy person, but I was able to do the whole assessment on all nine blocks in about two hours.” He was also able to use CASP’s online irrigation calculator when filling out an NRCS cost-share project application. Participation in CASP complements the protocol and strategies that have been passed down through the four generations of Genzoli’s farming family. Genzoli’s great-grandfathers on both sides of his father’s family immigrated to the Turlock area from Switzerland and from the Azores in Portugal, breaking into California agriculture with small dairies in the late 1800s and converting to permanent plantings, including almonds. “My family has been doing this a long time. There’s a lot you can learn when you have traditions passed down from family members,” he said. “At the same time, the biggest benefit for me of participating in CASP is seeing what other farmers are doing in the industry and how we can improve and incorporate new strategies into our operation. It’s a unique device that makes people aware of things that maybe they weren’t before.” CASP also gives the industry tools to respond to crises, such as the recent drought, when water use in almonds gained significant media attention. “Because of the Sustainability Program, we had the tools to show over the last decade how almond growers have converted to watersaving irrigation and are measuring their water needs and use so they are not wasting precious resources,” he said. “We were lucky to have that industrywide information at our finger tips, but at the same time, luck has nothing to do with it. Growers need to fill out that information so it’s at hand when it’s needed.” Sustainability is an integral part of Genzoli’s pest management, irrigation and other production practices that basically involves looking at the big picture and broader impacts of every decision he makes in the orchard, he said. As Genzoli has taken increased responsibility for managing the family’s farming operations, he has also made a point of getting involved in leadership activities within the industry. In addition to his commitment to CASP, Genzoli is a graduate of the Blue Diamond Leadership Program, California Ag Leadership Program and Almond Leadership Program. All of these programs provide communication and leadership training to help prepare young farmers for leadership roles in the future. “As a farmer, the almond industry is our industry, and I believe it’s our duty to get involved,” Genzoli said. “Unless you are really involved, you are missing opportunities to improve your operation or gain knowledge of how it can be better. If we all get involved, we can preserve this special privilege of farming almonds for generations in the future.” To participate in the California Almond Sustainability Program and gain access to the N Calculator, Irrigation Calculator and Mapping Tool, go to SustainableAlmondGrowing.org.
Newsletter
Jul 14, 2017 // Environmental Sustainability

