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Staples leads initiative to help farmers meet higher standards

Good agricultural practices help ensure highest quality and safest produce

Texas

Amid rising consumer concern about food safety, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced March 4 that the Texas Department of Agriculture awarded $92,000 for the development of manuals that will assist farmers in becoming certified in nationally recognized Good Agricultural Practices. The voluntary program will be implemented in conjunction with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

"Texas farmers are leaders in growing the safest and most abundant food supply in the world," Commissioner Staples said. "By standardizing best practices, our farmers continue their commitment to making Texas produce stand out as the best."

The standard operating procedure manuals, which are created for individual farms, will serve as guidelines to farmers of edible fruits and vegetables who wish to implement safe growing practices as established by national standards. Once these practices are defined for each operation, producers are in a better position to pass a private audit that will lead to GAP certification by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Currently USDA does not require certification; however, many retailers are starting to purchase the majority of their produce from GAP certified farmers. Commissioner Staples plans to help offset the cost of future audits to producers.

"This is an excellent voluntary opportunity for Texas farmers to enhance their operations," Commissioner Staples said. "With current funding, we will assist Texas farmers in creating the necessary procedures for good agricultural practices; next, we will seek funding from USDA to make the GAP audits for certification more affordable, garnering higher participation."

Produce growers all across Texas are eligible for assistance with GAP certification. For additional information, contact Dr. Juan Anciso at 956-968-5581 or j-anciso@tamu.edu.



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