Oct. 22, 2021
USDA grant to further fund food safety education through Cooperative Extension Service, sister agencies
By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- USDA funding helps support produce safety education
- CES developing materials, sharing with other states
- Visit https://uaex.uada.edu/producesafety for more info
LITTLE ROCK — The Cooperative Extension Service’s efforts to help ensure Arkansas consumers have access to the safest fruit and vegetable produce available will see continued funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The funding will support efforts by the Cooperative Extension System, along with sister agencies in 12 other states throughout the south, to further educate and train growers to meet standards set forth by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.
Amanda Philyaw Perez, extension food safety specialist and Assistant Professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said she received word this week that the USDA had approved new rounds of funding to help state agencies share training they have respectively developed with other 12 members of the Southern Center for FSMA Training.
“The original funding provided a foundational educational curriculum,” Philyaw Perez said. “Sometimes, that’s not enough. You have to work with individual farms to determine what other resources they need.
“We build our curriculum based on what we experience in the field, then share that with other growers in the state, as well as the regional groups, which they can then share in their states,” she said. “And then other states do the same thing for us.”
Since 2018, the Cooperative Extension Service’s efforts to help Arkansas fruit and vegetable producers comply with the FSMA have included developing resources for sampling irrigation water, developing fact sheets and hundreds of hours of in-person and virtual trainings.
“We’ve done workshops on wildlife intrusion, packing shed safety, water sampling, and more,” she said. Philyaw Perez’s team has worked with more than 370 Arkansas farms over the past few years, providing 26 on-farm “inspection readiness” reviews and providing one-on-one technical assistance to 43 farms.
Although the FSMA is a decade old, the importance of safe produce handling seized headlines in 2018 when an E.coli outbreak at an Arizona farm led to more than 200 reported illnesses and caused at least five deaths, including one Arkansan. Earlier that same year, the USDA began requiring produce farms to meet safety training guidelines under the Product Safety Rule, part of the FSMA.
“The good news is, Arkansas fruit and vegetable growers have not been implicated in any national outbreaks in recent years,” Philyaw Perez said. “Most of our growers have been implementing best practice procedures and maintaining a safe food supply. They’ve been trained how to do this safely, and they continue to maintain safe farming operation.”
For more information about farm produce safety, visit https://uaex.uada.edu/producesafety.
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service