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COVID-19 Update for Growers and Packers

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(UF/IFAS) — The CDC, FDA and USDA all agree “Currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19”, including imported foods and materials. FDA has issued guidance that if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 they “do not anticipate that food products would need to be recalled or be withdrawn from the market”. Citrus growers, harvesters, packers, and processors should continue to follow the good hygiene practices they already have in place (e.g., washing hands and cleaning and sanitizing surfaces that may contact food or hands often) as part of their food safety programs when handling or preparing citrus or citrus products. Coronaviruses need a living host (human or animal) to grow in and cannot multiply on citrus, common touch or food contact surfaces.

In light of pressing concerns around the rapid and continued spread of the coronavirus, there have been several changes to current policies related to the implementation of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. FDA has suspended all routine inspections, including inspections conducted under contract at the state level . For cause inspections and investigations will continue as needed.  UF/IFAS and FDACS have postponed all food safety workshops and On-Farm Readiness Reviews at this time.
Additional resources include:

Online Food Safety Trainings

Need to become certified for food/produce safety? 
Online trainings from SCS Global Services.

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 New Electronic Data Factsheets (EDIS)

COVID-19 and Food Safety FAQ

COVID-19 FAQ for U-Pick Farms: Steps for Farm Managers

Calendar for Southern Highbush Blueberry Management in Florida

Evergreen Production System for Southern Highbush Blueberries in Florida

 New Florida Clean Waterways Act

Features from the Florida SB72 Clean Waterways Act (awaiting governor’s signature) are summarized below.

Agriculture

The bill requires the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) to perform onsite inspections at least every 2 years of agricultural producers enrolled in best management practices (BMPs). DACS must prioritize inspections for producers in the BMAPs for Lake Okeechobee, the Indian River Lagoon, the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary, and Silver Springs.

The bill creates a cooperative agricultural regional water quality improvement element as part of a BMAP in areas where agriculture is a significant source of pollution. Projects under the element could include conservation easements and dispersed water management. The bill authorizes legislative budget requests to fund these projects and requires DEP to allocate at least 20 percent of the funds it receives for projects in areas with the highest nutrient concentrations.

The bill requires DACS, in coordination with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and other academic institutions, to annually develop research plans and legislative budget requests to address agricultural runoff.

 Biosolids

The bill requires enrollment in DACS’s BMP program and prohibits the application of Class A or Class B biosolids within 6 inches of the seasonal high water table, unless a nutrient management plan and water quality monitoring plan provide reasonable assurances that the application will not cause or contribute to water quality violations. Permits will have to comply with the statute within two years and with DEP’s biosolids rule within two years of it becoming effective. The bill allows local governments to keep existing biosolids ordinances.

Cover Crops Survey

Are you using cover crops or considering it? Please take the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) survey.

Source: UF/IFAS Extension Lake County

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