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Posts tagged: produce

Family Farm Co-op in Missouri Shows Commitment to Food Safety

Tony Schwager, Good Natured Family Farms Project Manager; Sara Cano, USDA Senior Auditor; Doreen Choffel, USDA Senior Auditor; and Diana Endicott, GNFF Founder and Director

From left to right: Tony Schwager, Good Natured Family Farms Project Manager; Sara Cano, USDA Senior Auditor; Doreen Choffel, USDA Senior Auditor; and Diana Endicott, GNFF Founder and Director review audit information. In August, Good Natured Family Farms became the first cooperative certified under USDA’s GroupGAP program.

For more than four generations, Amish farmers in the Kansas City area have abided by a simple tenet:  farm sustainably and care for the earth to preserve their way of life for future generations.  Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF), a cooperative of 18 Amish family farms in Missouri, is using GroupGAP, a new USDA audit program, to help them safeguard their future by building strong markets for the high-quality, local foods they produce. In August, the group made USDA history as the first to receive an official USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification through our new GroupGAP program.

Since 2002, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has provided the traditional USDA GAP audit program to the fruit and vegetable industry. GAP is a voluntary program that verifies its participants follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and industry best practices to minimize risks of food safety hazards when producing, handling, and storing fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops. In 2016, AMS conducted nearly 4,000 traditional GAP audits. Read more »

Philly Market Rises Up to Meet Hunger Challenge

Left to right: Bruce Summers, Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service and others

From left to right: Bruce Summers - Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA); Travis Hubbs - Assistant Regional Director, PACA Division, Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA); Yowei Peralta - Senior Marketing Specialist, PACA Division, Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA); Elise Golan - Director of Sustainable Development, Office of The Chief Economist (USDA); Christine Hofmann - Marketing Coordinator, Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market; Dan Kane - General Manager, Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market; Rose Harrell - Deputy Director of Maryland Food Center Authority & President of National Association of Produce Market Managers

Did you know that nearly one-third of the food available to U.S. retailers and consumers never makes it to the dining room table?  That’s 133 billion pounds of food going to waste–all of which has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation, and climate change.  Experts have projected that reducing food waste by just 15 percent would provide the equivalent of enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year.

That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), decided to help tackle the problem by sponsoring the Terminal Market Food Waste Challenge.  Produce markets across the U.S. joined the friendly 90-day competition by making sure that usable fruits and vegetables were not thrown away.  While these fresh foods weren’t picture-perfect supermarket quality or simply didn’t sell, they were healthy, wholesome foods that could be made into juices, added to animal feeds, used for compost, or donated to charity. Read more »

Training Growers, Growing Trainers: Preparing for New Food Safety Requirements

A grower and an internal auditor look over records during a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit. The grower is in the GroupGAP Program, which allows grower groups to pool their resources to establish food safety best practices, lead food safety trainings, develop quality management systems, and pay for certification costs. Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange.

A grower and an internal auditor look over records during a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit. The grower is in the GroupGAP Program, which allows grower groups to pool their resources to establish food safety best practices, lead food safety trainings, develop quality management systems, and pay for certification costs. Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange.

Are you preparing to meet the new Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Produce Safety rule standards?  Have you heard about Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)?  Maybe you’ve heard that they can get buyers to notice your products and improve your access to the market place – but you need more information to know if it can work for you.

USDA is hard at work connecting growers with training and resources to support GAP certification and expand their food safety know how. We’ve made big investments in food safety education for growers in recent years, supporting projects through AMS grant programs—the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Federal-State Market Improvement Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program, and Local Food Promotion Program. Read more »

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by Supporting Local Producers

Gene Thornton with his produce at Ag Heritage Park

Gene Thornton is a sixth-generation farmer who sells fresh, organic produce at The Market at Ag Heritage Park each week during market season.

It’s a simple sign that has a pretty easy request, “Buy Fresh. Buy Local.”

It’s one that Gene Thornton hangs at his market stand each week at The Market at Ag Heritage Park on the Auburn University campus in Alabama. During market season, the sixth-generation farmer travels more than 40 miles from his small, organic farm in Roanoke to Auburn each week of market season. But he says the drive from Sneaky Crow Farm is worth it. Read more »

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 »