American Samoa To Improve Existing Farm Certification System

Department of Agriculture has process for food safety compliance

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Nov. 7, 2016) – Agriculture Department already has in place a process for compliance certification of local farms and it includes food safety compliance, as some local farmers have questioned how the government carries out the certification process in the middle of DOA’s temporary ban in the supplying of locally grown vegetables to the school lunch program and the general public except for local taros, bananas, and hydroponically grown vegetables.

“We have a compliance list of farmers” as well as the process for farms to receive the certification compliance from DOA, said Agriculture’s acting director Peter Gurr in a Samoa News interview last week Monday at the DOA office in Tafuna.

He also told Samoa News the list of farms on island as well as those who have been certified or received certification of compliance from DOA. These are farms that farm investigators are revisiting in order to clear them, while the temporary ban is in effect. There are about 118 farms registered with DOA and not all of them are certified.

“What is very important to Agriculture is the ‘safety of food’ for our children in the school lunch program as well as the general public,” Gurr stressed during the interview at his office and a second one at the Samoa News office last week Wednesday.

According to DOA documents, the department will issue certificates of compliance to local farms that meet various criteria set by DOA with approval of director/ deputy director upon a complete and thorough farm inspection. And the farm certification is valid for one year, during which DOA will have “frequent and unexpected” visits to the farm.

Minor violations will be cited and the farmer will be given a period to correct such violation(s) while any major violations can lead to immediate suspension or termination of certification.

DOA also outlined certification criteria for local farms and producers of local products to qualify as a supplier for the school lunch program and the local markets — including stores.

Among the criteria is that the farm is located in the territory

Additionally the farm “must be owned and farmed” by a US national and/ or US citizen and all farm employees must be legal residents of American Samoa and farm workers must show proof of legal sponsorship. Additionally:

  • Legal immigration status, such as immigration entry status as a farm worker and must be legally sponsored by the farm owner. Proof of immigration status of all workers is to be provided to DOA
  • Farm owner must own the land and if it’s leased, a lease agreement must be under the farm owner’s name, who must provide proof of the legal lease to DOA at registration for DOA to initiate certification process.
  • Certified farms will be inspected continuously by DOA inspectors to ensure the farms maintain its compliance standards. Farms that violate the certification will be warned, suspended or terminated from the program until corrective actions are completed.

Certification process also includes “food safety compliance” criteria. And among them, according to DOA, is that all produce must be free of dirt, food-borne organism, cleaned thoroughly with clean water and must be package in clean boxes, bags, containers etc. before deliver to the school lunch program.

Additionally, farm owners must provide to DOA a list of all chemicals used in the farm such as pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, manure with Environmental Protection Agency registration numbers, dates and rates of application, methods of applications and names of crops applied to.

Other food safety compliance points include:

  • Chemicals must be stored separately and must display a danger/ poison sign on the entrance to the door and must be read from a distance of 25 feet
  • Living farm houses must be free of chemicals, manure, post-harvest cleaning equipment; and toilet facilities must be enclosed and away from post-harvest activities
  • Bio-solids are forbidden from use on any farm
  • All applicators must be certified by DOA/ ASCC Land Grant by passing a written exam in English or Samoan and must be able to read and understand the label application
  • All farm owners must supply personal protective equipment for certified applicators
  • All harvest and post-harvest facilities and equipment must meet DOA food safety and sanitation compliance.

Samoa News points out that many of the food safety criteria have been the target of farm inspectors during their visitations in which some farms have bee in found in violation, including overuse of chemicals as well as use of chemicals without EPA registration number.

“It’s not all of the farms visited had illegal chemical and fertilizers,” said Gurr, adding that “not everybody is bad” and it’s “only a few bad apples [that] spoil the whole box of apples.”

The Samoa News
Copyright © 2016. The Samoa News. All Rights Reserved

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