April 2013

April 10, 2012, 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM,  Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation

MEETING CALLED BY      Mark Leggett, Mississippi Poultry Association

TYPE OF MEETING        Mississippi Food Policy Council Meeting

FACILITATOR           Mark Leggett

NOTE TAKER            Erin Schwartz, Emily Broad Leib

ATTENDEES

  • Beneta Burt, Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity
  • Maya Crooks, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives
  • Daniel Teague, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives
  • Nicole Bell, Alcorn State University
  • Tywan Arrington, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives
  • Julie Hamilton, Mississippi State Department of Health
  • Christine Coker, Mississippi State University 
  • Margaret Thomas, Gaining Ground, Pine Belt
  • Kerrex Taylor, North Delta Produce Growers
  • Ron Aldridge, Mississippi Beverage Association
  • Kelsey Lingsch, University of Southern Mississippi
  • Tammy Meyer, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation
  • Alli Condra, Harvard Law School
  • Erin Schwartz, Harvard Law School
  • Margaret Wilson, Harvard Law School
  • Samantha Cawthorn-Newman, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation
  • Judy Belue, Delta Fresh Foods Initiative
  • Ruby Brady, Holmes Community College
  • Emily Broad Leib, Harvard Law School
  • Daniel Doyle, Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network 
  • Purvie Green, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce
  • DeMarc Hickson, My Brother’s Keeper
  • Jody Holland, University of Mississippi 
  • Ken Hood, Mississippi State University 
  • Charles Houston, North Delta Produce Growers
  • Chip Johnson, City of Hernando
  • Shelly Johnstone, City of Hernando 
  • Rhonda Lampkin, Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi 
  • Alicia Landry, University of Southern Mississippi
  • Mark Leggett, Mississippi Poultry Association
  • Julie McLemore, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce
  • Roy Mitchell, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • Kim Morgan, Mississippi State University
  • Andy Prosser, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce
  • Alfio Rausa, Mississippi State Department of Health
  • Nathan Rosenberg, Mississippi State University & Harvard Law School
  • Tyler Russell, Delta Directions Intern
  • Sandra Shelson, Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi
  • Debbie Smith, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program 
  • Donna Speed, Mississippi State Department of Health
  • Tonitrice Wicks, Mississippi Department of Health 
  • Darnella Burkett-Winston, Mississippi Association of Cooperatives 
  • Nancy Woodruff, Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi & Winston County Self-Help Cooperative

AGENDA TOPICS

INTRODUCTIONS    Mark Leggett

DISCUSSION       Individuals introduced themselves and explained their organizational affiliations.

UPDATE FROM MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND COMMERCE (MDAC)     Andy Prosser, Julie McLemore

In 2011, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) offered to answer any legal questions on farming, food production, and food safety put forth by MFPC and farmers in the area. After receiving questions from MFPC on September 5, 2012, MDAC then returned written responses to MFPC in October 2012; MDAC sent written responses to six main questions to MFPC Chair Mark Leggett, who distributed them to MFPC members in advance of today’s meeting. Andy Prosser began the discussion by describing MDAC’s role, both as a regulator of certain products throughout the state (e.g. fertilizer, petroleum products, grocery stores and grain elevators), and as a marketer and promoter of agricultural and other goods. He explained that 80% of MDAC’s activities are regulatory, aimed at protecting food/public safety through partnership with the USDA, FDA and the Mississippi State Department of Health, while 20% are devoted to marketing/promoting goods, such as promoting farmers’ markets, farm-to-school efforts, etc. Andy stressed that some of the issues MDAC focuses on today, the department did not confront ten years ago.

Next, Andy read aloud the six questions and walked through MDAC’s responses, while also taking follow-up questions from the audience.
Question 1. If the refrigerated vehicle requirement applies to all meat, poultry, and seafood vendors, would MDAC be open to promulgating new regulations that ensure food safety, but do not require a refrigerated truck or trailer to sell meat, poultry, or seafood at farmers markets? For example, could MDAC apply a performance-based standard?

