WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2013 – USDA announced today it is terminating the leafy green marketing agreement (LGMA), even after four years’ worth of public meetings, public comments and department work. LGMA would have allowed industry to develop and oversee leafy green handling guidelines within constraints set by FDA and other regulators.
USDA says the abrupt shift in policy is due to incoming Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules, some of which will have implications for the leafy green industry.
[FSMA’s] ongoing rulemaking may affect fundamental aspects of the proposed leafy green vegetable marketing agreement program,” the agriculture department wrote in the Federal Register. “As a result, it is appropriate to terminate the leafy green vegetable marketing agreement rulemaking proceeding at this time.”
Western Growers, a produce association based in Arizona and California, said it was “disappointed” with USDA’s decision. President and CEO Tom Nassif said the industry had now wasted “hundreds of man hours in the development of a proactive approach that would have afforded leafy green producers across the country an opportunity to craft their own food safety programs with oversight from USDA and FDA.”
LGMA agreements remain in Arizona and California, where they were first conceived after a 2006 E. coli outbreak devastated the spinach sector. USDA’s decision to terminate the national program will not affect those states’ food safety systems.
“Hopefully, with the termination of this rule proceeding, USDA can re-engage in food safety in a meaningful way and work constructively with reluctant parties to foster a culture and commitment to food safety,” Nassif concluded.
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