University of Missouri Extension offering water testing for produce farmers

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SOUTHWEST MISSOURI — The University of Missouri Extension is offering free microbial water testing to certain Missouri produce farmers.

Why is it important for farmers to check their water sources?

Testing water can help stop the spread of harmful diseases that live on produce, such as E. Coli.

But certain farmers can be exempt from this requirement.

Robert Balek, University of Missouri Extension Horticulture Field Specialist, said, “The recalls we’ve been seeing are a direct result from contaminated water in most cases, so this regulation is aimed at reducing those recalls.”

Free microbial testing offered by University of Missouri Extension for produce farmers is made possible through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

It’s to offset the cost of federally required testing.

“The testing is part of the Food Safety Management Act Regulation from the federal government, which requires certain farmers to test their water at regular intervals to guard against spreading bacterial diseases through produce.”

Testing kits are offered at local health departments.

Samples need to be dropped off immediately at the health department to test for bacteria.

And results are usually given in a few days.

Tony Moehr, Jasper County Health Department Administrator, said, “We offer well testing kits for bacteria that someone can come in and pick up and if they want to test their well for e. coli especially.”

Even though local growers are on board with this regulation, not all produce farmers are required to test their water.

“The regulation is a requirement for producers who gross more than $25,000 a year on their fresh produce and there are certain crops that are exempt from that. So, if you’re concerned about whether or not you are exempt from this, contact your local extension office. We’ll have that information for you,” said Balek.

Produce farmers interested in testing their wells or irrigation sources can contact their local health department.

Robert Balek advises consumers to wash produce with potable water after purchase to ensure no harmful bacteria are on produce.

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