Farmers-market_406x250Farmers who want to sell their produce in certain markets, such as big-box stores, have to get certain food safety certifications, but not everyone can afford to scale up. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is trying to help. An increasing number of retailers require their suppliers to have Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, which verifies that the farm follows industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They focus on the best practices for producing, packing, handling and storing fruits and vegetables in the safest manner possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards. For small and mid-sized farmers, getting GAP-certified can be difficult and expensive, so AMS tested a program that allowed growers, food hubs and cooperatives to work together to obtain group certification while sharing the cost of audits. Following the success of the pilot program conducted with five groups, USDA has announced that it’s planning to expand its GroupGAP pilot into a full program. AMS will share details about the GroupGAP program at the Oct. 23-25 Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit meeting in Atlanta. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)