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Conference Name Mitigating Legal and Financial Risks for Value-Added Food Producers

Mariane Kiraly

Summary

New and diversifying farmers are interested in increasing revenue by producing value-added food products. Regulations related to food processing have evolved to protect consumers┬┤ health and can be complex with state and federal oversight. Farmers need to understand and comply with food processing regulations in order to mitigate the legal and financial risks of selling value-added food products. A comprehensive, 3-part educational program called "Food Rules" was developed and promoted in a 5-county area to address the needs expressed by farmers exploring value-added food production. The program addressed three distinct food areas: meat, horticulture and dairy. Regulators, local agencies and Extension educators developed and instructed the classes. They helped farmers develop realistic plans to make their value-added food products compliant in the marketplace. Successful, value-added food entrepreneurs participated in each program. From labels to processes, they openly discussed details of producing and marketing value-added food products. Follow-up assistance was provided as needed. As a result of the program, some participants made changes to their existing enterprises and/or developed products that they were able to sell at food stores, restaurants or metropolitan markets. Some participants elected to market unprocessed products in order to avoid the legal and financial risks of value-added products. A few needed more time to decide on a venture but were armed with the knowledge that the program provided. This format worked well to help farmers mitigate risk in value-added food production. "Food Rules" was made possible with funding from the Northeast Extension Risk Management Education Center.

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