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.