With small and organic farmers having the most apprehension about a future that is going to include better traceability and more inspections, a Salinas, CA business has popped up to help them.

Small growers have been expressing a lot of anxiety food safety legislation in Congress while the “sunrise” date for the start of the industry’s own Produce Traceability Initiative is just a few weeks away on New Year’s Day 2010.

John Bailey, executive director of Top 10 Produce LLC, is ready with GS1 DataBar coding for small growers in the Salinas Valley for just $180 a year.

Come New Year’s Day, growers without the tracing technology will find themselves unable to sell products to major retailers. Retailers and major food service suppliers want traceability to limit their exposure to fresh produce recalls.

From strawberries to spinach to tomatoes, growers have had to eat the financial losses when in the past the government has been forced to warn the public not to eat something that has been contaminated, but has not the slightest clue where a specific bad product was grown.

Traceability, however, is not cheap.  The minimum for a farm to have a separate number is $750, and the entire technology investment for a large operation runs into thousands of dollars with labeling and assorted costs.

That’s where Bailey’s company has stepped in.  He sees Top 10 Produce LLC as the advocate for small growers.  Top Ten will provide the label that will include the individual family farm name on boxes and packages.

Bailey says his goal has been to make the nation’s lowest cost product traceability available to the small growers of the Salinas Valley.

With many retailers already using the barcodes, PMI has been marching forward this year with a set of deadlines for growers to meet.  This has included assigning numbers and codes to various products.

Bailey said Top Ten’s low cost technology solution to product level traceability was originally developed to help the small growers in the Salinas Valley, but is now being expanded nationwide.