By a vote of 47-0, the Senate passed a measure by Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, that would permit the state Department of Agriculture to cooperate in the implementation of the federal Produce Safety Rule. Senate Bill 6319 would allow the agency to conduct compliance-verification activities, enforce regulatory compliance, and accept federal funding to help pay for both roles.
“Washington farmers face a host of new federal regulations and inspection regimes,” explains Honeyford. “New regulations can be difficult for farmers – especially small family farms – to adjust to. My bill would create a state program focused more on education than punishment. It would also allow state inspectors, who know Washington agriculture and crops better than federal bureaucrats, to do the work, with funding provided by the federal Department of Agriculture.”
Food businesses licensed by the state of Washington to produce, warehouse, process, market,
sell and distribute product are required to follow the safe food production, management, and handling practice specified in the Washington Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and other applicable federal and state food safety laws and regulations depending on the type of activity the food business performs.
Under Honeyford’s bill, WSDA may cooperate with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on implementation of the Produce Safety Rule only to the extent that WSDA receives federal funding for the activities. WSDA would also be permitted to create a voluntary program for farms exempt or partially exempt from the Produce Safety Rule. Farms participating in the voluntary-compliance program would have to pay a fee to cover its cost.
Honeyford pointed out the authority granted in his bill would be similar to that given to state agencies to administer other federal regulations.
“This is very similar to what we’ve done with clean air and clean water,” said Honeyford.
“It allows state government officials to enforce those inspections and regulations.
“Having been a farmer and knowing many other farmers, I believe that we are growing good, safe food products in this state. Most of that agricultural produce is perishable, and I don’t want to see someone who has little experience dealing with our agricultural products cause shipments to be delayed and spoiled on the docks.
“I believe a system that relies on state inspectors who understand Washington’s crops is a better way. This bill is good for our citizens and good for the public, and best of all, it’s paid for by the federal government, so there is no cost to the state.”
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.