State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2012CA293B
Title: Outreach and Extension Programs for Co-management of Food Safety and Ecosystem Services in Fresh Produce
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 9/ 1/2011
End Date: 3/15/2013
Congressional District: 44
Focus Categories: Agriculture, Irrigation, Management and Planning
Principal Investigator: Bianchi, Mary
Federal Funds: $ 0
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 23,526
Abstract: On-farm management practices in many California Central Coast fresh produce growing operations have changed in response to increased food safety concerns following outbreaks of food-borne illness linked to fresh produce. As a result of increasing pressure to demonstrate field management practices that minimize pathogen contamination of fresh produce, growers in California's Central Coast region report finding themselves in an increasingly untenable position - forced to choose between meeting their natural resource conservation or food safety goals and legal obligations. Growers, industry representatives, conservation professionals and others are increasingly concerned about this ongoing conflict, the potential regulatory and marketplace liability associated with suboptimal choices and the potential cumulative impacts of individual decisions at the farm level on public and ecological health, as well as economic sustainability of farms. Co-management is a term now widely used to acknowledge the impact of food safety motivated management decisions on other aspects of farm operations, notably environmental impacts that affect ecosystem services. The Project Working Group represents industry, government, academia, extension and the environmental community, including Western Growers, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA-Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, The Nature Conservancy, Wild Farm Alliance. We are committed to supporting co-management objectives in fresh produce production by providing appropriately targeted, research-based, actionable training materials for outreach to and education of industry decision makers. Our partnership enhances opportunities to engage food safety professionals and industry leadership in resolving co-management challenges with issues that also align with ANR Strategic Initiatives of Sustainable Food Systems and Ecosystem Services. We are concerned that food safety professionals, and the buyers they serve, may be directing on-farm management decisions with limited understanding of the impact of those decisions on ecosystem services, including surface water quality, riparian systems, and wildlife species and habitat. The rapidly evolving understanding of food safety risks and how to manage them in the growing environment calls for research based education targeting not just growers, but auditors, other food safety professionals, and buyers at the retail level (food service and grocery). We will work with University of California Advisors and Specialists, the Center for Produce We will work with University of California Advisors and Specialists, the Center for Produce Safety and the Postharvest Research and Information Center as well as industry representatives to leverage our mutual interests in assessment of education needs and outreach methods that result in production of science based outreach and extension materials appropriate to each produce industry community. Our specific focus for this project are food safety auditors and their immediate supervisors (third party auditors, "n-house" food safety management at individual growing operations, and large corporate buyer auditors) because of their direct role in decisions being made in the production field. We will also focus on corporate fresh produce buyers to increase the awareness of this previously unreached industry audience about the ways in which managing only for pathogen risk in fresh produce may inadvertently damage the environment and public health. Outreach and extension methods will involve production by ANR Communication Services of webinars, videos and interactive training modules developed through multi-disciplinary planning/review sessions. Delivery of outreach and education programs will coincide with federal rulemaking for the recently signed Food Safety Modernization Act. Outcomes from our proposed collaboration are communication within the targeted communities of preventive food safety programs and practices that result in protection of ecosystem services and human health while sustaining the economic viability of farming operations.

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