Written Answer: State law provides that the Department regulate retail food establishments. If an individual is offering for sale potentially hazardous food products to the ultimate consumer and it is intended for off-premise consumption, then the individual is operating as a retail food establishment. The Department has adopted the FDA Food Code as its regulations governing retail food establishments.

In an effort to help small businesses but also maintain safeguards for the public health, the Department adopted the refrigerated vehicle requirement to allow for mobile vendors of potentially hazardous food. The regulation was adopted after extensive research. It is the opinion of the Department that the use of ice or an inverter will not maintain a constant temperature, particularly on those Mississippi summer days where the temperature reaches into the 80s or 90s.

The refrigerated vehicle requirement applies to all vendors of potentially hazardous foods, excepting seafood vendors. The State Department of Health regulates seafood vendors.

Currently the Department has 19 mobile vendors licensed. One of those vendors sells at farmers markets. The other 18 travel the state and sell food products to consumers.

Andy explained that MDAC requires foods moving in commerce to maintain a constant temperature of 41 degrees. One of the reasons why MDAC requires refrigerated transportation is because if a cooler were allowed, people could cut corners, and the buyer would have no way of knowing. Andy does not anticipate the refrigeration requirement changing, but MDAC is open to any scientific-based proposals offered by MFPC.

Even though MDAC requires refrigerated transportation, Andy assured the audience that there are still multiple alternative options for producers. For example, producers can operate under the 1,000 bird on-farm poultry exemption, which allows them to sell poultry to consumers on their farm, without needing a refrigerated truck or trailer, if they produce less than 1,000 birds a year and provided producers mark their poultry with a label notifying the consumer that the product has not been inspected, and that consumers pick up the poultry on the farm. Foods sold away from the farm require the mark of inspection and maintenance at a constant temperature.

Question 2. What are the requirements for selling dairy products at farmers markets? What are the requirements for transporting dairy products to farmers markets for retail sale?

Written Answer: Dairy products are potentially hazardous food products. If dairy products are sold from a licensed retail food establishment, then the dairy products may be offered for sale from a commercial grade refrigerator or cooler. At this time, there is only one farmers market that has a retail food establishment license. A dairy vendor at a non-licensed market must obtain a mobile retail food establishment license and meet the refrigerated vehicle requirement. The products would also have to be labeled in accordance with the 2005 Food Code. In reference to transportation, dairy products must arrive at a licensed farmers market at 41 degrees or less for refrigerated food products and products that are sold frozen, such as ice cream, must be maintained in a frozen state. For unlicensed markets, transportation would have to meet the mobile regulation(s).

Andy repeated that dairy products are potentially hazardous, so what an interested farmers’ market can do is apply for retail food establishment license, provided that it can meet the requirements for a retail food establishment (which include having three walls, floors that can be mopped and cleaned, bathrooms, handwashing sinks, and electrical outlets). For example, the state farmers’ market in Jackson has a retail food establishment license. In those places you can use an electric cooler, but you still cannot plug the cooler into a generator, because a generator is prone to electrical disruptions and therefore cannot ensure constant temperature.

Question 3.Does MDAC follow the USDA guidelines for determining whether a poultry processing operation is eligible for one of the exemptions from the inspection requirements of the Poultry Products Inspection Act? Does it have any additional requirements for growers that wish to operate under one of the exemptions?

Written Answer: The Department generally follows the USDA poultry exemptions. However, the Department requires that poultry produced under an exemption be sold at the farm where it was raised and slaughtered.

Question 4. Can poultry processed under the 20,000 bird exemption be sold at Mississippi farmers markets? If so, what are the requirements for doing so?

Written Answer: Federal law allows the slaughter/processing for intrastate sale of 20,000 poultry of a producer’s own production annually without continuous inspection by USDA/FSIS. Farmers Markets and/or vendors at farmers markets are retail food establishments. Pursuant to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture’s retail food sanitation law, the Department does not consider poultry slaughtered under these exemptions to be an approved source for sale at a retail food establishment. So, these poultry products can only be sold directly to consumers at the farm.

