New FDA Water Standards- EQIP Can Help

The recent publication of the FDA’s final rule on agricultural water marks a significant milestone in ensuring the safety and quality of produce grown for sale. This rule, developed under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), sets standards for the microbial quality of agricultural water used in the growing of fruits and vegetables. By establishing science-based criteria, the FDA aims to reduce the risk of contamination and foodborne illnesses associated with the consumption of fresh produce.

For those involved in growing produce for sale, the FDA’s final rule on agricultural water has both immediate and long-term implications. In the short term, growers will need to assess and potentially modify their current water sources and irrigation practices to meet the new standards. This may involve investing in improved irrigation systems, implementing regular water testing procedures, and adjusting crop management techniques. Compliance with these regulations is essential not only for meeting FDA requirements but also for safeguarding consumer health and maintaining market access.

While complying with the FDA’s rule may necessitate some initial investments, financial assistance may be available through programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). EQIP provides cost-sharing opportunities for producers implementing practices that improve water quality and resource conservation on their land. These practices can include:

  • Upgrading irrigation systems: EQIP can help offset the costs of installing more efficient irrigation systems that minimize water waste and potential contamination risks.
  • Implementing water management practices: Financial assistance is available for practices like installing filtration systems, constructing ponds or reservoirs, and developing comprehensive water management plans.
  • Protecting water sources: EQIP can support efforts to fence off sensitive areas near water sources, plant buffer strips to prevent erosion, and implement other measures that safeguard water quality.

By leveraging EQIP’s cost-sharing programs, producers can make necessary upgrades to their water systems and irrigation practices, enhancing compliance with the FDA’s rule while promoting long-term sustainability and environmental benefits. For South Dakota producers seeking assistance with navigating the new FDA water quality rule and identifying suitable EQIP practices, SDSPA Urban Ag Contractor Malisa Niles can provide valuable guidance on implementing best practices, assess individual needs, and connect producers with NRCS staff to explore available cost-sharing opportunities. Contact Malisa at