Virtual Meetings Create Connections for State Employees

a beet wearing headphones with the caption "listen to the beet."At the 2019 NCR FSMA annual conference (the only in-person conference), state regulators met as a group.  They decided it would be helpful to continue the conversation through monthly video calls.  Each month, they take turns leading the discussion.  Someone will share a particularly complicated situation and the group will discuss how they would handle that during an inspection.  This helps to ensure that growers with operations across state lines are treated the same.

A few months later, the state employees responsible for their states’ inventories decided meetings would be helpful for their roles as well.  Some state employees work on both projects, so they attend both meetings.  In other states, those roles are completely separate, so different staff attend each meeting.

Lebo Moore, from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, was instrumental in starting the inventory/data calls.  She makes an effort to join the virtual meetings, because, “I really enjoy the relationship building and the community of practice.”

While the virtual meetings are designed for state employees, occasionally staff from other groups join.  When FDA grant reports were due, the group invited FDA employees to join the meeting.  This allowed state staff to get their questions answered, and it was an efficient way for FDA staff to answer common questions.

The calls are important for sharing best practices across the region.  Moore shared how the calls make a difference in Minnesota.  “For 2022 data collection and farm verification we modified how we collect data about qualified end-users. Instead of trying to explain the definition and do education thorough our annual verification, we now ask farms to report the percentage of sales to different markets. This means we do the calculations of whether they are eligible for a qualified exemption and makes our data collection form much more streamlined for farms. We got that from Nebraska, who said they got it from Missouri!”

In January of 2022, the program managers from nine states held a separate meeting.  As the people responsible for overseeing the CAP grants, the group shares unique concerns.  Having a place to ask questions and hear how others are handling situations is helpful to working efficiently.

The NCR FSMA provides technical and organizational support for these meetings, as part of its goal to connect regulators across the region. 

Because similar meetings do not happen in every region, Ben Marshall was asked to share about them during the national consortium for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in December 2021.  Ben, along with his colleagues at the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Bart Hawcroft, Ken Struemph, and Riley Franklin, told the story of these calls through song. 


Album: NCR Inventory Call
Song Title: Guidance from FDA

If tomorrow all the growers were gone
We worked for FMSA’s life
And we had to start again
With a blank database, that wouldn’t be alright
We’d thank our lucky stars
To have a group we could call today
'Cause the North Central Region has an Inventory Call
And you can't take that away

And I’m proud to be an Inspector 
Where at least I have state truck keys
And I won't forget the grower who tried
To dodge us from putting them in inventory
And We’d gladly drive up
Next to you and explain the rule today
'Cause there ain't no doubt we love this rule
Especially guidance from FDA

From the lakes of Minnesota
To the Ozark mountains of Missouri
Across the plains of Nebraska and the Dakotas
And Kansas we all try to build that inventory
From Wisconsin, Michigan down to Ohio
And Iowa, Indiana and Illinois 
Well, there's pride in every NCR heart
And it's time we feel some joy

That we’re proud to have great partners
Like AFDO, NASDA, FDA and those in Industry
And we can’t forget all the times we’ve asked Kristen Esch
to explain when we will have more guidance on Subpart E
So let’s gladly stand up
With our friends and explain the rule today
'Cause there ain't no doubt we love this rule
and Guidance from FDA