An agent Training Program in Safe Food Handling – Legal Liability

2008 Annual Report for ES08-090

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2008: $77,344.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:

An agent Training Program in Safe Food Handling – Legal Liability

Summary

Agent Training Program in Safe Food Handling & Legal Liability

This project is forming the creation and centralization of a comprehensive curriculum and resources to train and support a network of North Carolina Extension Agents and other agricultural professionals in the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). Working knowledge of these practices along with liability issues associated with markets can assist farmers and farmers’ market managers in reducing the potential for microbial contamination and can protest farm incomes. Impacts from these trainings will show both knowledge and behavioral changes as indicated by evaluations, pre-post tests, implementation of food safety plans, and finally GAPs certification by farmers. You may copy and paste text from an existing document if you have already created the report in a word processor.
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Objectives/Performance Targets

Agent Training Program in Safe Food Handling & Legal Liability

The objectives of this grant are to:
a) create food safety trainers in each of the state’s 101 Cooperative Extension offices;

b) promote knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) and Best Management Practices (BMPs) on small farms that sell raw produce directly to consumers;

c) develop an understanding of the liabilities associated with the failure to implement GAPS and BMPs;

(d) understand the risk management tools available to reduce liability; and

(e) provide food safety planning and training resources to producers.

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Accomplishments/Milestones

Agent Training Program in Safe Food Handling & Legal Liability

1. Establish farmers and agents planning advisory groups;
A. Advisory groups of 19 agents/specialists from NCSU, NCDA, and NC A&T was formed.
Keith Baldwin Program Leader, ANR/CRD, NC A&T State University
Darrell Blackwelder Extension Agent, Agriculture – Horticulture NCSU Cooperative Extension Service, Rowan Co.
Wayne Bryant Program Administrator NCDA Cooperative Grading Service
Annette Dunlap Extension Associate NCSU – Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Agriculture
Ted Feitshans Extension Specialist, Agricultural/Environmental Law NCSU Agricultural & Resource Economics
Mary Helen Ferguson Extension Agent, Agriculture – Horticulture NCSU Cooperative Extension Service, Randolph Co.
Chris Gunter Assistant Professor NCSU – Horticultural Science
Trevor Phister Assistant Professor NCSU – Food, Bioprocessing & Nutritional Sciences
Amy-Lynn Albertson Extension Agent, Agriculture – Horticulture NCSU Cooperative Extension Service, Davidson Co.
Wayne Buhler Extension Specialist, Pesticide Education NCSU – Horticultural Science
Leah Chester-Davis Coordinator of Communications & Community Outreach NCSU – Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Agriculture
Ipek Goktepe Associate Professor NC A&T State University
Garry Grabow Extension Specialist, Animal Waste Management & Irrigation NCSU – Biological & Agricultural Engineering
Cathy Hohenstein Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences NCSU Cooperative Extension Service, Buncombe Co.
Jimo Ibrahim Extension Specialist NCA&T Cooperative Extension Service
Billy Little Extension Specialist, Commercial Horticulture NCSU Cooperative Extension Service, Wilson Co.
Maria Noriega Bilingual Communications Specialist NCDA&CS – Food & Drug Protection Division
Lynn Turner Extension Specialist (4-H), Professor and Undergraduate Teaching Coordinator NCSU – Food, Bioprocessing & Nutritional Sciences
Ronnie Wynn Assistant Program Administrator NCDA&CS – Marketing Division
B. Established an advisory group of 10 growers/or members of industry to include:
Charlie Edwards, Nash Produce
Doug Patterson, Patterson Farms
Carson King, King Greenhouse and Tomatoes
Ray Wright, Wright Brothers, Inc
Jimmy Bishop, Leicester Tomatoes
Ervin Lineberger, Killdeer Farms
Wayne Mitchem, Mitchem Produce
Peter Gilmore, Dole Produce
James Ball, Food Lion
Jeff Hawley, Harris Teeter

2. Develop a needs assessment to assess knowledge and resources needed for agents with agent advisory input. Below is a summary of some of the pertinent results:
An electronic questionnaire of forty queries was sent out to NC Cooperative Extension in early September 2008. Out of 101 county and the Cherokee Reservation offices (101), 75 counties responded, with 110 individual county agent responses were collected for this survey. The survey will be broken into three distinct areas: General Food Safety background information, questions specific to Fresh Produce Safety knowledge and requests, and questions on the background of the agent. Agent responses are summarized as follows:
? Websites are the primary source for food safety information (64%)
? Fresh Fruits and Vegetables are the highest category for questions regarding food safety (76%)
? Water issues are the main areas of concern/requests for information (51%)
? Direct marketers are the primary audience contacting agents for information (67%)
? A moderate level of knowledge (know about this topic but there are more things to learn) of Fresh Produce Safety was indicated (56%)
? Less than 10% of growers in Counties test agricultural waters for food safety purposes (55%)
? Agents rated Growers needs for fresh produce safety training as High (46%)
? 63% of agents feel that a one-stop website offering all pertinent food safety information would be helpful and web-based updates were most preferred (64%).
? Agents main responsibilities responding to this survey encompass: 45% FCS, 34% Consumer and Commercial Horticulture, 16% Commercial Horticulture, and 5% Consumer Horticulture

