Specialty Crops Newsletter | March 2023

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March 2023

A Message to Our Industry Partners

USDA to Engage with Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee in April 2023

The Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee (FVIAC) will meet in-person April 19-20, 2023, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is organizing the meeting – which is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited.

AMS is excited to engage with the industry representatives on ways the agency could improve data visualization with market reports and optimize inspection & grading services through technological advances or artificial intelligence (AI).  

Other agenda items may include, but are not limited to, administrative matters; presentations by subject matter experts pertaining to labor and production, food safety, infrastructure and sustainability, consumption and nutrition, and data reporting and analysis.

Meeting details and information on the public comment period can be viewed in the Federal Register notice.

Meet the FVIAC Officers

FVIAC Officers

Specialty Crops | Recent Leadership Changes

Specialty Crops Market Development Division

Director: Michelle Sharrow | Email: Michelle.Sharrow@usda.gov
Deputy Director of Marketing Programs: Sue Coleman | Email: Sue.Coleman@usda.gov
Deputy Director of Operations: Andrew Hatch | Email: Andrew.Hatch@usda.gov

Specialty Crops Market News Division

Director: John Okoniewski | Email: John.Okoniewski@usda.gov
Deputy Director: Ashraf Zaki | Email: Ashraf.Zaki@usda.gov

Specialty Crops Inspection Division

Director: Ryan Wilson | Email: Ryan.Wilson@usda.gov
Audit Services Branch Chief: Jennifer Dougherty | Email: Jennifer.Dougherty@usda.gov
Fed/State Inspection Mgmt Branch Chief: Nate O’Connor | Email: Nathan.Oconnor@usda.gov

USDA Announces $133 Million in Grant Funding

USDA announced it is accepting applications for this year’s Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), with a total of $133 million available in competitive grant funds to expand and strengthen local and regional food systems and increase the availability of locally grown agricultural products.

The funding available for this year’s program includes $65 million in supplemental funding authorized by the American Rescue Plan, carry over funding from last year’s program and funds provided through the 2018 Farm Bill and annual appropriations.

USDA’s LAMP is made up of the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) and the Regional Food System Partnerships (RFSP) grant program, all administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

AMS is hosting webinars to help applicants navigate the application process. Additionally, Frequently Asked Questions are posted on the AMS Grants website. For more information visit the websites below or contact grant specialists at the emails provided.

Funding Opportunity

Board Graphic

Call to Action: Help Shape the Future of Agriculture

USDA is seeking nominees for several specialty crops research and promotion boards and a council. Details about the boards and council and the positions that need to be filled are available at the links below:


Brief Information


National Honey Board

To fill three member and three alternate seats.

June 1, 2023

Mushroom Council

To fill three producer member seats and one importer seat.

May 1, 2023

Hass Avocado Board

To fill seats for three producer and two importer members and three producer and two importer alternates.

March 21, 2023

Peanut Standards Board

To fill seats for nine producers and nine industry representatives from the Southeast (Alabama, Florida, and Georgia), Southwest (Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas,), and Virginia/Carolina (Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) regions.

April 30, 2023

How to Propose a National R&P ProgramAMS will consider a proposal for creating a new R&P program if the proposal has substantial industry support.

Removing Barriers: Become a USDA Foods Vendor with a New, Easier Financial Assessment Process

USDA announced it has made the process easier for suppliers to apply to be approved USDA food vendors by removing a significant barrier to participation. The Agricultural Marketing Service’s Commodity Procurement Program (CPP) has changed how it assesses the financial responsibility of suppliers interested in selling to USDA.

To streamline the new vendor process and increase vendor participation, in December 2022, CPP removed the need for vendors to provide audited or reviewed financial statements. Instead, to determine financial capability, CPP will obtain a Contractor Responsibility Assessment Report (CRA) from FedDataCheck.

Under the new system, in order to pull the CRA report, it is essential for vendors to be registered and active in the System for Award Management (SAM) and have a Unique Entity Identifier.

For assistance in SAM, please contact the SAM HelpDesk: 1-866-606-8220.  For questions regarding CRAs and FedDataCheck, please contact the Senior Contracting Officers:  Felicitas Lofton, Felicitas.Lofton@usda.gov, 202-720-9199 and James Sprandel, James.Sprandel@usda.gov, 202-720-9191.

Commodity Pre-Solicitations for Fruits & Vegetables

JOIN Webinar Series: Specialty Crops Market News 

SCP market news postcard

Learn all about USDA’s Specialty Crops Market News in our interactive webinar series!

USDA staff will be hosting an interactive webinar series to familiarize people with the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Specialty Crops Market News on March 21, 2023, at 1 p.m.: Introduction to Specialty Crops Market News presented by Specialty Crop Market News Director John Okoniewski.  

Additional dates to be announced soon. Upcoming topics include: Price Reporting: Wholesale Markets, Shipping Points, Retail Transportation: Shipments, Truck Rates, Imports, HTS codes MARS and My Market News platforms.

Register NOW

USDA Issues First National Hemp Report

USDA has issued the first edition of the new weekly National Hemp Report (pdf). The free and publicly available National Hemp Report provides unbiased, timely, and accurate data to help industry stakeholders make business decisions.

The National Hemp Report contains retail advertised prices of hemp products nationally and by region, along with data on volumes and cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) values of hemp imports into the United States. The report will be issued every Wednesday.

Hemp Report Image

Retail advertised prices for hemp are currently available as part of the National Retail Report-Specialty Crops. This new report will be the first-time movement volumes or CIF values of hemp commodities will be published by USDA Market News. It is also the first Market News report dedicated solely to this new commodity group. The National Hemp Report will expand in the future to include additional market information pending ongoing industry engagement.

Useful Web Resources 

USDA Market News App

The free app is available in both iOS and Android versions and may be downloaded through the Apple and Google Play stores.