LGMA honors CDFA Secretary Karen Ross
The California leafy greens community recently met in Salinas to recognize those responsible for creating the public-partnership formed ten years ago under the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA).
“It’s not often that a group of farmers comes to government asking to be regulated,” said Steve Church of Church Brothers, who serves as the current chairman of the LGMA, “but in the aftermath of the 2006 E. coli outbreak associated with spinach, that is exactly what was needed to help California leafy greens producers regain consumer confidence.
“Without the support of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement wouldn’t exist,” continued Church. “In honor of that support which existed in 2006 and continues today, we are presenting CDFA Secretary Karen Ross with the LGMA’s Golden Checkmark Award.”
The secretary was honored Aug. 10, during a meeting of Salinas-area LGMA members. The event was the first in a series of grower meetings being held across the state to commemorate ten years since the LGMA food safety program was created and to recognize the commitment to protecting public health embodied in the LGMA system. The LGMA’s Golden Checkmark Award was created to honor those who support mandatory government oversight of food safety in the produce industry. Past recipients include Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura.
Since its creation ten years ago, the LGMA has included a system of mandatory government audits to verify that leafy greens are being grown using science-based food safety practices. The audits are performed by government inspectors employed by CDFA who are trained and licensed by the USDA.
CDFA will be responsible for overseeing implementation of the Produce Safety Rule included under FSMA for an estimated 20,000 California produce farms under a cooperative agreement with the FDA. According to Ross, her department plans to work closely with existing industry groups like the LGMA to ensure compliance with the new law. The LGMA has been working over the past several months to ensure its food safety practices are aligned with those required under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.
“The LGMA values immensely our relationship with CDFA,” said Scott Horsfall, CEO of the LGMA. “Since its beginnings, the leafy greens community has willingly invited government regulators onto their farms. Over the last ten years CDFA has performed more than 5,000 farm audits and the system has truly created a culture of food safety that is now ingrained in the farming of California leafy greens.”
The LGMA plans to hold a series of membership meetings throughout the state to commemorate the ten-year milestone. Future meetings will be held Aug. 16 in Ventura, Aug. 17 in Pismo Beach and Sept. 14 in El Centro.