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Posts tagged: Specialty Crops

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 »

These “GAPs” in the Produce Industry Make for Safer Food Choices

Just-picked green zucchini squash waits to be loaded onto a processing trailer at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA

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 »

USDA Grants Help Specialty Crop Industry Build Food Safety Partnerships

Young mother with baby selecting items in produce aisle of grocery store

Through a USDA-AMS grant, the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets will join Cornell University and Virginia Tech - Eastern Shore to look for ways to improve food safety practices in produce packing houses and processing facilities.

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.

Its summer and specialty crops – fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits – fill our plates with color, taste and nutrition.  Consumers are finding their favorite fresh produce in the grocery store or their farmers market.  Other specialty crops like cut flowers and nursery crops lend beauty and interest to our homes and yards. And the growers responsible for the produce are making sure it is safe through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

USDA is working closely with FDA and the specialty crop industry to help address concerns and research needs as they work to implement the produce safety rule.  One resource to help growers address food safety issues is the new Specialty Crop Multi-State Program (SCMP), administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). This grant program brings together multi-state teams to research and develop solutions to practical problems that cross State boundaries within the specialty crop industry. Read more »

Local Food – Cooking Up Creative & Fresh Ideas for Healthy Communities

Columbia Heights Farmers Market shoppers

Columbia Heights Farmers Market shoppers enjoy locally-produced food. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) grants are helping farmers markets implement creative programs to support local food producers and build healthy communities. Photo courtesy Mr T in DC.

Nutritional classes, purple beets, basil pesto and dark roast coffee – it’s not your father’s farmers market.  The entire local food system is maturing and farmers markets are offering more and more community-focused services. Many farmers markets now give their customers a chance to learn about locally-produced foods, in addition to buying and consuming them.

USDA is a proud partner and supporter of local and regional food systems through our programs, grants and technical services. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) grants are helping farmers markets implement creative programs to support local food producers and build healthy communities. One example of an AMS grant success story is Community Foodworks, which manages the Columbia Heights Farmers Market and six other markets across Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia. Read more »

Local and Organic Food Shopping – Finding the Best Price

Local Certified Organic Produce Prices bar chart

A bar chart showing pricing comparisons for common organic and farmers market vegetables. Visit agriculture.vermont.gov/localfooddatatracking for the full report from agriculture.vermont.gov.

When comparing product prices between farmers markets and retail stores, local products are competitively priced – within a 10 percent price range – at farmers markets a majority of the time, even less expensive for some foods.  Local, certified organic products at farmers markets are almost always competitively priced when compared to prices at retail stores.

These are just some of the findings from a recent project conducted by the Local Foods Data Tracking Program, a joint effort between USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Market News division and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets (VAAFM).  Prices were collected on a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as a selection of meat and poultry products grown and sold in Vermont. Read more »