Chad Nelson takes a break from an audit with the University of Nebraska team. Pictured left to right: Kolin Scheele, Dr. Ty Schmidt, Chad Nelson, Laura Gorecki and Joe Buntyn.
About once every five years since 1991, the National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) brings together producers, consumers, academia, and government in a collaborative research and data collection exercise that spans the entire U.S. beef industry. Funded by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (the beef checkoff program), the NBQA assesses the current status of the industry regarding production processes and practices that ultimately affect consumer demand for beef.
The audit uses a multi-phase approach to identify the top challenges the fed-beef (cattle raised for meat production) industry faces. The NBQA first gathers data to measure current quality and consistency of U.S fed-beef, and then quantifies the level to which cattle producers are applying common sense husbandry techniques, specifically the Beef Quality Assurance principles, to safeguard that quality. The results are translated into practical guidance for continued improvement in the production of fed-beef and, in turn, consumers’ acceptance of the end products found in stores. Read more »
Local Food Hub’s Kristen Suokko (right) and Bee Thorp (second from right) and Susan Hill (left) explain to USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary Elvis Cordova how the high tunnels extend the growing season and USDA’s commitment to local foods is having an impact. USDA photo by Peter Wood.
Results—at USDA we are constantly tracking and measuring them. We want to know that what we’re doing is making a difference, that we’re making progress towards our mission, that the communities we support are getting the help they need. Recently I had the pleasure of visiting local food stakeholders that are making a real difference in Charlottesville, VA and hear firsthand how USDA programs have made an impact in their community.
During my visit, I had a chance to listen to farmers, local food organizers, and business owners share their experiences involving local food production. Just outside Charlottesville, I toured the Hill Farm and the warehouse of Local Food Hub. The open dialog of these visits is important to me and important to USDA. I strongly believe that we need to hear from the public so we make sure our priorities, programs and services are in line with what the American people need. Read more »
From salad greens to fresh blueberries, local food is showing up everywhere from grocery stores to our kids’ school lunch plates. Helping the produce industry meet this local food demand and to meet the requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) now offers a new GroupGAP certification program for smaller growers. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.
Excitement is building in the produce industry. From salad greens to roasted beets to fresh blueberries, local food is showing up on grocery stores shelves, as new features on restaurants menus and on our kids’ school lunch plates. The increased demand for local food is creating more opportunities for farmers, ranchers and producers. While exploring new ways to meet the demand, the produce industry is also keeping an eye on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
To help producers meet the requirements of FSMA, one of the most important services USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides is our Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. That’s why we’re launching a new GroupGAP certification program that allows smaller growers and producers to band together to become certified as a group. We are working closely with FDA to align our GAP and GroupGAP programs with FSMA requirements so that as FSMA takes effect, certified growers will know they are meeting the new requirements. Read more »
“Each audit is different and a unique experience—which I love, because it allows me to work with all facets of agriculture.” – Nikki Adams, USDA PVP Auditor
As an auditor for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I am one of a small group of highly-qualified individuals from across the country who audits companies that use our programs and services to add value to their products in the market place. One of these programs is the USDA Process Verified Program, or USDA PVP for short.
For a PVP audit, I do a significant amount of preparation before I’m even on-site, pouring over the Quality Manual the company prepared as part of their application. The Quality Manual – the starting point for any PVP – documents all of the process points, the scope of each, and the standard I am ensuring they will meet. To evaluate this effectively, I rely on my extensive training in International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) quality management system requirements and audit principles, as well as training specific to the industry, processes, and points being audited. Read more »
The U.S. OECD Seed Schemes Program works with counterparts in 57 countries to ensure U.S. seed shipments avoid import barriers.
The U.S. seed industry and the international market continue to grow to keep up with feeding the world’s population. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is helping to ensure the availability of products that start with seeds through the enforcement of laws and management of international programs that promote the interests of the U.S. seed industry.
AMS promotes the research and development of new plants and crops by protecting plant breeders’ rights through laws such as the Plant Variety Protection Act and the Federal Seed Act. AMS also protects the interest of U.S. businesses – including the $1.5 billion U.S. seed industry – by representing them at international meetings, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Seed Schemes. Read more »
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 »