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Posts tagged: Certification

New GroupGAP Certification Brings New Opportunities for the Produce Industry

A National School Lunch Week event at Nottingham Elementary School

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 »

Expertise + Training + Commitment = A Day in the Life of a USDA Process Verified Program Auditor

Nikki Adams with a man

“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 »

Seeds Spur Growth in International Relations

A seed growing

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 »

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 »

Deadline is Today for Producers to Meet Conservation Compliance Filing Deadline

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reminding producers to file a Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form (form AD-1026) with their local USDA Service Center, either by filing in person or postmarking today, June 1, 2015.

The 2014 Farm Bill requires producers to have the form on file in order to remain eligible or to become eligible for federal crop insurance premium subsidies. Many producers already have a certification form on file since it’s required for participation in most USDA programs including marketing assistance loans, farm storage facility loans and disaster assistance. Read more »

Industry & Government Benefit from Streamlined User-Fee Rulemaking

Inspector testing food quality

AMS quality assurance programs tell consumers and businesses that an impartial, unbiased third-party has assessed the quality and verified various aspects of their products. AMS inspectors provide a number of services spanning from visual inspection to taste testing.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides voluntary grading, inspection, laboratory analysis, audit verification and certification services for meat, poultry and egg establishments, fruit and vegetable handlers and processors, dairy processors, cotton producers and other parts of the agriculture sector to facilitate marketing and communicate quality attributes to consumers.

AMS quality assurance programs tell consumers and businesses that an impartial, unbiased third-party has assessed the quality and verified various aspects of their products.  Through the delivery of these programs AMS facilitates marketing of more than $150 billion worth of agricultural products that help to fuel America’s agricultural economy. Read more »