In developing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Congress recognized that different scales of farming and ways of distributing produce pose different risks with respect to public health. As such, Congress required the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop FSMA regulations with this in mind.
One approach that was integrated into the final regulation was the development of modified requirements for farms that both gross less than $500,000 in all food sales annually and sell the majority of their food directly to consumers or to grocery stores, institutions, or restaurants in-state or within a 275-mile radius. FDA refers to these farms as “qualified exempt” – and instead of needing to comply with the full set of produce safety regulations, these farms are subject to a more limited set of modifed requirements.
The Produce Safety Rule also provides an exemption from the rule for farmers growing less than $25,000 of produce annually. These worksheets are not designed to document eligibility for this exemption. Please note that this amount, as well as the $500,000 limit for the qualified exemption, are adjusted for inflation; the updated values are provided at https://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/fsma/ucm554484.htm.
In order to remain in compliance with the “qualified exemptions”, farmers must keep sales documentation. It is also important for farmers to be aware, depending on changes in their markets or sales channels, if their qualified exempt status changes.
In collaboration with Purple Pitchfork, UW Extension is providing a series of worksheets to allow farmers to both determine and document their qualified exempt status.
These sheets, and the accompanying Excel-based tool, outline five steps to calculate a Qualified Exemption:
Additionally, this document outlines ways in which Produce Auctions can help their farmers document eligibility for the qualified exemption: