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Posts tagged: Transportation and Marketing Program

New GroupGAP Certification Brings New Opportunities for the Produce Industry

A National School Lunch Week event at Nottingham Elementary School

From salad greens to fresh blueberries, local food is showing up everywhere from grocery stores to our kids’ school lunch plates. Helping the produce industry meet this local food demand and to meet the requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) now offers a new GroupGAP certification program for smaller growers. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Excitement is building in the produce industry.  From salad greens to roasted beets to fresh blueberries, local food is showing up on grocery stores shelves, as new features on restaurants menus and on our kids’ school lunch plates.  The increased demand for local food is creating more opportunities for farmers, ranchers and producers. While exploring new ways to meet the demand, the produce industry is also keeping an eye on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

To help producers meet the requirements of FSMA, one of the most important services USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides is our Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. That’s why we’re launching a new GroupGAP certification program that allows smaller growers and producers to band together to become certified as a group. We are working closely with FDA to align our GAP and GroupGAP programs with FSMA requirements so that as FSMA takes effect, certified growers will know they are meeting the new requirements. Read more »

Local Food Systems at Work in the Driftless Area

Acting Administrator Elanor Starmer at Dubuque Food Co-op

Everybody is welcome at the Dubuque Food Cooperative, which features local, organic, and sustainably produced food. USDA photo by Bill Menner.

So called because it was left untouched by retreating glaciers that flattened much of the Midwest, the Driftless Area of northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, and bits of Minnesota and Illinois is home to more than just beautiful rolling hills. It’s also the site of inspiring efforts to develop a strong regional food economy. I had the honor of visiting the region in my first trip as Acting Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

With Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA has put local and regional food front and center over the last seven years. We realize that consumer demand for local food can create economic opportunities, help develop systems that bring healthy food to underserved communities, and better connect consumers with agriculture. Building these systems often brings together unlikely partners – farmers, economic development experts, local government, school officials and supply-chain businesses – in the pursuit of shared goals. Read more »

Puerto Rico Colabora con USDA para Fortalecer los Sistemas de Alimentos Locales

Santurce Marketplace en Puerto Rico

La Secretaria de Agricultura de Puerto Rico quiere animar a más mercados de agricultores como el Santurce Marketplace. Este mercado está situado solamente 20 minutos en autobús del Viejo San Juan. Es conocido como uno de los mercados más antiguos donde agricultores traen lo que producen diario y es la primera opción de los residentes. Crédito de la fotografía: cogito ergo imago

El estado libre asociado de Puerto Rico tiene solamente 100 millas de largo por 35 millas de ancho. La pequeña isla está llena de maravillas naturales, rica en cultura y abundante en agricultura. Aun así pocos se dan cuenta que gran parte de los alimentos consumidos por los residentes y visitantes provienen de otros lugares. A principios de este mes, la Dr. Myrna Comas Pagán, Secretaria de Agricultura de Puerto Rico, hizo una visita al Departamento de Agricultura de los Estados Unidos (USDA, por sus siglas en inglés). Ella llego para explorar maneras en cual mi agencia, el Servicio de Comercialización Agrícola (AMS, por sus siglas en inglés), y otras agencias en el departamento pueden ayudar a mejorar el sistema alimenticio local de la isla.

Aunque el valor de la producción agrícola de Puerto Rico ha llegado a $919 millones, un incremento de 14 por ciento en los últimos dos años, falta un sistema de distribución de productos locales en la isla. El sector local de agricultura apoya 6,500 trabajos pero aun ay mucho por hacer. Puerto Rico importa alimentos de 52 países diferentes que pueden dejar el sistema alimenticio vulnerable. Recientemente hubo un evento en cual un barco de carga con destino a Puerto Rico se extravió durante una tormenta de huracán, costándole las vidas a la tripulación, pero también dando por resultado la pérdida de 70 contenedores de alimentos. Read more »

Puerto Rico Works with USDA to Strengthen Local Food Systems

The Santurce Marketplace in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary wants to encourage more farmers markets like the Santurce Marketplace. This market is located in a twenty-minute bus ride away from Old San Juan. One of the oldest markets, it is known for its farmers who bring in fresh produce every day, which is the first choice of residents. Photo credit: cogito ergo Imago

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long by 35 miles wide. The small island is full of natural wonders, rich culture and bountiful agriculture. Yet few realize that much of the food eaten by residents and visitors alike comes from other places. Earlier this month, Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary Dr. Myrna Comas Pagan made a visit to the USDA. She came to explore ways that my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and other agencies in the department can help improve the island’s local food system.  

Although the value of Puerto Rico’s agricultural production has reached $919 million, a 14 percent increase over the last two years, there is a lack of a distribution system for local produce on the island. The local agriculture sector is growing, supporting 6,500 jobs, but more still needs to happen.   Puerto Rico imports food from 52 different countries which can leave the food system vulnerable. A recent event highlighted this point when a Puerto-Rico bound cargo ship was lost in a hurricane, costing the lives of the crew, but also resulting in the loss of 70 containers of food. Read more »

GroupGAP: Food Safety Assurance for Growers and Buyers Big and Small

Two women inside a high tunnel talking

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI) performs GAP audits, which are voluntary, third-party services that verify that farms are following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the FDA. Photo courtesy of Iowa Food Hub.

In the produce industry, food safety is front and center on everyone’s mind. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released some of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) final rules, and retailers are looking to buy from FSMA-compliant suppliers. If you’re a retailer or large produce buyer, there is exciting news about a program that verifies that suppliers are meeting your food safety requirements. After three years of successful trials, USDA recently previewed our plans to expand the GroupGap Pilot Program.

Many producers are aware of “Good Agricultural Practices,” or GAP audits. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI) performs GAP audits, which are voluntary, third-party services that verify that farms are following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 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 »