The Extension Legal Services Initiative answers farmers' and food producers' pressing legal questions about food safety compliance.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which became law in 2011, is the most sweeping overhaul of our federal food safety laws in seven decades. With it came seven new sets of regulations, such as the Produce Safety Rule, which governs the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce grown for human consumption. As this and other FSMA rules are now being rolled out gradually for businesses of different sizes, farmers and food producers are not only subject to new regulations—they also face more drastic penalties if they don’t comply. These changes raise new legal questions, and the Extension Legal Services Initiative helps to answer them.
CAFS and partners at University of Vermont Extension’s Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety had been fielding many of these questions, recognizing an increasing need for farmers and food producers to gain clarity around legal issues related to compliance and liability. We launched the Extension Legal Services initiative in late 2019 to understand stakeholders’ most common questions about FSMA, conduct the legal research needed to answer them, and to develop educational materials (factsheets, webinars, etc.) disseminating key information. These resources are now available on the project website at elsi.necafs.org.
Students in Vermont Law School’s Food and Agriculture Clinic, which is based at CAFS, have been deeply involved. They presented their work to date in two webinars in 2019 and at several conferences in 2019-2020, and have been producing the fact sheets that address the most common legal questions associated with FSMA compliance.