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 »
A new poll shows that parents of school-age children overwhelmingly support national nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold to students during the school day. For more information, visit: www.pewtrusts.org/SchoolFoodParentPoll. Click to enlarge.
Over the past four years, USDA has worked closely with schools, parents, community leaders, and nutrition experts to ensure that when children go off to school, they are greeted by a healthier school environment. According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, leading to an increase in obesity-related health outcomes in children, including cardiovascular disease, pre-diabetes, and bone and joint problems. Improving school nutrition is vital to reducing childhood obesity, because many children consume half of their daily calories during the school day. Making the healthy choice the easy choice sets our nation’s children up for a lifetime of healthy choices, and supports a healthier next generation. Recently, we’ve seen evidence that student acceptance of healthier meals is increasing across all grade levels. Today, we are pleased to see the results of the latest poll by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Heart Association, showing that most parents support the healthier meal and snack standards implemented through the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010.
Read more about the results of that study in this guest blog, from the American Heart Association.
A majority of parents favor strong national nutrition standards for food and drink sold at schools, according to a poll released Monday by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association.
In addition, the poll found that parents would also like to see salt limited in school foods and more fruits and vegetables served. Read more »
Amy's Organic Garden in Charles City, VA. Organic certification ensures the integrity of organic products around the world, and this initiative will make sure the process is accessible, attainable and affordable for all.
Making organic certification accessible, attainable, and affordable involves collaboration with many partners across the country and around the globe. To advance this work, USDA supports a diverse community of organic stakeholders.
Nonprofits, businesses, universities, state governments and other organizations lead a range of technical assistance, training, outreach and certification programs for organic farms and businesses. These organizations provide the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), with valuable feedback about how to keep organic certification sound and sensible and how to meet the needs of new and transitioning organic farmers. To support their work, USDA is awarding project contracts to 13 organizations that will advance the NOP’s Sound and Sensible initiative by identifying and removing barriers to certification and streamlining the certification process. Read more »
Bellies full from lunch, children at Old Plank Estates in Butler, joined USDA Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams and other partners in the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. Old Plank Estates, a USDA and HUD funded Multi-Family Housing Complex, is a distribution site for the SFSP, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, with food service provided by the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Community Center. Lunch is served daily to 20-30 children from the complex. In honor of National Farmers Market Week, Freedom Farms brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines to the children and talked with them about fresh foods. As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring.
They looked like apples to the twenty-seven children who were waiting patiently in line for lunch as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at Old Plank Estates in Butler, PA. But in fact, Freedom Farms, a local farmers market, brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines for the children in honor of National Farmers Market Week. Lisa King from Freedom Farms explained to the children that, while nectarines may look like apples, they’re more like peaches without the “fuzz”. Giggling, with juice running off their chins, the children enjoyed the foreign fruit.
The USDA program is administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Education. Old Plank Estates, a USDA Rural Development and Housing and Urban Development funded multi-family housing complex, is partnering with the Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Center to provide the meals to the children. As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring. Read more »
Half-a-billion dollars’ worth of mushrooms would cover a lot of pizzas, Pennsylvania! Check back next Thursday to learn more about another state from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
Many people today associate Pennsylvania with heavy industries, such as coal and steel, forgetting the presence of another major industry – agriculture. Farming has been a major part of Pennsylvania culture for centuries. In fact, one of the theories behind the “Keystone State” moniker is that Pennsylvania was a combination of Northern industries and Southern agriculture, making it a true keystone of the original colonies. And even today, agriculture remains a major component of our state’s economy.
As the latest Census of Agriculture showed, Pennsylvania farmers sold more than $7.4 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012 and have nearly 60,000 farms and ranches on more than 7.7 million acres of land. The land area dedicated to farming in Pennsylvania is larger than the total areas of at least 8 states in the nation. Read more »
“Find out who your audience and users are, then figure out the best, easiest way to provide data to them.”
Last week, the Obama Administration focused on a specific climate risk – the risk to the food supply – and the ways data could be used to help increase “food resilience.” The goal is to make data, computational power, and analytic tools available to help food producers, distributors, and inspectors keep the food supply reliable and robust.
As part of that effort, last Friday the GovLab and the USDA co-hosted an Open Data Roundtable on food resilience to bring together government officials, companies, and nonprofits to improve the use of data on climate and agriculture. Like the Roundtable we hosted with the White House and the Department of Commerce in June, this event was designed to promote a dialogue between government agencies that supply data and the companies and organizations that use it. The ultimate goal of all our Roundtables is to make open government data more relevant, accessible, and actionable. Read more »