Introducing the USDA Specialty Crops Inspection Division which highlights the various services that AMS provides the produce industry.
Ensuring that its food meets the demands of its retailers and the consumers who eat it is essential to the success of any produce business. This builds consumer trust and helps retailers confidently supply the food we all eat. To help out on this front, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) offers audits through the USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) & Good Handling Practices (GHPs) Audit Verification Program.
A voluntary service provided by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), GAPs audits verify that fruits and vegetables are grown, packed, handled, and stored safely. The audits certify that operations are following guidance from the Food and Drug Administration and industry-recognized food safety practices that can minimize the risks of food-borne illnesses. AMS Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division employees accomplish this through activities like evaluating food safety plans, walking the farm looking for food safety risks and performing unannounced visits to farms and facilities. The audits focus on waste management, such as animal manure; water quality; wildlife; and worker health and hygiene. Read more »
Pickles of many kinds fill grocery store shelves, all of them safe for consumers thanks to the work of an ARS food safety lab in Raleigh, North Carolina.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Pickles are a popular food, but are even trendier today as more and more craft brands show up in stores and farmers’ markets all over the country. But did you know USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has helped commercial pickle-makers, from small brands to the nation’s largest, meet the highest standards of food safety?
While pickling—storing in an acid liquid, usually vinegar—has been recognized as a food-preserver since long before the discovery of bacteria, the kind of data that today’s precise food safety standards require was not established until recently. Read more »
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and its sister agencies work to keep markets open to U.S. products. Recently, an interagency team resolved an issue with Morocco, keeping a $126 million market open for American butter, cheese and other dairy products.
U.S. agricultural exports continue to be a bright spot for America’s economy, worth a record $152.5 billion in fiscal year 2014. That’s why USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and its sister agencies work so hard to keep these export markets open. So in 2011, when Morocco requested that USDA use a new dairy export certificate that we could not endorse, we launched into action. Our goal was to protect an export market worth $126 million annually while preserving our close relationship with a valued trading partner.
Morocco is the 13th largest export market for our dairy products, and U.S. dairy exports are the fastest growing export category to that country. U.S. companies export many dairy commodities to Morocco, such as butter, cheese and skim milk powder, as well as dairy ingredients such as milk protein and whey protein products. Read more »
By clarifying expectations for organic certifiers, USDA’s instruction ensures that all organic products are labeled consistently, assure consumers that all organic labeling requirements are being met and provide a fair market for all organic operations.
When consumers see the word “organic” on a product package or label, they have expectations about what is inside the package. The National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), protects the integrity of the organic label by ensuring that organic producers and handlers meet consumer expectations. The NOP recently published an instruction that will bring more clarity to products with brand names containing the word “organic.”
Organic products have strict production and labeling requirements. They must be produced and handled by operations that are certified as complying with the USDA organic regulations; made without the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge; and use substances allowed by the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List). Read more »
A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.
The fruit and vegetable industry is an integral part of our country. Besides helping increase access to healthy foods, the industry generates $40 billion in sales and empowers communities by creating jobs and stimulating economies. While it’s great to notice the strength of the produce industry, it is important to remember that it is the result of careful research and planning. I had the chance to watch the industry rekindle this energy as I visited with leaders from each of our marketing order boards and committees during a management conference last week.
There were some great takeaways from the meeting. We heard an update about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor. He ensured us that FDA is looking to collaborate with partners like USDA to help the industry comply with the FSMA regulations when they become final. We also heard from our Commodity Procurement Program Director Dave Tuckwiller, who encouraged everyone to take advantage of new opportunities to sell food to USDA. Thanks to new National School Lunch standards, my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchased 20 percent more fruits and veggies in 2013 than in the previous year. Read more »
A USDA pilot program is helping small producers reach more retail markets by making Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification more accessible and affordable. Under the pilot, cooperatives, food hubs and other groups of small producers can pool resources to implement food safety training programs, perform internal inspections and share the cost of GAP certification.
For their communities, small farmers are anything but small. Their contributions are quite large – not only do they provide food for local residents – they also create jobs and economic opportunities. However, retailer requirements and the cost of marketing can make it difficult for small producers to scale up and reach larger markets. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is working to remove those barriers by offering a number of services that help small and local producers grow and sustain their businesses.
In the produce industry, more and more retailers require suppliers to have Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, which verifies that the operation is following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration. For small farmers, getting GAP certified can be difficult and expensive. To help offset some of these costs, the AMS Specialty Crops Inspection Division and Transportation and Marketing Program are partnering with the Wallace Center at Winrock International to implement a Group GAP Pilot Project. Read more »