Andy reiterated that for the 20,000 bird poultry exemption, provided that you meet the sanitation requirements on the USDA website, you can make on-farm sales of your poultry without needing bird-by-bird inspection. Once you move into commerce, though, you need market inspection and you must follow the refrigerated transportation requirements. Andy explained that the market inspections are required once the poultry enters commerce because people in a profit-based business will take advantage of an exemption and sell anywhere. His office consistently seen people selling hazardous products to the public with no permits and no ability to keep the products cool. This, again, is why MDAC requires refrigerated trucks or trailers be used to transport products.

It is important to note that MDAC provides free poultry inspection, provided that you meet USDA requirements.

Andy then took a question from the audience regarding whether refrigerated trailers must have their own cooler units. He replied that yes, this was the case, and they must also have a thermometer in the trailer.

Question 5. MDAC’s “Permit Requirements for Farmers Markets” guide states that the Retail Food Sanitation License requires eggs to be maintained at the proper temperature under mechanical refrigeration. The FDA Food Code does not require mechanical refrigeration for eggs and it[s] temporary food establishment operations checklist states that “effectively insulated, hard sided, cleanable container[s]” with “ice or other means to maintain” the proper temperature are sufficient for cold storage. [Footnote excluded.] Does the mechanical refrigeration requirement apply to eggs sold at farmers markets under the Retail Food Sanitation License?

Written Answer: Yes, eggs sold at farmers markets must be kept under mechanical refrigeration. The Department adopted a regulation in 2011 specifically to facilitate the sale of eggs at farmers markets. Temperature fluctuation is critical to food safety. If eggs are not maintained at the proper temperature, then salmonella can grow rapidly. FDA and USDA both advise on their websites to buy eggs only from a refrigerator or refrigerated case. It is the opinion of the Department that mechanical refrigeration is the safest way to prevent temperature fluctuation.

Egg vendors must obtain a retail food license from the Department and meet all of the requirements of section 108 of the Department’s Sanitation Regulations.

Section 108 allows for the use of dry ice or commercial ice packs during transportation only, provided there is no leaking or melting. The use of ice or gel packs is prohibited.

Andy reiterated that you can transport eggs with ice packs and dry ice only, as long as water does not come into contact with shells, as this can allow pathogens to permeate the shells and contaminate the eggs. Once eggs are at a farmers’ market, however, they must be placed under refrigeration using an electric cooler (a generator would be okay in this case). The FDA heavily recommends refrigeration for eggs.

In order to get egg permits, you need a blood test and annual inspection by the board of animal health.

Question 6. MFPC members are interested in methods to grow and sell local or grass fed beef. What barriers are there, legal or otherwise, to doing so in Mississippi currently? Why are local beef producers not legally selling local or grass fed beef to in-state consumers?

Written Answer: The federal and state meat inspection laws require that beef entering commerce be produced under inspection. Any beef slaughtered in a USDA plant could be sold in Mississippi. Any beef slaughtered in a state-inspected plant could be sold in Mississippi.

Local beef producers are not selling local or grass-fed beef to in-state consumers most likely due to the fact that there are no inspected plants in Mississippi producing beef under inspection. At this writing, there is a halal plant in Summit, Mississippi, that has done some limited beef slaughter under inspection. This may be an option that local beef producers could explore.

Andy stressed that neither MDAC nor the USDA dictates what each business slaughters or processes – each plant has its own free will to decide which types of meat to process and slaughter. Most of these plants are slaughtering or processing pork, sheep and goats, and a small amount of poultry under state inspection. The only certified plant in Mississippi that does some beef on occasion is the halal plant in Summit, MS. No other plant has indicated that it is ready to slaughter or process beef under inspection, likely because demand is not high enough for it to be cost effective. Andy and Dr. Ken Hood (from MSU) noted that they met with plants to discuss the possibility of beef slaughtering. The plants cited lack of demand as the reason they are not slaughtering any beef. It is expensive to get a facility up to code to slaughter beef, and beef slaughter also requires that the plants give meat samples to MDAC to test for diseases and pathogens, which is expensive.

