The Food Safety Modernization Act – FAQ

What is the Food Safety Modernization Act?

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is a federal statute that was signed into law on January 4, 2011. It is the most sweeping set of food safety rules to be enacted in over 70 years. The goal of FSMA is to ensure a safer food supply by shifting the focus from response to prevention.

FSMA authorizes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish a modern risk-based framework for all aspects of the food chain. The FSMA framework includes seven major rules:

  • Produce Safety Rule
  • Preventive Controls Human Food Rule
  • Preventive Controls Animal Food Rule
  • Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule
  • Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration Rule
  • Accredited Third-Party Certification Rule
  • Foreign Supplier Verification Programs Rule

For more specific information on each of these rules, visit the FSMA page on the FDA website.

What is the Produce Safety Rule?

The FSMA rule most likely to have a significant impact on farmers – particularly those producing fruits and vegetables – is the Produce Safety Rule. This rule sets food safety standards to reduce the risk of biological contamination during the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce.

The Produce Safety Rule sets requirements for:

  • Agricultural water (including water quality testing);
  • Biological soil amendments of animal origin (including raw manure and stabilized compost);
  • Worker training, health, and hygiene;
  • Equipment, tools, and buildings;
  • Domesticated and wild animals; and
  • Special rules to prevent contamination of sprouts.

Who is covered by the Produce Safety Rule?

The Produce Safety Rule applies to anyone who grows, harvests, packs, or holds produce – subject to certain exemptions.

Is my farm exempt from the Produce Safety Rule?

You are exempt from the Produce Safety Rule if either of the following apply to your farm:

  • You do not grow, harvest, pack, or hold produce on your farm; or
  • Your average annual sales of produce are $25,000 or less per year over the last 3 years.

In addition, specific produce grown, harvested, packed, or held on your farm may be exempt from from the Produce Safety Rule if any of the following apply:

  • The produce is a commodity that the FDA has identified as rarely consumed raw;
  • The produce is for personal/on-farm consumption; or
  • The produce is intended for commercial processing that adequately reduces pathogens, such as commercial processing with a “kill step.”

Finally, your farm may be eligible for a qualified exemption – with certain modified requirements and documentation – if BOTH of the following conditions apply:

  • Your average annual food sales are less than $500,000 per year over the last 3 years; AND
  • The majority of your food sales are to “qualified end users” – including either the consumer of the food or a restaurant or retail food establishment located in the same state or within 275 miles of the farm.

The FDA has published a flow chart to help you determine whether your farm is exempt from the Produce Safety Rule.

Who needs to complete FSMA produce safety training?

Any farm covered by the Produce Safety Rule will be required to have at least one person complete a produce safety training course that meets FDA standards.

If your farm is not covered by FSMA rules or if you have a qualified exempt farm, you are not required to complete an FDA-approved produce safety training.

However, exempt farmers are still strongly encouraged to attend an FDA approved training. The trainings will provide valuable information for produce growers who are interested in implementing Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) on their farms. In addition, FSMA-compliant produce safety training may be required for sales to certain produce buyers, even in the case of exempt farms.

Starting in late fall 2017, Iowa State University will be offering Produce Safety Alliance workshops that meet the FDA standards for complying with FSMA.

Click here to read more about produce safety training available for Iowa farmers.

What is the cost of FSMA produce safety training?

Produce safety training workshops will be offered by Iowa State University at a cost of $20 per person, including the cost of the training manual, AFDO certificate, and lunch.

IFU has a limited number of stipends available to help defray the costs of attending these workshops – please contact us to see if you may be eligible to receive a stipend.

For more information, contact:

  • Ronald Tigner, Local Food Safety Project Coordinator, Iowa Farmers Union, PO Box 1883, Ames, Iowa 50010-1883, (515) 357-0503,
  • Dr. Angela Shaw, Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, 50011, (515) 294-0868,
  • To schedule a training or to register for a training, send an email to or call (515) 294-6773

Iowa Farmers Union
PO Box 1883 Ames, IA 50010-1883