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Category: Food Security

USDA Process Verified Program: Transparency from Farm to Market

An infographic highlighting example process points and the steps taken to create a Process Verified Program

An infographic highlighting example process points and the steps taken to create a Process Verified Program. Click for a larger version.

Product labeling is a contract of trust between consumers and producers.  This is especially true for the foods we eat and the companies that sell them.  The responsibility of regulating and monitoring food labels is shared between many federal agencies including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA, and we recognize that there must be transparency and accountability before there can be public trust and understanding of product labels.

While my own agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), does not approve many product labels directly, we do provide a service where AMS auditors provide an objective, third-party verification on any food product that a company’s labeling claims are backed by plain language standards.  Transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of this service, and we are continuously working to improve both for all of our auditing programs, with our most recent efforts focusing on USDA’s Process Verified Program (PVP). Read more »

Working Together to Address Global Food Insecurity

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Harden visits with women in agriculture around the world including this photo from her trade mission in Ghana in November 2015.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Harden visits with women in agriculture around the world including this photo from her trade mission in Ghana in November 2015.

As a daughter of farmers, and as someone who has spent her career working on behalf of farmers, one of the things I care most deeply about is the future of agriculture –  both in the United States and around the world. That is why one of my highest priorities at USDA has been to help develop the next generation of farmers, ensuring that women, young people, and others have access to the programs and support they need to farm successfully. 

As Deputy Secretary, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Africa, Central and South America. I’ve met many inspirational farmers from around the world, and while the languages we speak, the crops we grow, and the production methods we use may differ, one thing rings true in every conversation: we share the same passions and the same challenges in feeding a growing world population. Read more »

Partnering with Farmers and Ranchers to Address Climate Change and Food Security Challenges

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack listening to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) supervisory plant physiologist Dr. Jerry Hatfield explain the equipment to gather information on climate changes and impacts on corn and soybean plants in Iowa

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack listens to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) supervisory plant physiologist Dr. Jerry Hatfield explain the equipment to gather information on climate changes and impacts on corn and soybean plants in Iowa.

As world leaders gather in Paris this week to negotiate a new global climate agreement, it is important to recognize the contributions of farmers, ranchers and foresters in the United States towards achieving a more food secure world while adapting to climate change, increasing carbon sequestration, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Over the course of my tenure as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. producers have faced a record drought, which the University of California estimates has cost farmers in California alone an estimated $3 billion in 2015. We’ve seen increasing incursions of invasive pests and diseases and extreme weather, everything from bark beetle to severe droughts, which have cost billions in lost productivity. We’ve faced a series of record wildfire seasons in the western United States—the worst decade in U.S. history for wildfire. The growing El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific has created the perfect storm for disasters to strike the already damaged and weakened western landscape. Read more »

USDA Embraces One Health Approach for Solving Problems Associated with Antimicrobial Resistance

One World. One Health. Animal. Human. Environment infographic

One World. One Health. Animal. Human. Environment infographic. USDA photo (Click to enlarge)

This week is World Antibiotic Awareness Week and USDA remains focused on prolonging the usefulness of a very precious resource—antibiotics.  These medicines successfully treat and prevent infectious diseases and must be used responsibly to remain effective to all who need them.  USDA also recognizes that antimicrobial resistance, or the ability of bacteria and other microbes to survive the effects of an antibiotic and then proliferate, is a serious threat to both animal health and human health.

Earlier this year, the World Health Assembly developed a global action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR).  The five objectives of the plan are: Increasing awareness, strengthening research and surveillance, reducing infections, optimizing antimicrobial use, and ensuring sustainable investments to contain AMR. Read more »

There’s Something Fishy Going on in Petersburg’s Food Desert

Vegetables and fish

Virginia State University used a NIFA grant to purchase facilities where they teach aquaponics and urban farming. The operation allows them to both raise fish and grow vegetables in a symbiotic environment. (iStock image)

Money’s tight in Petersburg, Va., and sometimes it’s difficult to put nutritious food on the table.  Like many other cities in America, Petersburg has found its way onto USDA’s list of food deserts – meaning that residents have limited access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.

Virginia State University has found a way to fill the void with a hands-on program that teaches students how to successfully sustain urban farming operations and helps put affordable nutritious food on the tables of community residents. Read more »

GroupGAP Program Brings New Market Opportunities for Farmers

“The GroupGAP framework enabled very small farms to access wholesale markets by providing an umbrella of expert and peer-to-peer technical support,” said Jeff Farbman, Sr. Program Associate at Wallace Center. This distributed the administrative burden of recordkeeping, and making the most effective use of resources on and off the farm.” Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange.

“The GroupGAP framework enabled very small farms to access wholesale markets by providing an umbrella of expert and peer-to-peer technical support,” said Jeff Farbman, Sr. Program Associate at Wallace Center. This distributed the administrative burden of recordkeeping, and making the most effective use of resources on and off the farm.” Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange.

In the spring of 2016, USDA will add the GroupGAP Audit Program to the list of third-party auditing services provided by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Audit Program, performed by the agency’s Specialty Crops Inspection Division, verifies that operations are following industry-recognized food safety practices as well as recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

 By rolling this program out to groups, rather than individual farms, this new program will increase market opportunities for farmers and buyers alike. The expansion of the GroupGAP certification follows the completion of a multi-year pilot, the fruits of a cross-cutting collaboration between USDA, small and mid-scale producers, nonprofit organizations, and diverse food system stakeholders across the nation. Read more »