USDA launches program to facilitate GAP certification for small and mid-sized entities in the produce sector.
- Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) are a voluntary set of recommendations originally developed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1998. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) currently operates an audit/certification program to verify that farms use GAPs. The program typically is used by growers and packers to satisfy contractual requirements imposed by retail and food service customers.
- On April 4, AMS announced the launch of “GroupGAP,” a new certification program intended to help small and mid-sized growers and cooperatives meet retailers’ on-farm food safety requirements. In explaining the program rationale, AMS acknowledged that GAP certification may be cost-prohibitive for smaller farmers; the new program enables cost-sharing across a group of growers.
- In the future, many farms will need to come into compliance with the Produce Safety Standards under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). However, FDA continues to recognize the importance of GAPs. The final rule implementing the Produce Safety Standards recognizes the relevance of GAP certification and recommends that any farms not covered by the Produce Safety Standards continue to observe GAPs in their operations.