Food Safety and Liability

What if i can’t afford the amount
of insurance coverage required
by my buyers?
hoW do i get help in meeting the food safety requirements of my buyers?

Farmer support organizations may be able to help growers meet food safety and product liability insurance requirements and concerns. Organizations that help distribute produce for small or limited-resource farmers may be able to purchase a group insurance policy to cover product liability insurance requirements for individual farmers. This can help reduce costs. Several organizations around the country are develop- ing special food safety protocols for small farms that grow a diversity of crops, practice sustainable agriculture meth- ods, and implement conservation and habitat improvement programs on their farms. These farmer support groups are working with farmers, local restaurants, grocery stores, and institutions to make sure the guidelines are achievable for farmers and acceptable to their buyers. These guidelines are based on GAP standards, and t the needs of small- scale producers.

Ask produce distributors in your area if they are interested in marketing your products, or if they have a group product- liability insurance policy you can join. You can also ask them to assist you with food safety guidelines, since farmers often work through distributors to access large-scale markets.

For more information on these organizations or strategies in English, go to and download Food Safety and Liability Insurance: Emerging Issues for Farm- ers and Institutions. For information on these strategies in Spanish, go to and download Seguridad Alimentaria y Seguros de Responsabilidad de Productos para Agricultores de Menor Escala y de Recursos Limitados.

community food security coalition 3830 SE DIVISION PORTLAND, OREGON 97202 503 954 2970 WWW.FOODSECURITY.ORG

Food Safety and Liability Insurance for Small-Scale and Limited Resource Farmers

This project is funded by USDA Risk Management Agency Community Outreach and Assistance Partnership

Protecting Yourself and

Your farm’s food safetY

If you are selling produce to institutional markets like schools, universities, corporations, hospitals, and prisons, your buyers may have special concerns about food safety. They may want you to prove that you handle food in a safe manner. They may require you to buy special insurance to protect them and their customers. This brochure explains these issues.

hoW can i improve the safety
of the food from my farm?
Over the last few years, many people were sickened and some even died as a result of eating products such as spin- ach, peanuts, beef, and eggs that contained harmful bacte- ria. These outbreaks have caused serious alarm about the way farmers grow and handle their food. Institutional mar- kets need to know that the food they buy from farmers is not going to sicken their customers, especially schoolchil- dren or people in a hospital. In order to address the concerns of these important buyers, farmers should be prepared to show that they grow and handle food in a way that makes it safe for everyone to eat.

One way you can increase your chances of selling to institu- tional markets is to learn about Good Agricultural Practices or GAPs. GAPs are a voluntary set of food-safety guidelines designed to help you handle food safely on your farm and all the way to market. This includes developing a food safety plan, training your employees, and documenting your farm practices to reduce the risk of dangerous bacteria or toxins in your farm products.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is developing an illustrated comic-style guide for growers that will describe how to implement GAPs on individual farms. This easy- to-read guide outlines four basic approaches to GAPs:

1. clean soil: Minimize human pathogens in the soil.

2. clean Water: Monitor water quality. For example, water used for washing produce should be of drinkable quality.

3. clean hands: Use good personal hygiene in the eld and the packinghouse.

4. clean surfaces: Wash and properly sanitize work surfaces, packing bins, transportation vehicles, etc.

to learn more about ncat’s illustrated guide, visit or call 1-800-411-3222.

What is product liability insurance?

Insurance is a tool you can buy to protect your family or your farm from nancial risk. There are many different types of insur- ance. If you sell fresh fruits, vegetables, or other farm products such as meat, cheese, or value-added goods, you should carry a type of insurance called product liability insurance. Product liability insurance protects farmers against people who may claim to suffer illness, injury, or loss due to the product the farmer sold them. This kind of insurance protects you from being sued if someone says they became ill from consuming your produce. Product liability insurance covers medical expenses, the cost of a lawyer, and more.

Who requires product liability insurance?

Product liability insurance is generally required for all farmers who sell to grocery stores, retailers, farmers’ markets, and institutions such as schools, colleges, and hospitals. Differ- ent buyers require different amounts of insurance coverage. Check with your buyers to determine what type of coverage and how much coverage you need. Institutions generally re- quire between $1 million and $5 million in product liability insurance coverage. This means that if someone gets sick from your product, your insurance company will cover the medical or legal expenses of the injury up to $1 million or $5 million dollars in damage. This type of insurance could cost farmers anywhere from $500 to $1,500 a year, depending on your farm income and what kind of coverage you want.

hoW do i obtain product
liability insurance?
Sometimes you can get product liability insurance through your regular homeowner, renter, or auto insurance company. You can also look for an insurance company that specializes in insurance for farmers. Talk to other farmers, farm organizations, the Farm Bureau, cooperative extension educators, and other agricultural professionals. Let them know what kinds of markets you plan to sell to, and ask them for recommendations on which insurance company and policy to choose. When you talk to an insurance agent, explain your farm business in detail and the type and amount of coverage your buyers require. Ask the agent what types of policies are available to protect you and your assets. Sometimes the cost of the insurance is related to your farm in- come. An agent can also tell you about other types of insurance that covers your property, employees, crops, and other things.


Author: bryan nettles