Specialty Crops Newsletter

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Specialty Crops Newsletter

January 2017

Erin Morris, Acting Deputy Administrator (email)

As AMS Specialty Crops Program (SCP) looks forward to 2017, I’ve been reflecting on the importance of our Industry partnerships and the collaborative efforts to enhance our services for you in 2016.   In the past year, a few of our highlights include:

·         Launch of the USDA GroupGAP program, a new food safety certification program increasing access to USDA GAP certification for producers of all sizes.

·         Establishment of the Pecan marketing order, covering fifteen states.  The order authorizes the pecan industry to collect industry data, conduct research and promotion activities, and recommend grade, quality and size as well as pack and container regulation.

·         AMS’s participation in the government-wide International Trade Data System, expanding from a three-port pilot program to a nationwide pilot.  Importers of fruits, vegetables and specialty crops covered under “Section 8e” import regulations will benefit from a faster and more streamlined approval process. 

·         Expansion of the number of companies participating in the Quality Monitoring Program (QMP) to include a major restaurant chain and its suppliers and a provider of gourmet olive oil.  QMP provides a firm with objective, third party assessments of product quality.

·         Publication of proposed revisions to the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) regulations that would provide clarification for growers on how they can preserve their trust rights under the PACA.

On behalf of all SCP employees, let me extend to you best wishes for a Happy New Year and our sincere thanks for allowing us to be of assistance in 2016.  We look forward to continuing to work with you.

The Swiftly Growing Organic Market --- How Market News Helps Growers

Two farmers inspecting tomatoes

Terry Long, Specialty Crops Market News Division (email

Melissa Reeves, Specialty Crops Market News Division (email)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established national organic production and handling standards in 2002 in response to increasing consumer demand for the regulation of organic foods. U.S. consumers have steadily increased purchases of organic foods and demand shows no sign of leveling off. 

By far, the highest dollar value for organic food sales is earned by fruits and vegetables, reaching over $5.5 billion -- an increase of 72 percent from 2008, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s 2014 Organic Survey

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Specialty Crops Program --- A FSMA Resource for You

Tractor in a zucchini field

Leanne Skelton, USDA/FDA Liaison (email)

For farmers that grow, harvest, pack and ship fruits and vegetables, FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule marks the first time that you will be regulated in these activities by the FDA. We’ve heard that many farmers are uncertain of what to do to comply. In addition, manufacturers/processors, already regulated by FDA for good manufacturing practices (GMP), may also face new preventive controls-focused requirements.  Importers of produce and processed foods also have a new regulation to comply with. 

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International Trade Data System (ITDS): Helping Boost Trade

Cargo ship heading out to sea

Michael Durando, Director (email

Point-of-Sale (POS) transactions and traceability systems are just two of the technological advances used today in the produce industry to automate retail sales, track consumer preferences, and provide safer produce. The federal government is also working to update its technological capabilities with the introduction of the International Trade Data System (ITDS), which will speed multiple agencies’ approval and release of a range of imported and exported products.

By Executive Order, ITDS will become the main system through which traders connect with the federal government for approval to accept loads for transport. The timeframe for this electronic filing requirement began in July, 2016 with all import filings on the electronic system to be implemented by October, 2016.

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