PROVIDENCE, R.I. \u2014 The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is hosting a series of free workshops this spring to educate Rhode Island farmers about the new Produce Safety Rule (PSR).\n\nThe PSR establishes, for the first time, national science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. DEM's Division of Agriculture is implementing the PSR in Rhode Island under a cooperative agreement with the federal Food and Drug Administration which includes adopting the PSR into state regulations.\n\nDEM estimates the new rule will apply to about half of Rhode Island's approximately 350 produce farms. Those farms with average produce sales (over the previous three years) amounting to greater than $500K are considered large, are covered by the rule, and will be inspected beginning in Spring 2019. Farms with average produce sales (over the previous three years) that amount to between $250K-$500K (small farm) or $25K-$250K (very small farm) also are covered by the rule but may be eligible for an exemption from the rule that includes modified requirements. Those farms with produce sales under $25K are not covered by the rule; DEM estimates that more than half \u2013 about 52 percent \u2013 of Rhode Island's produce farms fall below this threshold.\n\nWorkshops will be held as follows:\n\nThursday, March 21 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. DEM Headquarters, Room 300 235 Promenade Street, Providence\n\nThursday, April 11 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. URI East Farm, Building 75 1 E. Farm Road, Kingston This workshop is jointly hosted by the RI Food Policy Council\n\nThursday, May 2 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Hope & Main 691 Main Street, Warren\n\nWorkshop topics include exemptions and exclusions under the PSR, how to apply for an exemption, record-keeping, tools for assistance, and an overview of the PSR and market access. Advance registration is requested by emailing Abigail.Phillips@dem.ri.gov\n\n"We encourage Rhode Island produce growers to attend these informational workshops for up-to-date information about the new Produce Safety Rule," said DEM Agriculture Chief Ken Ayars. "DEM is working to make the compliance requirements as least burdensome to local farmers as possible, and these workshops are an important component of our 'educate before and while we regulate' strategy." According to Ayars, on-farm inspections will be scheduled on large farms this spring, and the first round of these inspections will be educational in nature. On-farm inspections on small farms will take place next year.\n\nDEM continues to work across many fronts to strengthen Rhode Island's green economy and assist local farmers in growing their businesses. The state's food scene is often cited as an area of economic strength ripe for innovation and growth. Already, the local food industry supports 60,000 jobs, and the state's green industries account for more than 15,000 jobs and contribute $2.5 billion to the economy annually.