FSMA Files: Straight Talk from the Experts – All About Compliance

Welcome back to our FSMA Files column! This month, we’re focusing on questions we’ve received regarding FSMA compliance dates. These questions are timely, as FDA recently announced a delay in the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule. We’ve also fielded a number of questions about whether operations are considered farms or facilities and how to cancel a facility registration with the FDA. Please keep your questions coming! You can send them to Tim Birmingham at tbirmingham@almondboard.com with the subject line “FSMA Files,” and we’ll be sure to address them in upcoming columns. Question: When does FSMA compliance begin? Straight Talk: Your FSMA compliance dates depend on the specific rule that applies to you. This is related to the size of your business and whether FDA has delayed any portions of the rule applicable to you. For example, FDA has delayed the compliance dates for the written assurance of commercial processing requirements in the Produce Safety, Preventive Controls and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) Rules and has announced plans to delay the compliance dates for the agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule. For a better idea of how different rules apply to different business, read on. Explanation: Each FSMA rule has its own set of compliance dates. These dates vary based on the size of the operation, as defined under each rule. Generally, a “large business” is a business with more than 500 full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees. A “small business” is typically defined as fewer than 500 FTE employees. Each of the rules has its own definition of a “very small business,” which is based on food sales plus the value of food held without sale (see the next question below regarding these dollar amounts). In addition, due to various comments regarding implementation challenges, FDA has delayed the compliance date for certain components of the rules. Specifically, FDA has announced plans to delay the compliance date for the agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule. The original compliance dates for these requirements were set to begin in January 2020 (but certain sampling would have had to begin sooner). FDA is exploring ways to simplify these requirements after receiving feedback from stakeholders that some aspects of the rules are too complex to understand and implement. FDA has not yet determined the new compliance dates, as “the length of the extension is under consideration.” Other extended compliance dates address: The requirement to obtain customer assurances for food that will be subject to further processing. Note that the original compliance dates remain in effect for the requirement to disclose that a hazard has not been controlled when relying on a subsequent entity to control the hazard. Compliance with the Preventive Controls rules for facilities solely engaged in packing and/or holding activities conducted on nut hulls and shells. This extension covers almond brown skin facilities that only size, sort, grade or pack almonds, as well as facilities that only hull and shell almonds, as long as the facility does not engage in manufacturing or processing activities (i.e., chopping, grinding, mixing, roasting, pasteurizing, salting). Compliance with the Preventive Controls rules for facilities that would qualify as “secondary activities farms” except for ownership of the facility. Facilities that meet the definition of “secondary activities farms” except for the ownership criterion can take advantage of an extension for compliance with the Preventive Controls rule if: The operation is not located on the primary production farm; The operation is devoted to harvesting, packing and/or holding of raw agricultural commodities (RACs) (including operations that hull, shell and/or dry nuts without additional manufacturing); and The operation is under common ownership with the primary production farm that grows, harvests and/or raises the majority of the RACs harvested, packed and/or held by the operation. Examples of common ownership include: An operation owned by (or that owns) one or more primary production farms (e.g., a packing house owned by a cooperative of individual farms) Operations that are managed within the same business structure as the primary production farm (e.g., the farm and packinghouse are separate operations owned by parents and their children, respectively, and both operations are part of the same business jointly owned by the parents and the children) In general, FDA has delayed compliance by two years in order to align the Preventive Controls rule compliance date with the Produce Safety rule compliance date for those facilities that can look to the Produce for compliance guidelines. For specific compliance dates with each of the FSMA rules, please explore the resources available at almonds.com/processors/fsma. Question: What is the definition of a “very small business” for the purposes of determining FSMA compliance dates? Straight Talk: Each of the FSMA rules has its own definition of a “very small business”. “Very small businesses” are typically exempt from complying with the rule. Determining whether or not you qualify for this exemption is based on the dollar value of sales of human food plus the market value of human food manufactured, processed, packed or held without sale (e.g., held for a fee). There are baseline values set in each of the FSMA rules, but FDA will adjust these values over time due to inflation. Thus, the exact cutoff value will change from year to year. Basic guidance is provided in the table below. Explanation: Each FSMA rule has its own definition of a “very small business” based on the value of food sales and food held without sale. “Very small businesses” are exempt from rule compliance due to their size, as defined by sales. The rationale is that these operations do not have the resources to comply with the rule and exempting them represents a low risk to the food supply. Because the compliance obligations and risks are different from rule to rule, the sales values that determine the definition are different as well. An operation must review the definitions in each FSMA rule to determine whether it meets the definition and to determine its compliance date. FDA will adjust the baseline values established in the regulations for inflation at the end of March each year. To do this, FDA will use the federal calculation for the gross domestic product price deflator, provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Below we provide a table with the average three-year inflation-adjusted values for the FSMA rules, which are the values that need to be taken into account when determining whether an entity meets the very-small-business-related definitions under the various FSMA rules as of 2017. By way of example, the Preventive Controls for Human Food definition of “very small business” includes a threshold of an average of “less than $1 million, adjusted for inflation, per year, during the 3-year period preceding the applicable calendar year in sales of human food plus the market value of human food manufactured, processed, packed or held without sale (e.g., held for a fee)” (emphasis added). Using the inflation-adjusted values provided by FDA, in 2017 a facility’s average annual income now would need to be below $1,065,291 to qualify as a “very small business.” FSMA Inflation-Adjusted Cut Off Values   Regulation and Definition  Baseline Value for Cut-offs (2011) Average 3-Year Value for 2014 - 2016  Preventive Controls for Human Food: “Very Small Business”  $1,000,000  $1,065,291 Preventive Controls for Animal Food: “Very Small Business”  $2,500,000  $2,663,227 Produce Safety Rule: “Qualified Exemption”  $500,000  $532,645 Produce Safety Rule: “Not Covered Farm”  $25,000  $26,632 Foreign Supplier Verification Programs: Human Food: “Very Small Importer”  $1,000,000  $1,065,291 Foreign Supplier Verification Programs: Animal Food: “Very Small Importer”  $2,500,000 $2,663,227  Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food: “Non-covered Business”  $500,000 $532,645 Intentional Adulteration: “Very Small Business”  $10,000,000 $10,652,906    Question: If my farm is registered with FDA, but based on the new definition of a “farm” I am not required to register it, what should I do? Straight Talk: If your operation was previously registered with FDA, but now no longer needs to be registered, you should cancel the registration. Explanation: Operations that meet the definition of a farm do not need to register with FDA. If your operation was registered, but now meets the definition of a “farm” under the new regulations, you should cancel your registration. You should go online to FDA’s facility registration portal and cancel your registration electronically (through https://www.access.fda.gov/). Alternatively, you can cancel your registration by paper (mail or fax). This form is available here: https://www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFDA/ReportsManualsForms/Forms/UCM072017.pdf. You will be asked to provide information such as registration number, facility name and address. This column was prepared by Elizabeth Fawell and Maile Hermida, who are lawyers with Hogan Lovells US LLP in Washington, DC. The FSMA Files column is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
Newsletter
Jul 10, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety

