Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking to extend the compliance dates for the pre-harvest agricultural water provisions as outlined in the recent 2021 agricultural water proposed rule.

The 2021 agricultural water proposed rule, if finalized, will require farms to conduct annual systems-based agricultural water assessments to determine and guide appropriate measures to minimize potential risks associated with pre-harvest agricultural water. The rule is part of the congressional mandate in the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.

The FDA is now proposing extended compliance dates for those proposed pre-harvest requirements and is also providing clarifying information about the enforcement discretion policy for the harvest and post-harvest agricultural water requirements.

The supplemental rulemaking proposes to establish the following compliance dates for the pre-harvest agricultural water requirements for covered produce other than sprouts: 2 years and 9 months after the effective date of a final rule for very small businesses; 1 year and 9 months after the effective date of a final rule for small businesses; and 9 months after the effective date of a final rule for all other businesses

Compliance dates for harvest and post-harvest agricultural water requirements
The 2021 pre-harvest agricultural water proposed rule did not propose substantive changes to the harvest and post-harvest agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule; however, the FDA recognizes that prior to the proposal, stakeholders did not have clarity on whether FDA might propose to change the harvest and post-harvest agricultural water requirements.

In addition, the FDA recognizes that adequate training and technical assistance are needed to recognize the benefits of the harvest and post-harvest requirements fully. Therefore, it intends to continue enforcement discretion for the harvest and post-harvest agricultural water requirements of the Produce Safety Rule until the following dates: Jan. 26, 2025, for very small businesses; Jan. 26, 2024, for small businesses; and Jan. 26, 2023, for all others.

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