The USDA is now offering a new certification program designed to assist small and mid-sized producers and cooperatives meet food safety requirements. This new GroupGAP program will be handled through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
“We know that GAP certification can sometimes be cost-prohibitive for smaller farmers,” said AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer. “GroupGAP allows these farmers to demonstrate compliance with strong food safety standards and share the cost of certification across a group of growers. That means greater market access for farmers, more options for consumers, and strong verification of food safety practices. It is a true win-win. We’re proud to have developed this innovative solution in partnership with our stakeholders.”
Enrollment is now open in the program, following a three-year pilot process. By using economies of scale this certification will show that grower groups are following food safe practices, improving market access and benefiting the entire industry.
The AMS Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI) performs Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audits, which are voluntary audits to verify that farms are following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration. Produce buyers, large and small, are increasingly requiring suppliers to be GAP certified. Under GroupGAP, farmers, food hubs, and cooperatives work together to obtain group certification. Their participation in the program in turn benefits retailers and other large-volume buyers, who are better able to meet the increasing demand for local foods and broaden their base of suppliers.
AMS GroupGAP audits include an analysis of the group’s system of oversight, a site visit to ensure compliance with various procedures, and spot checks to verify appropriate on-farm implementation. For more information or to submit an application, visit the GroupGAP Website at www.ams.usda.gov/services/auditing/groupgap. You can learn more about the AMS GAP Audit Program at www.ams.usda.gov/services/auditing.
AMS offers many programs to support growers. You can learn more at www.ams.usda.gov/services/local-regional.