Someone asked whether MDAC would be interested, as part of its marketing and promotion efforts, in trying to help a state-inspected plant begin slaughtering and processing beef. Dr. Hood responded that MSU is interested, and that they already tried to do just that during these meetings with plants. Plants simply do not want to invest the capital to pay for all necessary activities, such as steaming the meat, sampling the meat, etc. There needs to be more than fifteen people interested in purchasing this local beef before plants will consider beef. Even if this were structured as a co-op, you would still need to get people together to increase demand for these plants. Plants have no issues selling high-end cuts of the meat, but the problem is what do you do with the 30-40% of the animal that cannot be sold?

Andy explained that these goals take time to achieve, and that they can only be successfully accomplished with clear rules in place to encourage the right type of business development. For example, one of MDAC’s goals ten years ago was to grow farmers’ markets, the right way, with rules in place (e.g. regarding hours of operation, marketing activities). The same holds true in the realm of food safety. There are costs associated with doing business. Andy noted that for every one person who follows the rules, there are 100 who will not, and will compromise the safety of the local food supply. Rules are designed to prevent this from occurring.

Andy repeated that MDAC wants success for small farmers, and they want to work with small plants to help them figure out what they would need to slaughter beef (e.g. where a drain is needed, and other sanitation issues). Inspectors will come at no charge to provide a consultation.

Another audience member then asked how many plants in Mississippi are state-certified for beef. Andy replied that there is only one, the halal plant in Summit, MS. There are five or six for poultry, a couple for sheep, a couple for pork, and a couple for goats, but none for beef.

The next question pertained to temperature requirements for different types of animal products. Andy responded that eggs must be held at forty-five degrees, under refrigeration. All other animal products must be held at forty-one degrees under refrigeration.

Next, another audience member mentioned that she is in the process of working with various stakeholders to develop a food hub, examining the costs and realizing that the place for producers to make money is in value-added products. She noted that more and more buyers are requesting pre-cut or frozen foods, including restaurants and schools, and noted that through her visit to Kentucky (which does not require mechanical refrigeration at farmers’ markets) and discussions with officials in Vermont (which also does not require mechanical refrigeration at farmers’ markets), she was curious if there was opportunity between a free-for-all and a mechanical refrigeration requirement that MDAC would be open to adopting, perhaps to apply to a known quality/quantity group or a way of holding food products. Andy replied that MDAC would need something scientifically-based, and that the agency is open to ideas and proposals.

Andy then introduced Julie McLemore, Bureau Director of MDAC’s Bureau of Regulatory Services, to answer additional questions based on her experience and knowledge of food safety responsibility in Mississippi and throughout the country. In response to examples of Vermont and Kentucky not requiring mechanical refrigeration, Julie explained that for retail food sanitation, Mississippi adopted the FDA Food Code; however, these same restaurant and indoor retail establishment regulations cannot be applied to farmers’ markets without modification first. Therefore, in response to many fly-by-night meat vendors, MDAC modified their regulations in 2001. At the time, they felt that the safest way to sell meat door-to-door is by a refrigerated vehicle. Farmers’ markets are open air, so they run into the same issues as door-to-door meat sales. The goal was to make sure no animal products sit for a long time. However, Julie and Andy noted reiterated their willingness to look at other state laws and at any science-based regulations.

In closing, Andy reminded MFPC members to 1) use common sense, 2) call or email MDAC with any questions about food safety or food sales at markets and 3) be very safe, particularly with meat.

FARM TO SCHOOL UPDATES FROM AROUND THE STATE     Sunny Young; Darnella Burkett-Winston; Judy Belue; Alicia Landry and Kelsey Lingsch

Sunny Young (Oxford Public School Farm to School Project): Nate Rosenberg, chair of the MFPC Farm to School Subcommittee introduced Sunny Young, who heads the Oxford Public School’s Farm to School Project. Sunny proceeded to give a presentation on her background and her current projects in Mississippi.

Before moving to Mississippi, Sunny lived in Boulder, Colorado, where she worked under Renegade Lunch Lady, Chef Ann Cooper, on school lunch reform. She worked with the Boulder Valley School District’s School Food Project (modeled on the New York program) as well as with Chef Ann’s Food Family Farming Foundation and The Lunch Box website, which is an online database providing school lunch recipes in nutrition service-minded format. Based on input from Alice Waters in Berkeley, the program scrapped the lunch menu and began cooking from scratch.

