Ag Sense: New hay regulations protect consumers

By Mark Marsalis: Local columnist

Hay growers and buyers in New Mexico will be required to follow new hay transporting regulations in December.

In an effort to protect the nation’s feed and food supply, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has included — as part of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 — regulations that affect the sale and transportation of hay and other agricultural products in the United States.

In fact, no matter what the size of the commercial hay production operation, hay growers and buyers will be required to keep more extensive records of hay business activities. Transporters are included, too.

The FDA’s bioterrorism record-keeping regulations are designed to protect the food supply from threats during transportation of animal feed and to enable the FDA to trace contamination problems back to their source.

Essentially, anyone who buys, sells, barters, gives away or ships hay from a farm to be used as a livestock feed must keep extensive documentation on the source and recipient of the product.

Animal feeds, including hay, are considered food by FDA definitions and fall under the new rules. Other examples of “food” are raw and processed grain, rice and oilseeds, animal premixes, feed ingredients, live food-producing animals, processed agricultural commodities and dietary supplements. Other feed manufacturers, grain elevators, alfalfa processors and entities that process or store farm products also are required to comply.

Non-transporter recipients must keep records on the immediate previous source(s) of the product. Records must reflect the type of food, date released, quantity, packaging and immediate transporter of the product. Producers or manufacturers must keep similar records on the immediate recipient and transporter of their products.

Transporters, defined as “persons who have possession, custody or control of an article of food in the U.S. for the sole purpose of transporting the food, whether by road, rail, water or air or foreign persons who transport food in the U.S.,” must also maintain records.

If existing business records contain this information, there is no need to create new records to meet the requirements.

Farms are excluded from these regulations.

The FDA defines farms as “facilities that manufacture, process, pack or store food, provided that all food used in such activities is grown, raised or consumed on that farm or another farm under the same ownership.”

According to FDA, large companies (500 or more employees) were required to begin establishing and maintaining records on covered activities that occurred on or after Dec. 9, 2005. Smaller companies (11 to 499 employees) were to begin compliance on June 9, 2006. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees will be required to comply as of Dec. 11. The requirements are not retroactive and apply only to covered activities that occur on or after the effective dates.

Information on these regulations, exemptions and alternative methods for food transporters can be found online at www.cfsan.fda.gov/dms/fsbtac23.html

Mark Marsalis is an extension agronomist at the New Mexico State University Science Center at Clovis. He can be reached at 985-2292 or e-mail marsalis@nmsu.edu.