The importance of agriculture can’t be understated. Farmers provide the food that sustains human life, which is a source of pride but also carries with it heavy responsibility. That’s especially true in today’s landscape, where mass production has become a necessity. USDA statistics show that a single American farmer produces enough to feed 155 people annually. With that many people reliant on a single entity, it’s more important than ever to keep crops safe from pollutants.
Crop applications like irrigation water, fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides have become commonplace in the growing process. Several GAP requirements are aimed at preventing them from putting consumers at risk. The risk is multiplied in hilly areas where runoff causes quick spreading. Runoff can carry pollutants to surrounding land and water sources, which will have a long-term, sometimes irreversible, damaging effect on the environment.
Read on to learn some ways your operation can remain or become compliant.
Do you irrigate?
If so, regular testing for harmful organisms and high sediment levels is important. If your tests are a cause for concern, water treatments or settling ponds can help resolve the situation. It’s also important to install anti-backflow or check valve devices on all of your plumbing systems and ensure no cross connections exist between water supplies.
Do you apply manure/fertilizer?
Apply it at least 120 days prior to harvest and use cover crops to minimize runoff. Keep in mind that runoff will occur more easily on frozen or flood-prone land, so avoid growing crops on surrounding ground. Your manure should be stored in an enclosed facility that is isolated from fields and produce-handling areas with barriers that prevent leaching, runoff, and windspread.
Do you apply herbicides and/or pesticides?
Don’t spray if winds are greater than 10 miles per hour or if heavy rain is in the forecast, and always follow application instructions exactly as printed on the label. Like fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides should be stored in an enclosed facility with impermeable shelves over an impermeable floor. The floor should have either no drains or drains that lead to an appropriate holding tank.
Do you provide portable sanitation products for workers?
If so, great. That’s a GAP requirement. But keep in mind that portable sinks and toilets need to be clean and in proper working condition at all times. Toilets that leak chemical waste or sinks that leak gray water are dangerous and can cause a foodborne illness outbreak as easily as the previously mentioned crop applicants.
If you rent units, make sure you get them from a reputable supplier that has a good record of cleaning and maintaining equipment. If any equipment that is delivered appears dirty or damaged, don’t use it. Get a replacement. If you have purchased or will be purchasing your own units, establish a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule. Not all portable sanitation equipment is the same, and safety is of the upmost importance. Take your time and do your research to find a manufacturer/dealer of units that can guarantee durability and quality, along with a warranty.
Public safety and environmental health depend on safe farming practices. Use these tips to keep land, water, and most importantly, people, safe from pollutants and pathogens.
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