Sunny found that equipment purchase is a common barrier preventing schools from preparing and cooking fresh food. Wal-Mart provided 300 equipment grants for some schools to start cooking and serving breakfast. There were also salad bar grants, originally funded by Whole Foods through over $1 million in cashier donations, that caught the attention of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. The salad bar initiative is now known as “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools,” and its goal is to place one salad bar in every school in the United States.

Sunny realized that no schools in Mississippi had applied for one of these grants, and decided to venture to Oxford, MS to work on the Oxford School District’s Farm to School Project. The project has now expanded beyond the school district. In addition, Sunny founded her own consulting company, Edufood Consulting (edufood.wordpress.com), which helps schools implement good food practices, apply for grants and develop project proposals.

Through Sunny’s work, Oxford School District recently received a USDA Farm to School Planning grant (worth $38,000), through which it will: coordinate with local farmers and partners; prepare kitchens and training staff; make classroom connections for deeper student learning, and; engage and educate parents on how to keep this going at home. The school district will conduct pilot activities in two elementary schools that serve K-3 students. On April 30, they will debut a sample meal off of the new menu, which will feature collard greens from local farms.

Connecting children with food in the classroom involves what Sunny has termed “Sustainability University,” through which kids are taught twice a week about how plants are grown and eaten. The children made kale chips, which they all loved, even one particular student who would not touch anything green. The takeaway is that children will eat anything if you make it exciting, and they love learning about food production and farm-to-plate processes. Sunny says the school district is looking into the potential for creating gardens at all of the schools.

One particular issue with farm-to-school activities is how to engage middle school and high school students. Sunny proposes that schools approach students about starting student-run food clubs. She has spoken to students in gym, health and nutrition classes, and already fifty students have signed up, who want to be in cooking classes or are interested in careers as chefs. Three of those fifty students will be offered a trip to Los Angeles for the Rooted in Justice conference that trains and educates students about food justice issues. In order to raise the money necessary to fund the trip, the Oxford Farm to School Project is hosting a Gospel Choir Showcase on steps of City Hall on April 28, which will also feature samples of the new school food menu (baked chicken on the bone, cornbread, greens and mashed sweet potatoes) and provide healthy activities such as zumba classes. Sunny stressed that the school district needs to keep participation stead or raise it in order to ensure the success of the program.

Sunny then took questions from the audience.

Q. How can schools ensure that these habits get reinforced at home? How do you encourage healthy behaviors outside of school?

A. Families are sent letters each week about what the students learned about food in their classes. In the future, the school district plans to host cooking classes with the entire family. The Gospel Choir Showcase event is intended to involve families, as they are a key piece of the puzzle. Some parents reported that their children have been asking for vegetables with dinner.

Q. Does a centralized kitchen work better than individual kitchens for preparing fresh food?

A. Yes, a centralized kitchen is the best option because it allows the school district to hire professionals at that location and less-skilled labor for the remainder of the staff. Oxford has six kitchens, so it is not one of their top priorities right now, although they will consider it in the future.

Darnella Burkett-Winston (Mississippi Association of Cooperatives): Darnella is now working with people in Louisiana. About thirteen schools in southern Mississippi have received calls from food directors interested in learning about farm-to-school programs and how they operate. She has been serving as a teacher, a cook, trying to help people understand. She has received more calls throughout the state than they have programs within the state to help Alabama, Kentucky and Louisiana push farm-to-school (as well as Starksville and Oxford). These changes do not happen overnight, and they are now in the process of trying to help farmers understand that farm-to-school can be beneficial as another avenue of income. While it may not be enough to live off of, it’s still beneficial, she has been stressing to farmers. However, she has found that farmers do not necessarily respond favorably to real-life stories about the health benefits of farm-to-school.

One challenge that needs to be addressed is how to serve schools in certain areas where there are no vegetable farmers (e.g. private Piney Woods School is ready to introduce farm-to-school but cannot find local farmers). It appears that in Mississippi supply and demand do not always align geographically. In other schools, the problem is not lack of supply, but lack of interest from food directors.