Almonds in India: Helping Balance Work, Family and Health

India has a longstanding relationship with almonds with generations of mothers giving almonds to their children in the morning. Aided by a sustained Almond Board marketing program, the shipments of almonds from California to India have seen a 50% increase over the last 5 years, reaching 126 million lbs. in 2015-16. The per capita consumption of almonds in India currently stands only at 0.39 lbs., compared to developed markets like the U.S. (1.97 lbs.), Germany (1.89 lbs.) and Canada (1.87 lbs.), signaling a huge opportunity for growth. Discussion Over Almonds In India, taking care of the family’s needs is predominately a woman’s responsibility. With an increasing number of women working, they find themselves feeling guilty of their work coming at the cost of caring for their family. To highlight the issue, ABC conducted a panel discussion in Hyderabad, titled “Discussion Over Almonds — Working Mother’s Dilemma in Ensuring the Family Health”. Panelists included actress and model Namrata Shirodkar; nutritionist and wellness consultants, Ritika Samadar and Sheila Krishnaswamy; all of whom are facing the struggles of balancing work and family. Additionally, Emily Fleischmann, senior director, Global Marketing, ABC, brought an international perspective to the subject. They discussed how they balance work and family, while highlighting the importance of almonds in their day. The panelists provided useful tips from their experiences, which other working women could also incorporate in their lives. The tactic was extremely successful in highlighting the health benefits of almonds in a broader social context and resulted in strong media coverage.
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Jul 10, 2017 // About the Almond Board

Annual Trek to D.C.

Each June, Almond Board of California (ABC) staff and industry members visit Washington, D.C. The annual fly-in marks a week of hectic activity as the group, representing several ABC committees and the Board of Directors, as well as the Almond Alliance, meet with multiple Federal agencies and Congressional offices. This year, we met with Congressmen Jeff Denham (R-Modesto), Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and David Valadao (R-Hanford). Both Representatives Denham and Costa sit on the House Agriculture Committee and Representative Valadao is Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. We also met with staffs of the House Agriculture Committee and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif). The focus of these meetings was the 2018 Farm Bill and the many programs leveraged by the California Almond industry. Meeting with D.C. representatives from the American Farm Bureau and Western Growers Association also helped to identify common interests and objectives. No trip would be complete without seeing USDA staff from the various agencies with which we cooperate, including the Ag Marketing Service, the Foreign Agricultural Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Agricultural Research Service. Meetings were also held with the Food and Drug Administration and the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Finally, we had the opportunity to meet privately with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Secretary Perdue is from Georgia and has a strong agricultural background. Georgia grows specialty crops including peaches and pecans, which should further his understanding of almonds. There is a lot happening in Washington that will directly impact California Almonds and the way we farm. Having a relationship with key stakeholders is an essential part of making sure our issues are being considered. And having growers and processors talk directly about California Almonds is the most compelling way to do it!
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Jul 10, 2017 // Government Affairs

