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Posts tagged: AMS

USDA Grants Helping the Specialty Crop Industry Reach Food Safety Goals

Fresh blueberries

Fresh blueberries

Across the country, farmers growing fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops – or specialty crops – are being asked to be certified in USDA’s voluntary audit program, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).  From restaurants and hotels to schools and institutions, wholesale buyers want to ensure the fruits and vegetables they purchase meet food safety standards under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  One challenge for growers in many states is the lack of in-state auditors to perform the GAP certification reviews.

One solution has been to leverage another USDA resource to educate and train producers, handlers and buyers on-farm food safety practices. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) offers Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops which includes supporting GAP certification audits. Since 2006, these grants have launched over 107 GAP and Good Handling Practices (GHP) outreach and training projects, and funded 116 GAP/GHP cost share projects through State departments of agriculture. Read more »

A Moment in Time Look at Organic Retail Prices

Organic "dinosaur" kale grown at Ground Stew Farms in San Martin, Monterey County, CA

AMS plays an integral role by providing organic data, standards, and other resources to small producers and consumers across the country.

Consumers can find certified organic products at most grocery stores and demand for organic products continues to increase, with U.S. retail sales valued at more than $43 billion in 2015.  Organic products are grown, raised and produced by over 31,000 certified operations, and many of those operations receive higher prices, or premiums, for their products.

Recently, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) issued a report entitled Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010.  The report highlights the retail price premium charged for organic foods compared to conventional products.  For the report, ERS used a virtual shopping basket of 17 products and data collected from Nielsen scanners to calculate the organic prices and how they changed from 2004-2010. Read more »

A Conversation with USDA Leader Elanor Starmer

Elanor Starmer, Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service

Elanor Starmer, Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service, is proud that her agency creates opportunities and provides tools for American organic producers to sell their products at home and abroad.

Elanor Starmer is the Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which facilitates the strategic marketing of agricultural products in the U.S. and internationally. Prior to becoming AMS Administrator, Starmer was a Senior Advisor to Secretary Tom Vilsack and has been with the department since 2011. This interview focused on AMS’s National Organic Program.

“The USDA isn’t one or the other, it’s all of the above. We serve organic producers, non-organic producers and everyone else as well as we possibly can.” – Elanor Starmer Read more »

These “GAPs” in the Produce Industry Make for Safer Food Choices

Just-picked green zucchini squash waits to be loaded onto a processing trailer at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA

GAP certification can make it easier for commercial buyers to find farmers and producers that meet food-safety requirements and offer consumers greater access to fresh produce.

July is the height of summer grilling season and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence.

Although farmers and food businesses have anywhere from several months to three years or more before they will need to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new food safety rules, many producers are asking how they can bring their operation into compliance – and many buyers are beginning to ask how they’ll know if suppliers are following the rules.

USDA and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) are working with industry and other government agencies to help ensure that stakeholders in the produce industry know the answers to these questions. Read more »

What Are You Doing a Month from Now?

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week graphic

We’re looking forward to celebrating National Farmers Market Week with markets across the nation, August 7-13! Market managers and organizers can download graphics and templates to create their own celebration materials.

What are you doing August 7 through 13? That’s National Farmers Market Week – a time to celebrate the farmers, ranchers and local food businesses, as well as the communities that support them. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has officially declared August 7 through August 13, 2016 as the 17th annual National Farmers Market Week, highlighting the key role that farmers markets play in bringing communities together around agriculture. And with more than 8,500 farmers markets around the country, there are lots of opportunities to celebrate!

I will be celebrating that week by visiting markets across the nation, before wrapping up the week at the USDA’s Farmers Market in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 12. You can celebrate at your local market too! The National Farmers Market Directory makes it convenient to find farmers markets in your area with weekday, weekend, and evening options. Read more »

USDA Grants Help Specialty Crop Industry Build Food Safety Partnerships

Young mother with baby selecting items in produce aisle of grocery store

Through a USDA-AMS grant, the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets will join Cornell University and Virginia Tech - Eastern Shore to look for ways to improve food safety practices in produce packing houses and processing facilities.

July is the height of summer grilling season and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence.

Its summer and specialty crops – fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits – fill our plates with color, taste and nutrition.  Consumers are finding their favorite fresh produce in the grocery store or their farmers market.  Other specialty crops like cut flowers and nursery crops lend beauty and interest to our homes and yards. And the growers responsible for the produce are making sure it is safe through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

USDA is working closely with FDA and the specialty crop industry to help address concerns and research needs as they work to implement the produce safety rule.  One resource to help growers address food safety issues is the new Specialty Crop Multi-State Program (SCMP), administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). This grant program brings together multi-state teams to research and develop solutions to practical problems that cross State boundaries within the specialty crop industry. Read more »