Judy Belue (Delta Fresh Foods Initiative): The farm-to-school pilot program began its outreach efforts in 2011. Since then, it has established programs in seventeen schools in three districts, selling more than 10,000 pounds of produce. They are now holding trainings for food service directors and growers. She has seen momentum building, and the strategic plan for next year is to expand to twelve school districts, as well as build six school gardens, not necessarily for food production purposes but as experiential projects. They are interested in hiring Teach for America fellows to introduce the garden curriculum. Another focus is on building a network in the Delta of like-minded stakeholders.

Alicia Landry and Kelsey Lingsch (University of Southern Mississippi, Department of Food and Nutrition Systems): Kelsey’s thesis examined support for farm-to-school week in Mississippi. Her research measured child nutrition directors’ responses to farm-to-school week in 2012, which she obtained through responses to two separate SurveyMonkey surveys (one for those schools that participated in Farm-to-School week; the other for those that did not). She was interested in learning about why schools did not participate and assessing future interest in participation next year. She received seventy-five responses out of a total of 156 (50% response rate).

Through her surveys, she found:

• Of the survey respondents, 24 participated in farm to school week 2012.
• Of the 24 districts that participated in last year’s Farm-to-School week, only 8 have ever participated in any other Farm-to-School project
• 35 districts plan on participating in Farm-to-School Week 2013
• One specific area of interest is allowing farmers to sell through the distributors and vendors already under contract with school districts (i.e. subcontracting) – 75% of respondents to the survey would purchase local foods if they could do it that way

FARM SERVICE AGENCY    Mike Sullivan

Mike Sullivan is speaking to MFPC as part of USDA’s effort to educate community members about its various community programs and services. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides production and agriculture loans to farmers.

FSA recognizes that it is extremely difficult to enter the agriculture business and be profitable. There are large investment costs associated with equipment and land, which can be defrayed through the formation of a coop. It also helps to receive start-up loans.

The New Microloan Program
When USDA Secretary Vilsack visited Mississippi a few years ago, he observed high poverty in many rural states and counties, and realized that there were a lot of needs not currently being met by the FSA. The FSA’s loan program was onerous to small farmers, not only because of credit restrictions, but also because of the complicated 22-page application process. USDA realized that they needed to develop a new product to fill this small farmer niche, with a simplified application process.

FSA recognized that vegetable farmers often transact with a credit card because they have trouble finding credit, with banks reluctant to make loans to very small businesses. In response, the FSA created a microloan program, which provides loans up to $35,000 to small farmers. These loans are designed for part-time farmers, or individuals who need only one piece of equipment or an upgrade. Microloans last up to seven years, and can be used to cover initial start-up expenses such as hoop houses to extend the growing season, essential tools, irrigation, delivery vehicles, and annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, and distribution expenses.

One caveat of the program is that loans can only be provided to individual businesses, not to co-ops (this differs from the USDA’s Operating Loan Program). Loans can be used for matching funds, or as a cost share with other agencies, which serves as a very valuable tool.

He has been pleasantly surprised at the number of microloans already accepted in Mississippi. As of April 8, Mississippi led the nation in microloans, ahead of agricultural states such as Texas, California, South Carolina. This high application rate indicates that the microloan program is filling a need. This year the loan application rate is growing at an even faster pace than last year’s.

So far, the program has provided $2 million in loans, mostly to small cattle/goat operations and to vegetable growers. Most loans have funded the purchase of additional equipment. Below are some statistics from the 2013 loan program. As of January 1, 2013:

• FSA has provided 480 loans in Mississippi (there were 310 in 2012)
• FSA has provided 415 direct loans (there were 285 in 2012)
• FSA has provided 174 loans to beginning farmers (there were 121 in 2012)
• Loans to socially disadvantaged individuals accounts for 33% of all loans, which exceeds the set benchmarks
• A majority of these loans are for food production

Mississippi is an ideal state for growing food. We have great soils, a wide alluvial aquifer, and we are in the middle of the United States, which makes food distribution much easier. We have irrigation, transportation, and the expertise of Extension universities. But, we are also a rural state without a large metropolitan area (as opposed to Georgia, for example). There are niches for vegetable production in Mississippi, if growers open their eyes to business opportunities. For example, FSA’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program is available for growers who cannot buy crop insurance, which can be used, for example, to protect onion or sweet potato crops.

