NCDA&CS offers assistance to farmers for GAP audits
Fruit and vegetable growers who choose to have their food safety practices verified can receive financial help from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced recently.
The cost-share program will help farmers pay for third-party audits to see if their food safety practices meet federal guidelines. The goal is to increase the number of N.C. farmers who adhere to industry standards known as Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP).
“Food safety has become an important marketing and health issue for the produce industry,” Troxler said. “Buyers are demanding assurances from growers that their produce is safe. It’s going to become more difficult for farmers to market their fruits and vegetables if they don’t have a program in place to make sure their produce is free of contamination.”
Last year, more than 200 people in the United States became sick after eating uncooked, fresh spinach from California that was tainted with E. coli bacteria. News coverage of the outbreak severely affected sales of spinach. Verified food safety practices can help growers reduce their risks, Troxler said.
Under the program, the department will pay up to $400 of a grower’s cost for a first-time audit of the farm’s food safety program. Audits can be for farm review, field harvest and field packing activities, packing house facility, storage and transportation, and traceback.
Assistance is limited to growers who undergo a GAP/GHP audit for the first time in 2007. Funding is available on a first-come, first-served basis while it lasts.
The program is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Growers should submit an application form for the cost-share program to the NCDA&CS prior to receiving the audit. For additional information or to request an application, contact Ross Williams in the NCDCA&S Marketing Division at (919) 733-7887, ext. 237, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.