NCDA&CS offers cost-share assistance to farmers for food safety audits
Fruit and vegetable growers who choose to have their food safety practices verified as part of industry standards known as Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices can receive up to $400 in cost-share help from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The cost-share program will help farmers pay for third-party audits to see if their food safety practices meet federal guidelines that are important in marketing produce, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in announcing the program.
This is the second year NCDA&CS has offered the program, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Food safety is a top priority for anyone producing food crops,” 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 ensure their produce is free of contamination. A third-party audit can verify an operation’s food safety program and can provide recommendations for meeting industry guidelines.”
Food recalls continue to make national headlines, underscoring the importance of food safety measures throughout the food chain.
Under the program, NCDA&CS will pay up to $400 of a grower’s cost for an 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. Payments will be made to the third-party auditor, with growers responsible for any remaining balance.
Farmers interested in the cost-share program must submit an application form for approval prior to receiving the GAP/GHP audit.
Assistance is limited to growers who undergo a GAP/GHP audit in 2008. Funding is available on a first-come, first-served basis while it lasts. 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 email@example.com.