Judy Belue asked how FSA tackles grower issues related to chemical drift and contamination from big agricultural operations. Mike responded that cross-contamination from row crop agriculture is still an issue, but there has been investigation into mechanical ways of doing the same job, and that the number of reported incidents of cross-contamination continues to decline.

MISSISSIPPI STATE EXTENSION SERVICE    Kim Morgan

Dr. Kim Morgan, Assistant Extension Professor at Mississippi State University, spoke to MFPC members about how they can benefit from the MSU Extension Service. She explained that the Extension Service’s mission is to provide research-based information, educational programs, and technology transfer focused on issues and needs of the people of Mississippi, enabling them to make informed decisions about their economic, social, cultural well-being. The Extension’s overall purpose is education, empowering people to make intelligent decisions relating to their vocations, families and environment. Its goal is to help generate sources of long-term wealth (as opposed to year-to-year income) within the food system. To accomplish this goal, the Extension provides objective, research-based education, through what she calls the four P’s:

• Projects. The Extension partners with dynamic Mississippi food supply chain members
• People. Through its website, the Extension provides a network of experts (extension.org; agmrc.org)
• Programs. Build and deliver Mississippi programs (Mississippi Market Maker; Mississippi Market Ready, MSUCARES.com)
o Mississippi Market Maker allows individuals to see which growers are selling certain products
• Publish.

The Extension Service focuses on the following priority areas:
• Value-added marketing
• Community economic development
• Policy and risk
• Environmental and natural resources
• Commodity marketing
• Farm and agribusiness management

Unfortunately, Dr. Morgan is leaving the Extension Service this summer, but for more information on the Extension Service, visit http://www.agecon.msstate.edu, call (662) 325-2752, or follow them on Twitter (@MsStateAgEcon).

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE    Samantha Cawthorn Newman; Rhonda Lampkin

Next, Mark Leggett asked for legislative updates.

Senate Bill 2553: Cottage Food Production
Samantha Cawthorn Newman described SB 2553, which was signed into law on April 1, 2013. The new law exempts from Mississippi food permitting requirements certain low-risk in-home food production (cottage foods), provided that annual sales do not exceed $20,000. Foods must contain a label stating “Made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to Mississippi’s food safety regulations,” as well list ingredients and potential allergens, the net weight or volume of the food product, and the name and address of the cottage food operation.

Under the new law, if MSDH receives a complaint about any cottage food producer, it may enter the business’s premises to investigate any potential violations of the cottage food law or MSDH rules.

This new cottage food exemption creates a viable option for in-home production of jellies, jams and other low-risk foods, whereas before home producers were subject to burdensome state regulations (e.g. requiring three-compartment sinks, etc.).

House Bill 718: Farm-to-School Interagency Council Bill
Rhonda Lampkin explained HB 718, which created an Interagency Farm to School Council, and was signed into law on March 26, 2013. The bill was originally introduced by the MFPC during the 2012 legislative session (HB 828), but it did not pass. In the interim, advocates maintained a coalition of policymakers to support the bill, which played a key role in its passage this year.

The Interagency Farm to School Council created by this law will facilitate the procurement of local foods for school meals, improving the quality of food served in school meals and generating new income for Mississippi farmers. The Council will consist of nine members, who reflect diverse geographical regions, state agencies, and public and private sectors. Members will include representatives from:
• Mississippi Department of Education
• Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce
• Mississippi Department of Health
• Mississippi State University Extension Program
• Alcorn State University Extension Program
• Food service directors in Mississippi public schools
• Farm-to-school non-profit organizations in Mississippi
• Poultry producers in Mississippi
• Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation

The Council will operate in a similar capacity as the Legislative Advisory Committee on Healthy Food Access, which was established in 2011 to study retail availability of healthy foods in underserved communities and the impact of limited food choices on proper nutrition and obesity-related diseases. The Legislative Advisory Committee on Healthy Food Access successfully advocated for the passage of a number of bills, with support from MFPC as well. The goal is for the Farm to School Interagency Council to achieve similar success.

