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 »
GAP certification can make it easier for commercial buyers to find farmers and producers that meet food-safety requirements and offer consumers greater access to fresh produce.
July is the height of summer grilling season and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence.
Although farmers and food businesses have anywhere from several months to three years or more before they will need to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new food safety rules, many producers are asking how they can bring their operation into compliance – and many buyers are beginning to ask how they’ll know if suppliers are following the rules.
USDA and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) are working with industry and other government agencies to help ensure that stakeholders in the produce industry know the answers to these questions. Read more »
Hatch green chiles can be used in everything from potato salad to lemonade.
It’s no secret I love New Mexican grown green chiles. So does Melissa’s World Variety Produce in Los Angeles, California. So much so, that during a recent trip to California, I attended a spicy workshop and reception hosted by Melissa’s, featuring New Mexican Hatch green chiles.
“When I grew up, I thought there was only one kind of chile: we just called them green.” says corporate chef Rodriguez who grew up in El Paso, Texas.
Southwesterners like Ida and I may just call them “greens”. However, the rest of the country is quickly getting to know these meaty, flavorful Hatch green chiles, named after Hatch, New Mexico, epicenter of state’s chile growing region. Read more »
2012 Specialty Crop Block Grant will help expand existing efforts by the Fallon Small Farm Collaborative for create new market opportunities for Churchill County farmers, like the ones pictured above. Photo courtesy Fallon Farmers’ Collaborative
Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack announced the Specialty Crop Block Grant awards totaling $55 million dollars. These grants will fund over 748 initiatives across the United States and its territories, and help expand opportunities for local and regional farmers.
Specialty crops produced in the U.S. include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, and are often a key source of income for America’s farmers. Through this program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service grants money to the state and territory for them to directly support projects creating new business opportunities, boosting efficiency and productivity, and improving food safety.
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