The article containing the excerpts below appeared in the November/December 2009 issue of Growing for Market. It is available in it's entirety online at: http://www.growingformarket.com/articles/20091204
Produce Buyers Beginning to Require GAP's CertificationBy Lynn Byczynski "As 2009 draws to a close, food safety is high on the national agenda. Fruit and vegetable growers are facing pressure to comply with food safety standards, known as Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), and wholesale buyers are increasingly requiring a third-party GAPs certification. Although certification is technically still voluntary, nearly everyone in the produce industry agrees that mandatory certification is on the horizon for those who sell wholesale. Whether growers who sell at farmers markets and CSAs will be forced to comply with food safety measures remains to be seen. In general, few farmers oppose the concept of food safety standards because they don’t want their customers to get sick from their products. But GAPs will certainly be considered an onerous burden by many small farmers who are accustomed to complete freedom in how they grow and harvest. GAPs certification requires written documentation of a food safety program, including standard operating procedures and logs of numerous farm chores such as worker training, bathroom cleaning, and container cleaning... ...USDA has developed a GAP/GHP audit program to certify fruit and vegetable producers who use good practices on their farms. USDA will do the inspections and audits by its staff or with contracted personnel from state agriculture departments. Several private companies also offer GAP certification. USDA charges $92 an hour for the inspection and audit, which can usually be completed in two to six hours, depending on size of the farm and number of crops covered, said Kenneth Peterson,USDA’s audit programs coordinator... A central component of the GAP certification process is a food safety program for each farm; it should include written standard operating procedures and policies to address potential contamination issues including land, irrigation water, manure use, pesticides, equipment and worker health and hygiene. The food safety program can be viewed as putting in writing the common-sense precautions most people take when dealing with food. It does force farmers to think about potential sources of contamination so that they can be mitigated before an audit is undertaken. The sheer number of issues to be addressed makes writing a plan a big project..."