Skip to main content


USDA... Helping Produce Businesses Meet Consumer and Retailer Demand

Ensuring that its food meets the demands of its retailers and the consumers who eat it is essential to the success of any produce business. This builds consumer trust and helps retailers confidently supply the food we all eat. To help out on this front, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) offers audits through the USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) & Good Handling Practices (GHPs) Audit Verification Program.

A voluntary service provided by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), GAPs audits verify that fruits and vegetables are grown, packed, handled, and stored safely. The audits certify that operations are following guidance from the Food and Drug Administration and industry-recognized food safety practices that can minimize the risks of food-borne illnesses. AMS Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division employees accomplish this through activities like evaluating food safety plans, walking the farm looking for food safety risks and performing unannounced visits to farms and facilities. The audits focus on waste management, such as animal manure; water quality; wildlife; and worker health and hygiene.

Donating Wholesome Unsold Food

14.3% of American households found it difficult to put food on the table at some time in 2013, yet 31% of food at the consumer and retail level goes uneaten (USDA ERS).  Of the estimated 133 billion pounds of food that goes uneaten every year, much of it is perfectly safe and nutritious and could have been donated to hunger relief organizations to feed hungry people.  Sadly, much of this perfectly good food ends up in landfills.

How can we change this situation? Many managers at farms, food processors, supermarkets, dining facilities, and restaurants say they are worried about donating wholesome unsold food because of fear of liability.  Some say they don’t have the proper food safety processes in place to handle food recovery and donation programs.

Building Local Food Systems, Cooperatively

As part of USDA’s ongoing celebration of National Cooperatives Month, please join us for an upcoming webinar exploring the intersection of two important economic trends: a new wave of cooperative development and the rapid growth in demand for local foods.

This webinar – The Role of Cooperatives in Local Food Systems Development, on Thursday, Oct. 30, 1 pm Eastern Time – will feature national cooperative leaders and development specialists and USDA experts discussing the critical role co-ops play in developing local and regional food systems. Among the USDA staff on the panel will be Ag Economist Jim Barham; Elanor Starmer, our national coordinator for local and regional food systems; and Margaret Bau, a co-op development specialist who has helped launch over 30 co-ops nationwide. Also joining the panel will be Jan Tusick, director of the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center in Montana; Karl Sutton, a farmer/member of the Western Montana Growers Cooperative; and Robin Seydel, Community Development for La Montanita, a retail and consumer co-op in New Mexico.

Supermarkets and Restaurants Are Fighting Food Waste & Saving Money

Thirty-one percent of food that is available at supermarkets, restaurants, and in households goes uneaten – food that was nurtured and harvested in the fields and ends up in a landfill.  Increasingly food processing facilities, food service companies, supermarkets, and restaurants are recognizing the need to reduce, recover, and recycle all of this wasted food.  The momentum is building as more and more address the problem and take action to keep good food from entering landfills.

A week from today - on September 24, Wednesday at 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Eastern – you can join us for a webinar on “Supermarkets and Restaurants Fighting Food Waste and Saving Money” that will feature industry representatives discussing how they are leading the fight against food waste.  There will also be time devoted to dialogue, Q&As, and the sharing of resources.

USDA Foods Get Even Greener

St. Patrick’s Day might be over, but at USDA we’re still sporting our green.  That’s because of the success of one food in particular—a vegetable underdog: broccoli!  As one of the newest additions to the USDA Foods lineup, AMS purchased 6.87 million pounds (nearly $7.6 million) of broccoli during FY 2013, and FY 2014 purchasing has been even more robust.

Each year, the AMS Commodity Procurement Staff (AMS-CP) spends nearly $2 billion on 2 billion pounds of frozen, processed, and fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and eggs, otherwise known as USDA Foods.  The AMS-CP mission is to support American agriculture and promote domestic production by purchasing commodities, while meeting the needs of federal food assistance programs across the country.

Partnering with Cooperative Extension to Support Farm to School

Kids are headed back to school and so are county Extension agents.

As schools continue to teach kids where their food comes from and bring local and regional products into the school cafeteria, one group they may want to partner with on their farm to school activities is their local or regional Cooperative Extension office. Cooperative Extension Systems are administered by each state’s Land-Grant University System. Programs are available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. and most states have local or regional Extension offices that are staffed by one or more experts, often referred to as Extension agents or Extension educators.

Nationally, more and more Cooperative Extension Systems are devoting key resources to supporting farm to school activities. Of the 68 fiscal year 2013 USDA Farm to School Grants distributed, 25 percent included partners from Cooperative Extension. State Extension Systems such as Ohio, Minnesota, and Illinois have already dedicated resources and personnel to leading their states farm to school programs. And at the upcoming national Extension conference, farm to school and local foods are sure to be a major themes discussed.

Bird Health Webinar Available Online - Around 300 Bird Enthusiasts Participated Live!

As part of Bird Health Awareness Week, USDA recently hosted a webinar on “Growing Chicks into Healthy Chickens.”  Dr. Martin Smeltzer, Andy Schneider (aka the “Chicken Whisperer”) and Dr. Claudia Dunkley spent an hour helping backyard bird owners learn more about keeping their flocks healthy.  Around 300 people participated in the webinar, most of who are just getting started with backyard birds.

Join Our Webinars To Find Out How You Can Help Feed Kids During the Summer

Children need good nutrition all year long. When school is out during the summer months, many children no longer have access to even one nutritious meal each day.  Research shows a lack of nutrition during the summer months may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins.  We must do all we can to ensure that children get nutritious food during the summer months so that they are ready to learn during the school year. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is intended to feed kids during these “meal gap” periods.

2012 People’s Garden Fall Webinar Series: Ingredients for a Healthy Garden

The feedback about last year’s webinar series was overwhelmingly positive! That’s why USDA’s People's Garden Initiative is bringing it back.

We’re asked all the time for a specific recipe for starting and sustaining a People’s Garden. And each of this year’s webinars focus on ingredients that can be mixed into any garden project to make it healthier: processing and storing seeds, engaging volunteers, growing native plants, composting, and school garden best practices.

The series of five hour-long trainings will broadcast live on Thurs. Nov. 29, Dec. 6 and Dec. 13 and Wed. Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. They are free for anyone to watch live online. Register at to participate.

In Working with Tribes USDA Rural Development Opens Electronic Doors

Webinars and Teleconferences are not the raw materials that Tribes use to build the infrastructure that they need.  However, at USDA Rural Development we believe that these tools are crucial building blocks that help our Agencies and staff build a foundation for consultation, cooperation and mutual understanding with Federally Recognized Tribes.

Over the last few months, Rural Development co-hosted an Indian Housing Webinar Discussion Series with the National American Indian Housing Council.  The goals of that series were clear and simple: 1) Educate USDA Rural Development personnel on the unique issues in providing affordable housing in Indian Country; 2) Educate Tribes and Tribal housing program staff on USDA Rural Development’s programs and services; and, 3) Examine and discuss strategies to improve the partnership between Tribal housing programs and USDA Rural Development.  The final webinar was hosted on November 7th and in preparation for the National American Indian Housing Council’s Legal Symposium in December 2012, we are putting together a joint white paper on the Webinar Series and recommendations to consider moving forward.