The federal government's efforts to protect the nation's food supply will soon impact commercial hay growers in a big way.

According to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman, farmers who sell hay must comply with record-keeping requirements of the Bioterrorism Act of 2002.

The mandated records must include, along with other information, the field that each load came from, the truck that hauled it, and names and contact information of the driver and the people who loaded and unloaded it. The buyer's name and address, and the arrival date, must also be on record.

The rules are designed to enable FDA to trace any contamination problem back to its source. According to the 2002 law, they apply to “persons that manufacture, process, pack, transport, distribute, receive, hold or import food.”

FDA includes animal feeds in its definition of food. Feed manufacturers, grain elevators, alfalfa processors and other entities that process or store farm products must comply. Farms are exempt, but the FDA spokesman confirms that commercial hay growers are not.

“If they receive hay for redistribution or if they transport hay to another farm under a different ownership, they would need to establish and maintain records for that portion of their activity,” says the spokesman.

The records have to be maintained for at least a year. If requested by FDA, they must be made available within 24 hours.

Operations with 11 or more full-time employees must comply by June 6 of this year; smaller operations have until Dec. 9.

For more information, read Fact Sheet on FDA's New Bioterrorism Regulation: Establishment and Maintenance of Records. It's available online at www.cfsan.fda.gov/˜dms/fsbtac23.html.

Another option: Contact William Kanitz, president of ScoringAg.com. His company developed a computerized system to simplify compliance with the new record-keeping rules, and is well-versed on the requirements. His phone number is 941-330-1140. His email address: wkanitz@scoringsystem.com.