The Local Produce Safety Initiative (LPSI) enhances the competitiveness of specialty crop producers in the Carolinas who serve the growing market for locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.
In order for small farms to remain competitive in the local food market, it is imperative that we build the capacity of small farmers to develop scale-appropriate, best management practices that conform to USDA GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) standards.
Specifically, LPSI works to:
- Develop and disseminate resources on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), including a GAPs audit guidance manual for scale-appropriate on-farm produce production safety practices and audit readiness.
- Offer innovative trainings to small, diversified farmers across the Carolinas using this new guidance manual – the first such curriculum in the country to be based on the actual, researched experiences of small farms.
- Create and post webinars and e-trainings, including video of on-farm trainings and actual audits.
- Provide USDA GAP audit cost share funding to farmers who participate in the project trainings.
Local produce commands a premium price in the market. One way that small-scale farmers can take advantage of this growing market is to sell through wholesalers, but these are likely to require GAP certification from specialty crop farmers. Industry members report to CFSA that traditional direct market outlets for locally grown fruits and vegetables are also under pressure to impose food safety requirements.
Moreover, federal regulation of on-farm produce production is coming. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) became law in January 2011, giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to establish mandatory on-farm safety standards for the production of fresh fruits and vegetables. The FDA’s proposed produce safety rules are likely to be published in the spring of 2012, with final rules likely to be adopted by the end of 2013.
In its October 2010 annual report, the North Carolina Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council identified that existing Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) guidance and GAP audit regimes might not be well-suited to the needs of small-scale, diversified, low-input produce farms.
The LPSI on-farm food safety and agronomic research with 12 NC farms has confirmed these concerns. Small farms consistently face the following barriers in implementing GAPs and achieving USDA GAP certification:
- Limited manpower, which makes GAP record-keeping more burdensome on the farm operators;
- Reliance on proven, low-cost fertility sources such as compost and manure, which are not permitted in some private GAP audit regimes and subject to extreme controls in others;
- Limited capacity to make capital investments, which are assumed as a cost of doing business in larger farming operations;
- Reliance on multiple crops, including livestock, to diversify income streams and mitigate risk.
LPSI will develop resources and trainings for operators of small, diversified farms – based on documented, research experiences of 12 NC small farms – for scale-appropriate, on-farm food safety practices. For the first time small, diversified farms are provided a clear roadmap for how to achieve USDA GAP certification in a cost-effective manner. Farmers can meet the needs of buyers to be GAP certified in a way that is appropriate for the economic situations, cultural conditions, and farming practices of small farms.
Trainings based on the CFSA guidance manual enable small farms to enter new wholesale and institutional markets and preserve existing markets that may impose GAP certification requirements in the future.
> Contact Roland McReynolds, CFSA’s Executive Director, for more information about LPSI.
The Local Produce Safety Initiative (LPSI) is supported by funding from the USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant Program.