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Posts tagged: produce

USDA Committee Gives Produce Industry a Powerful Voice

The USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee had its first meeting Sept. 29-30 in Crystal City, Va. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

The USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee had its first meeting Sept. 29-30 in Crystal City, Va. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

The fall harvest is upon us, and people all over the world are enjoying the abundance of quality fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops.  The specialty crop industry is important to USDA and plays a crucial role in the country’s economy, generating $65 billion in sales and creating more than 900,000 jobs. We recently met with the leaders of this key sector during last week’s session of the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee (FVIAC).

As part of our mission to facilitate the efficient and fair marketing of U.S. agricultural products, my agency – USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – oversees the FVIAC, which meets approximately twice a year to develop recommendations on how USDA can better support the fruit and vegetable industry. Read more »

Big Help for Small Producers

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.

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 »

Quality You Can Trust

Grapes like these may soon have the USDA Quality Monitored seal on their packaging.

Grapes like these may soon have the USDA Quality Monitored seal on their packaging.

When you think of what really makes fruit and vegetables stand out it usually comes down to quality.  Determining quality – making sure your fresh food looks, smells, feels and tastes just the way you expect it to – is what USDA’s Quality Monitoring Program (QMP) does.

The program, run by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Specialty Crops Inspection Division, allows produce suppliers and others to have products inspected by USDA based on specific internal standards or U.S. grade standards.  As a neutral third-party, USDA evaluates various commodities through QMP – everything from olive oil to canned, frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables. Read more »

Dallas Schools Look to Source School Meals within the State of Texas

Dallas ISD launched a Harvest of the Month program during Farm to School Month.  Each month the district’s cafeterias feature Texas grown fruits and vegetables. (Photo credit: Dallas ISD)

Dallas ISD launched a Harvest of the Month program during Farm to School Month. Each month the district’s cafeterias feature Texas grown fruits and vegetables. (Photo credit: Dallas ISD)

This post was written by USDA Farm to School Grantee Dallas Independent School District (ISD). Last November, the district became one of a cohort of 32 schools and districts across the country using USDA funds to spend a year planning a robust farm to school program, embedding best practices from the very start, and learning from their peers.

Guest post by Dora Rivas, Executive Director, Dallas ISD Food and Child Nutrition Services

The temperatures are below 95 degrees, there are high school football games every Friday night and the State Fair is in full swing – it must be October in Texas! October is also National Farm to School Month, a perfect time to reflect and celebrate all Dallas ISD Farm to School has accomplished over the last 12 months! Read more »

LED Lighting Improves Sustainability for Specialty-Crop Producers

Banks of light-emitting diodes (LED) illuminate plants in greenhouses.  Purdue University researchers discovered that LEDs can provide a more beneficial light spectrum to greenhouse plants than conventional lighting while using 75 percent less electricity. Courtesy of Celina Gomez.

Banks of light-emitting diodes (LED) illuminate plants in greenhouses. Purdue University researchers discovered that LEDs can provide a more beneficial light spectrum to greenhouse plants than conventional lighting while using 75 percent less electricity. Courtesy of Celina Gomez.

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.

For about 2,000 years – since Roman emperor Tiberius demanded fresh cucumbers for lunch year ‘round – farmers have been looking for better ways to extend the growing season.  Now, a team of researchers led by Purdue University has found a way to grow more produce and save money doing it.

Greenhouses and other structures protect crops from harsh environmental conditions.  Over the last 50 years or so, some growers have added artificial lighting to compensate for shorter winter days or when conditions are cloudy.  However, the problem with most lighting systems is that they are relatively costly to install and do not provide the light spectrum that is most efficient for photosynthesis in plants. Read more »

Opening Doors for Small and Mid-Sized Farmers in National Retail Markets

A GAP-certified farm field. Through a new agreement, AMS will provide auditing services to verify farmers are meeting Produce GAP Harmonized Food Safety Standards and Wal-Mart specific food safety requirements. Photo provided by Mission Produce

When buying produce, many consumers note food safety as one of the most important things they consider.  Consumers prefer produce backed by trustworthy verified and certified processes. As a result, more retail and foodservice sectors are requiring growers to undergo food safety audits.  In an effort to meet this demand, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Fresh Products Division, which provides voluntary, audit-based programs utilizing Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices (GAP/GHP), recently reached an agreement with Wal-Mart.  Read more »