What You May Have Missed at the Food Quality & Safety Symposium

Convening in the heart of Lodi Wine Country, Almond Board of California (ABC) hosted its Nineteenth Annual Food Quality and Safety Symposium at the Wine & Roses Hotel on June 22, 2017. The one-day symposium featured seven sessions, highlighting everything from the latest technological advancements in the orchard to a comprehensive overview of Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules and implications for both growers and processors. Key Session Takeaways Grow What You Know About Almonds Kicking off the day, Richard Waycott, ABC president and CEO, opened with a discussion of the industry’s shared story and common goal, encouraging everyone to proactively participate in a dialogue about how we grow almonds. Reminding us that ‘Big’ can also mean good, he noted that our ‘Big’ industry is primarily made up of small, family-run farms, and this sum of all parts is what makes continued research, sustainable innovation and industry leadership possible. With new phases of evolution for both the California Almond Sustainability Program[1] and Accelerated Innovation Management initiatives, emerging biomass usage opportunities and expansion across all global markets, accounting for a 25% increase in almond consumption, the industry maintains its leadership position and is poised for even greater accomplishments in the coming years. FSMA is Upon Us and Applies to All! While FSMA guidelines are complicated and vary based on type of almond operation, Elizabeth Fawell, Almond Board’s FMSA consultant from Hogan Lovells, has done an incredible job of sorting through the hard stuff for us, going over each rule and implication and determining what this means for any stakeholder within the almond industry. During the symposium, Elizabeth outlined a four-step approach to help understand what rules apply to different operations, and when you need to comply: Step 1: Understand which entities are covered by which rules. In short, figure out if you are considered a ‘Farm.’ Step 2: Determine how the activities you conduct are classified by the FDA. Do you harvest, hull/shell, etc.? Step 3: Look at each rule and determine whether any exemptions apply. Do you conduct certain low-risk activities, have smaller average annual sales, etc.? Step 4: If you are covered by the rule, determine your compliance date. This will largely vary based on the size of your operation. Steve Patton, from the California Department of Food and Ag (CDFA), contributed another layer of perspective from a FSMA enforcement point of view. With CDFA contracted by Food and Drug Administration for Produce Safety compliance in California, his team has been prioritizing compliance activities to be phased in over a period of time. Most work has been focused around planning and setting up the infrastructure to effectively monitor and audit farms for Produce Safety compliance. He noted that there is a mutual trust between the FDA and the almond industry; as long as growers and handlers are making the effort to move toward FSMA compliance, the FDA will be understanding of the transition process/learning curve. You can find a helpful breakdown of all FSMA rules and compliance dates at: almonds.com/growers/fsma or almonds.com/processors/fsma. No Industry is Immune to Risk or External Threats Be it foodborne illness, intentional adulteration or external terrorism, we learned of the various risks that consistently pose a threat to the almond industry. While the industry as a whole follows strict protocols and standards, both Dr. Linda Harris’s and David Goldenberg’s sessions reiterated the importance of establishing and preserving strong food safety plans, with the goal to establish strong preventive strategies before any potential response or reaction is needed. Advanced Harvesting and Other Lessons from Down Under Down where the almond harvest follows a different cycle, the Agricultural Machine Research and Design Centre team of the University of South Australia is experimenting with novel methods of almond harvesting and processing, aimed at addressing environmental and quality concerns of a growing industry. Michael Coates, one of the lead members of the team, presented the Centre’s latest research – examining the impact of an early ‘green’ harvest and shake and catch systems, as well as on-farm hulling and mechanical drying. While the shake-and-catch systems are not refined for the almond industry, yet (the technology has mostly been utilized for pistachios), the team has identified several positive key takeaways after preliminary research: early harvesting offers a harvesting method independent of the weather; reduces mold, bacteria and pest infestation; significantly reduces dust and is easier for hulling. Find the full presentations here. [1]Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.  
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Jul 10, 2017 // Quality and Food Safety
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