3. Create food safety trainings and resources for agents.

a. Fresh Produce Safety Curricula developed with a committee of 16 participants. Nine modules developed and in review. These modules will be utilized in a train-the-trainer program to NC Cooperative Extension agents. These modules will allow agents to train growers at the county levels. Although the modules are not though the editing and design, the Powerpoints are developed. With these, three agent trainings have been scheduled for November 13 & 14th, 2008 (25 participants), with two additional trainings scheduled for January and February 2009. Anticipated date for completion of curriculum is May-June time period. The module content included:

Fresh Produce Safety Curriculum Introduction Module
Module 1: Food Safety Hazards Associated with Fresh Produce
Module 2: Field Practices (GAPs)
Module 3: Packing Facility (GHPs) Sanitation
Module 4: Health & Hygiene
Module 5: Animals, Animal Bi-products, Biosolids, and Site Selections
Module 6: Water Quality
Module 7: The 3 T’s: Transportation, Trace back and Trace forward
Module 8: Managing Liability and Risk
Module 9: Dealing with Controversies and Crises: Working with the News Media
b. July 24th, 2008- Extension Agent Training and Growers Mock Audit Walk-Through. Extension Agent training (4 hours) provided an opportunity for beta-test of developing Fresh Produce Safety Module (27 participating agents). A mock audit was scheduled for extension agents and growers (5 hours) to identify field and packing house food safety risks and to identify potential solutions. (22 participating growers).
c. NC Fresh Produce Safety Website (www.ncfreshproducesafety.org) became live as of October 20, 2008. Working within the National GAPs consortium to get this website linked to other states resources. Number of hits on website approximated at 1200, with an average of 5.1 pages being viewed per visit.

4. Promote knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Best Management Practices (BMPs) on small farms that sell raw produce directly to consumers.

a. Using the NC Cooperative Extension network to advance knowledge by holding regional meetings:
i. July 15st meeting with the County Operations Team for NC Cooperative Extension (NCSU and NC A&T) – presented to all District Directors to rollout the education initiatives and needs assessment. (18 participants)
ii. SE District Meetings – August 27th – rollout of education initiatives to County Directors and Extension Agents. (56 present)
iii. District Extension Directors Meeting – Initial meeting held in November 2007 shortly after Grant awarded – initiation of the 6 District Directors of the Fresh Produce Safety Training
iv. Meeting with other states Cooperative Extension: Clemson University is interested in utilizing curriculum; Delaware and Florida Cooperative Extension expressed interest in curriculum. (10 present)
v. Commodity Specific interest in Fresh Produce Safety Curriculum: NC Sweetpotato Commission (John Kimber) expressed interest in defining specifics to sweetpotato production.

b. Presentations at Meetings/Conferences to agents/agricultural industy:
• December 18 – Farmers Market Food Safety Program, Wilson Farmers Market Association (45 participants)
• November 7, 2008 – SE Strawberry Expo – Raleigh, NC (75 participants)
• November 5, 2008- NC Irrigation Society Annual Meeting, Raleigh, NC (55 participants)
• October 29- NC A&T State University – Greensboro, NC ( 35 participants)
• October 28- NC Greenhouse Tomato Growers – Raleigh, NC (45 participants)
• Sept 30, 2008 – Growers Farmer’s market meeting in Jones, Lenoir, Craven and Onslow Counties – Fresh Produce Safety was incorporated in the business and liability knowledge for farmers markets. (32 present)
• September 9 & 10, 2008 NC Fresh Produce Safety Task Force (Coordinator and Presenter- 45). Raleigh NC
• July 24, 2008 Good Agricultural and Handling Practice Training – Food Safety Audits for Farm and Packing Shed– Agent Training (Coordinator and Presenter-49). Waynesville, NC • July 9, 2008 Governor’s Food Safety and Defense Task Force – Update on NC Fresh Produce Safety Task Force Education Initiative (32). Raleigh, NC
• July 1, 2008.2008 Fresh Produce Safety Initiative to the NC Cooperative Extension County Operation Team (15). Raleigh, NC

5. Develop an understanding of the liabilities associated with the failure to implement GAPs and BMPs; Understand the risk management tools available to reduce liability;

a. Module developed to be included in the curriculum entitled: Managing Liability and Risks.
b. Two Extension publications were developed by Rod Rejesus, NCSU Extension Specialist with Agricultural Economic Resources Department. Rod has served as one of the team members creating the risk liability module for trainings and it is out of this work that he has been able to publish two valuable resources for agents and growers on the economic risk reduction and liability issues facing fresh produce growers. Good Agricultural Practices GAP Certification: Is it Worth it? (AG709
http://www4.ncsu.edu/~rmrejesu/Food_Safety_Risk/ag-709%20final%20printed.pdf) and Insurance Coverage Options for “Fresh Produce Growers (Ag-710
http://www4.ncsu.edu/~rmrejesu/Food_Safety_Risk/ag-710%20final%20printed.pdf). These two publications will be linked onto the www.ncfreshproducesafety.org website in the coming month. .

