FDA Publishes the Final Rule on Agricultural Water

On May 2 the FDA announced the release of the Final Rule for “Pre-Harvest Agricultural Water.” This is technically Subpart E of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. After its initial introduction, there was great pushback from the produce industry around the proposed ag water regulation’s microbial testing and water quality criteria. FDA accepted stakeholder feedback and now released a seemingly flexible regulation that allows for the great diversity of growing environments and water usage across the US. The entire Final Rule is available at the Federal Register.

The final rule has many similarities to the 2015 proposed ag water rule. The major update includes language about using microbial testing as an option to mitigate pre-harvest ag water risks as a component of the agricultural water assessments in certain circumstances.

The rule requires farms to conduct annual systems-based agricultural water assessments to determine and guide appropriate measures to minimize potential risks associated with pre-harvest agricultural water.

Requirements for harvest and post-harvest uses of agricultural water, and the agricultural water requirements for sprouts, have not changed.

Table 3 of the rule is a Summary of Changes Made to Subpart E Requirements.  

A public FDA webinar to provide an overview of the final rule and answer pre-submitted and live questions about the rule is planned for May 20, 2024.  Register for the FDA webinar at, FSMA Final Rule on Pre-Harvest Agricultural Water Webinar.

The rule establishes compliance dates for the pre-harvest agricultural water provisions for covered produce (other than sprouts).

Large farms                     9 months after the effective date           April 7, 2025

Small farms                     1 year, 9 months after effective date    April 6, 2026

Very small farms           2 years, 9 months after effective date  April 5, 2027

Additional resources about the rule can be found here:

FDA Constituent Update

FSMA Final Rule on Pre-Harvest Agricultural Water

FDA Fact Sheet

For additional information or questions, contact GFVGA’s Director of Food Safety & Education Beth Oleson at [email protected].

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