Other Ag News: RELEASE: New Food Safety Support Available to Farmers Across Sixteen States
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Reana Kovalcik
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
New Food Safety Support Available to Farmers Across Sixteen States
Pending the Outcome of the 2018 Farm Bill, Support Could be Extended Nationwide
Washington, DC, December 4, 2018 – Starting next year, produce growers in 16 states will gain access to no-cost voluntary Harmonized Good Agricultural Practices (H-GAP) and Harmonized Good Agricultural Practices Plus+ (H-GAP Plus+) audits. This important service, which will increase market access for countless family farmers across these states, was made possible by a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Risk Management Agency (RMA) .On January 2, 2019, AMS will begin offering these no-cost audits, which are supported by Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) funds.
“Family farmers know that the local food market is booming, and that tapping into that market could provide much-needed profit boosts,” said Kelly Nuckolls, Policy Specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). “However, breaking into this growing marketplace often requires producers to undergo costly food safety certifications – something that is outside the reach of many family farm operations. We commend USDA for bringing no-cost H-GAP and H-GAP Plus+ Audits to these 16 states. Should the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) be included in full in the next farm bill, family farmers will have even more reason to celebrate as this kind of crucial support would be made available nationwide.”
Produce growers in the following 16 states can receive H-GAP or H-GAP Plus+ audits for free: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. Certain facilities, such as commercial packing or repacking facilities or food hubs, owned by producers, are also eligible for this financial assistance if they are located in these 16 states. In total, RMA will redistribute $3.7 million in AMA funds to cover the costs of these audits.
As part of LAMP, an innovative new program championed by NSAC, this type of financial assistance would be available to eligible family farmers nationwide. While signs are positive that LAMP will be included in the final farm bill, it is yet unclear if it’s provisions will be included in whole or only in part. NSAC urges the 2018 Farm Bill Conferees to retain LAMP’s much-needed food safety financial assistance component in the final bill.
Eligible producers will receive an automatic credit from AMS for their USDA H-GAP and H-GAP Plus+ audits starting on January 2, 2019. Those interested in participating should request a H-GAP or H-GAP audit from their state or federal auditors. AMS will continue to provide no or reduced-cost audits in these 16 states beyond 2019, until the funds are expended.
In addition to helping farmers attain the certifications that will make it possible for them to break into new markets, this financial assistance program will also prepare growers to comply with upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act’s (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR). The USDA H-GAP program was aligned with the PSR for the first time this year.
NSAC and our allies have strongly advocated for increased coordination and streamlining of food food safety regulations, and for programs that assist farmers in enhancing their food safety practices. We are therefore very pleased to see this offering of financial assistance from USDA, and that USDA H-GAP and PSR have been aligned.
This assistance is also available for any Group-GAP H-GAP or H-GAP Plus+ audits. Group GAP allows farmers, food hubs, and other marketing organizations to combine resources, share the costs, and go through GAP certification as a group. The H-GAP Plus+ audit aligns the H-GAP audit to be technically equivalent to Global Food Safety Initiative standards.
In several of the 16 states included in this project, USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants offer GAP cost share programs. These states can submit a request to AMS to redistribute those funds for another purpose. AMA-eligible states can continue to offer cost- share for basic GAP. NSAC encourages these states to consider using these new funds for food safety trainings and technical assistance for produce growers, which are aid in preparing producers to comply with the FSMA inspections set to begin in 2019.
For more information check out: RMA-AMS’s Harmonized GAP Assistance Q&A.
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at:http://sustainableagriculture.net