6. Provide food safety planning and training resources to producers

a. Initial meetings with a western group of tomato growers and packer to develop a food safety plan template. We have workshops planned for May/June to help them work through food safety plans while developing the templates for these plans (25).

Work still to be accomplished includes the placement of the curriculum on-line for agents to access; the completion of the food safety plan template, and conducting more on-farm audits while in-season production is happening.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Agent Training Program in Safe Food Handling & Legal Liability

Project today has reached over 4000 agricultural workers. With all the topic of food safety ever-present in the current news, information is confusing and limited as to how producers and consumers can protect their food system. There are many different older sources of information for producers, but nothing comprehensive can be found currently. With the creation of this curriculum that encompasses both the founding “ Guide” (Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, October 1998) commodity-specific guidance along with auditor information, this will not only lay the groundwork for producers in NC, but provide a valuable resource for producers across the SE. In looking at the limited resources across the SE none are as comprehensive. Not only are we training the agricultural infrastructure on the current and possibly the most pressing change for agriculture producers, we are developing resources to assist them in reducing the risks associated with the mere environment in which fruits and vegetable are grown. By attending these trainings and utilizing the resources being developed, producers will be ready to comply with market-driven demands, whether it be implementing food safety practices or going to the extent of becoming GAPs certified.

Collaborators:

Wayne Bryant

wayne.bryant@ncmail.net
Program Administrator
NCDA & CS
Cooperative Granding Service
3651 Sheppard Mill Road
Stokes, NC 27884
Office Phone: 2527921672
Debbie Hamrick

debbie.hamrick@ncfb.org
Director, Specialty Crops
NC Farm Bureau
2310 Fairview Road
Raleigh, NC 27608
Office Phone: 9193342977
John Rowland

johnrowland@verizon.net
Director
R Farm, Inc
1530 New Stock Road
Weaverville, NC 28787
Office Phone: 8286455440
Charles Edwards

charlesedwards@nashproduce.com
Sales/Market Development
Nash Produce
6160 South N 58
Nashville, NC 27856
Office Phone: 9199715808
Billy Little

billy_little@ncsu.edu
Commercial Horticulture Agent
NC Cooperative Extension
Wilson County Cooperative Extension
1806 S. Goldsboro Street
Wilson, NC 27895
Office Phone: 2522370111
Darrell Blackwelder

darrell_blackwelder@ncsu.edu
Agricultural Extension Agent
NC Cooperative Extension
2727-A Old Concord Road
Salisbury, NC 28146
Office Phone: 7042168981
Christopher Gunter

chris_gunter@ncsu.edu
Vegetable Production Specialist
NCSU
Dept of Horticultural Sciences
230 Kilgore Hall Box 7609
Raleigh, NC 27695
Office Phone: 9195132807
Trevor Phister

trevor_phister@ncsu.edu
Extension Specialist
NCSU
Dept of Food Science
339-B Schaub Hall
Raleigh, NC 27695
Office Phone: 9195131644
Theresa Nartea

tjnartea@ncat.edu
Extension Specialist
NC A&T
Box 21928
Greensboro, NC 27420
Office Phone: 3363347956
Ben Chapman

benjamin_chapman@ncsu.edu
Food Safety Professor
NCSU
120 Brickhaven
Raleigh, NC 28085
Office Phone: 9195158099
Jeremy Hudson

jihudso2@yahoo.com
Director
Jophn Hudson Farms, Inc
553. Rosin Hill Road
Newton Grove, NC 28366
Office Phone: 9105672253
Keith Baldwin

kbaldwin@ncat.edu
Program Leader A & Nat. Resourses/Comm. & Rural De
NC A&T
P.O. Box 21928
Greensboro, NC 27420
Office Phone: 3363347957
Theodor Feitshans

ted_feitshans@ncsu.edu
Extension Specialist
NCSU
Dept of Agricultural and Resource Economics
3340 Nelson Hall
Raleigh, NC 27695
Office Phone: 9195155195
Doug Patterson

doug@pattersonfarminc.com
Director
Patterson Farms, Inc
Office and Packing House
3060 Millbridge Road
China Grove, NC 28023
Office Phone: 7048545242