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July 5, 2022

California Agricultural Neighbors Releases Four Key Food Safety Action Items After Yearlong Discussion

Beginning in January 2021, the agricultural community in the Salinas Valley came together in an effort known as California Agricultural Neighbors (CAN).

Led by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the Monterey County Farm Bureau (MCFB), CAN provided a roundtable opportunity to foster collaboration and discuss enhanced neighborly food safety practices when various agriculture operations such as leafy green fields, cattle ranches, vineyards and compost sites are adjacent to one another.

The following are major actions arising from the one-year CAN process. Western Growers will engage directly with the CDFA on next steps, including serving on the steering committee that will support implementation of the action plan.

Action 1: Foster Neighbor-to-Neighbor Interactions and Conversations

1.1 Sharing California Agricultural Neighbors (CAN) glossary of terms to foster a common understanding.

1.2 Collaborating with partnerships in CAN Outcomes Table that foster a culture of awareness in specific categorical areas.

1.3 Creating a Discussion Template to support neighbor-to-neighbor dialogue.

Action 2: Build a Research Roadmap for the Salinas Valley based on the following processes:

2.1 Introduction of pathogenic E. coli to host populations, and re-in­troduction into the environment in a cycle that leads to continuing exposure and outbreaks.

2.2 Amplification of pathogenic E. coli within host populations, follow­ing introduction, and through conditions that may allow for regrowth in growing lands and adjacent lands.

2.3 Survival and persistence of pathogenic E. coli under various condi­tions that do not allow for amplification, but which do allow more time for transport opportunities and intersection with leafy green crops.

2.4 Mechanisms of movement and transport of pathogenic E. coli across the landscape, including by air, water, animals, and machinery.

Action 3: Create a Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) Framework

3.1 Assess the current state of sponsored research underway and supported by various entities.

3.2 Apply a QMRA framework to organize the data and ongoing research efforts to help prioritize research needs based on identified knowledge gaps where there is little to no working knowledge to populate the QMRA.

Action 4: Build and Maintain Capacity to Transfer Knowledge from Research into Applied Practice

4.1 Research Capacity. Right-size the needed depth and breadth of experts to fully support farmers, ranchers, and agri­culture neighbors in the Salinas Valley. Experts will need to have a multidisciplinary approach to collectively foster food safety, food security, and environmental sustainability with a One Health goal of achieving target health outcomes.

4.2 Research Funding Sources. Typical and non-typical funding sources and partnerships need to be pursued to support produce-specific research efforts. Researchers from allied fields of study / specializations should be actively engaged, particularly specialists in climate and weather patterns that might impact produce safety in the Salinas Valley and re­searchers who are able to study wildlife populations, migration patterns, and STEC carriage rates.

4.2 Capacity to Transfer Knowledge. Agricultural extension partners at land-grant universities, particularly including histor­ically Black State colleges and universities and Tribal colleges, are valuable partners in providing research capacity and translating research findings into applied, science-based recommendations to industry. Non-traditional partners such as industry trade organizations should continue to be encouraged to fulfill this role.

The entirety of the CAN report can be found here.