Friday, October 2, 2015

USDA Plan to Help Small Farmers with Certification

Written by Stephen Kenney

On September 15, 2015, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo spoke about the expansion of a pilot program that was designed to help small and mid-sized growers and cooperatives meet the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification.  The certification verifies that a farm follows the food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration.  The safety practices focus on producing, packing, handling, and storing fruits and vegetables in a safe manner that minimizes risks of microbial food safety hazards.  Produce purchasers are increasingly requiring that suppliers attain GAP certification.

The pilot program was referred to as the GroupGAP program.  Small and mid-size farmers can often find it difficult to attain the GAP certification because the audit process can be expensive.  The program enabled growers, food hubs, and cooperatives to work together to attain certification and share the cost of the audits.

In July 2015 Michigan State released a study on how the food safety pilot program fared in Michigan.  The study found that GAP certification could meet the certification needs of small farms.  It was also found that the program could be affordable.  The audit costs were $492 per-farm.  The study estimated that individual farm savings through GroupGAP certification versus individual GAP certification was about $700. 

AMS will share details of the future program at the October 23rd-25th Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit meeting in Atlanta.

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