Rhonda also described HB 798, a bill to create the Healthy Food Retail Act, which would have created a pilot program to provide grants and loans to retailers in an effort to increase access to affordable healthy foods in underserved communities. The bill died in committee on April 1, 2013.

SUBCOMMITTEE AND OTHER COMMITTEE REPORTS    Subcommittee heads

Mark Leggett then asked for updates from the various subcommittee heads.

The following subcommittees reported on their activities:

Farm to School Subcommittee (Nathan Rosenberg): Nate briefly mentioned the statewide Farm to School Conference held last fall. He also noted that the Farm to School Subcommittee will be renamed the Farm to Institution Subcommittee and will begin exploring mechanisms for building relationships between growers and other state entities besides schools, such as prisons. The Farm to School Subcommittee will meet later this spring to discuss their next plans. If you are interested in getting involved, email Nate at nate.rosenberg@gmail.com.

Someone also recommended that we make sure to reach out to the new Farm to School Interagency Council created under HB 718 to ensure that the MFPC could play a role on the subcommittee, filling the spot designated for a “farm-to-school non-profit organizations in Mississippi.” It was recommended that we ask to have the spot filled by “the current chair of the MFPC” or “current vice-chair of the MFPC” so that someone in a leadership position in MFPC would always have a seat on the council.

Local Food Systems and Economic Development (Nancy Woodruff): MFPC has created a new subcommittee, focused on local food and economic development. The Mississippi Development Authority will hopefully partner with the subcommittee in some capacity. The Board is seeking volunteers and ideas for the subcommittee. Nancy Woodruff had offered to serve as subcommittee chair. If you are interested in getting involved, email Nancy at new_369@yahoo.com.

In-Home Processing (Dita McCarthy (not present)): Now that the cottage foods bill has passed, there was some discussion of broadening and renaming the In-Home Food Processing Subcommittee to become a broader Food Safety Subcommittee. People seemed interested in doing this.

Ron Aldridge noted the state recently created a Small Business Regulatory Review Committee, which looks at state and federal regulations that burden smaller businesses to find solutions to ease these regulatory burdens. There could be some synergy between the work of an MFPC Food Safety Subcommittee and this Review Committee.

Farmers Markets Subcommittee (Judy Belue): No updates

Legislative Liaison Subcommittee (Mark Leggett): No additional updates, besides legislative updates above.

UPDATE ON MFPC BOARD BUSINESS     Mark Leggett

Mark Leggett explained that the MFPC board is in the process of reviewing and editing MFPC’s by-laws and creating an additional board position. Two positions are up for election this year, and a newly-developed third position will now be open. This summer MFPC members will hold elections and vote for the 3 new board members.

By the next MFPC meeting in late June, the board is requesting nominations for board members to fill these three positions. In order to run, candidates must have paid membership dues and filled out membership applications by the date of the next MFPC general meeting. In order to vote in the election, all members must also have paid membership dues and filled out membership applications by the date of the next MFPC general meeting.

All candidates will speak at that June meeting, followed by a secret ballot election online after the meeting.

Under the new bylaws, board positions will be staggered with two-year terms. In addition to the 3 positions up for election this summer, 6 board positions will be up for election next summer.

UPCOMING EVENTS AND PROGRAMS      All

• Introducing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to Mississippi’s Produce Industry, Coastal Research and Extension Center, Biloxi, April 26, 2013. For more information, call (228) 762-7783 Ext. 301 (Christine Coker)
• Pathways2Possibilities, is an interactive career expo for all 8th graders in private and public schools in the six lower counties of Mississippi (careers in ag, 17 different career pathways), November 13-14 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi. (Christine Coker)
• Growing Communities Workshop at Gale Center in Hernando, community building and leadership development through gardening, May 2 – 3, 2013. $75 registration fee but scholarships are available. Click here to register (Shelly Johnstone)

Please let us know about any upcoming events that may be of interest to MFPC members and we will help get the word out.

***The next MFPC meeting will be in June.

Please let us know about any upcoming events that may be of interest to MFPC members and we will help get the word out.

For information about upcoming events, grants, and more, visit the website of the Mississippi Food Policy Council at www.mississippifoodpolicycouncil.com.