In The News

California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and Steve Church Honor Ag Secretary Karen Ross with Golden Checkmark Award

In the 10 years since the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) was formed, the organization has garnered a lot to be thankful for. But last week as the California leafy greens community met in Salinas, all eyes were on one particular person in need of thanks. Karen Ross, Secretary for the California Department of Agriculture was this year’s recipient of LGMA’s Golden Checkmark Award—created to honor those who support mandatory government oversight of food safety in the produce industry.

“I’m so proud to be here today, and I want to recognize all of the great people who came before me and who are still at the department of food and agriculture who helped create the LGMA,” said Secretary Ross as she accepted the award. “I can only imagine the hours that were spent to come up with this food safety program that is real, robust, and represents change.”

Church Brothers Farms’ Steve Church, who serves as the current Chairman of the LGMA, presented Secretary Ross with the Golden Checkmark award on August 10, 2017, during a meeting of Salinas-area members. According to a press release, the event was the first in a series of grower meetings being held across the state to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the LGMA food safety program being created, as well as to recognize the commitment to protecting public health embodied in the LGMA system. Past recipients include Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura.

“It’s not often that a group of farmers comes to government asking to be regulated,” said Church as he presented Secretary Ross with the award, “but in the aftermath of the 2006 E. coli outbreak associated with spinach, that is exactly what was needed to help California leafy greens producers regain consumer confidence. Without the support of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement wouldn’t exist. In honor of that support which existed in 2006 and continues today, we are presenting CDFA Secretary Karen Ross with the LGMA’s Golden Checkmark Award.”

Since its creation just a decade ago, the LGMA says it has included a system of mandatory government audits to verify that leafy greens are being grown using science-based food safety practices. These audits are performed by CDFA-employed government inspectors, trained and licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture.

“The LGMA is a true public-private partnership where government and industry work together to ensure safe food,” added Church. “Both are committed to this important job and the California leafy greens community is proud to be one of the first commodity groups to be regulated under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that will soon become federal law.”

Under FSMA, CDFA will be responsible for overseeing implementation of the Produce Safety Rule for an estimated 20,000 California produce farms under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And as Ross said, her department plans to work closely with existing industry groups like the LGMA to ensure compliance with the new law. Already, the LGMA has been working over the past several months to ensure its food safety practices are aligned with those required under the new rule.

“I am always in awe when I see what the leafy greens community has done with this program,” Secretary Ross continued. “You have transformed an industry to establish a culture where everyone is thinking about how to make sure the food we’re delivering is safe. What you have accomplished in a remarkably short period should be held up as an example.”

Scott Horsfall, CEO of the LGMA, added, “The LGMA values immensely our relationship with CDFA. Since its beginnings, the leafy greens community has willingly invited government regulators onto their farms. Over the last ten years CDFA has performed more than 5,000 farm audits and the system has truly created a culture of food safety that is now ingrained in the farming of California leafy greens.”


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