MANHATTAN, Kan. – As grocery store chains and food institutions in Kansas and around the globe begin to require the farms they source local foods from to have Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certified fruit and vegetable commodities, the Kansas Department of Agriculture is working to help farmers and growers meet these requirements.
“You can’t do business with Walmart, Kroger, Hy-Vee or Whole Foods unless you are GAP Certified,” said Rita Taylor co-owner of 4 Star Hydroponics in St. John, Kansas. “We are hearing across the board, if you want to do business with a grocery chain you need to be GAP certified.”
The Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) received a USDA specialty crop block grant with some of those funds being earmarked for specialty crop production. The program will assist Kansas farmers become GAP certified. To take advantage of this opportunity, download a copy of the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certification Cost-Share Program application.
Audits must be scheduled three weeks prior to harvest. Audits take place during crop harvest. Farms certified between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014, are urged to apply for funds by December 1, 2014. The 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grants included an expansion of the GAP cost-share program for a minimum of ten farms. Deadline to submit an application and receive reimbursement for the 2015 GAP cost-share is December 1, 2015. Funds are available on a first come, first serve basis.
GLOBAL G.A.P. is a farm assurance program, translating consumer requirements into GAP in a rapidly growing list of countries – currently more than 100. The Harmonized Produce Safety Standard (HPSS) is a new food safety standard managed and operated by GLOBAL G.A.P. In contrast to GLOBAL G.A.P.’s Integrated Farm Assurance Standard (IFA), the HPSS, like the current Produce Safety Standard (PSS), covers only food safety and traceability.
The core of the standard is the combination of the United Fresh Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative’s “Field Operations and Harvesting” and “Post-Harvest Operations” standards. These standards were previously approved as the USA National Interpretation Guidelines (NIGLs) for IFA and PSS; but are now auditable as the basis of an accredited standard. The HPSS will be submitted for GFSI benchmarking.
Farmers can find useful tools and resources online. For example, the checklist includes a detailed list of what control points and compliance criteria the auditor will be looking for. Going through the checklist with the farm management team is a good way to review and develop farm food safety policies. Download the Checklist for HPSS.
“It makes you more aware of what you are doing. We have always tried to do the best and practice good agricultural practices,” Taylor says. “Once we received the GAP book, we were able to sit down and reflect on the importance to always write down where we receive seed, store our plants, etc. This helped us build our food safety program.”
There are many online resources for farms considering going through GAP or GHP audits, or even the GLOBAL G.A.P. Harmonized Audit. The On-Farm Food Safety Project website has information including example farm safety plans, forms and training materials in addition to more information about the industry professionals who have written and guided the development of GAP audits. Download the “Good Agricultural Practices: A Self Audit for Growers and Handlers”.
Additional information is available on the KDA website. Completed applications and supporting documents should be mailed to:
Kansas Department of Agriculture
Attn. GAP Cost Share
1320 Research Park Drive
Manhattan, KS 66502
Applications can also be scanned and emailed to Annarose.Hart@kda.ks.gov for questions call 785-564-6755.