Good Agricultural Practices
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Overview

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) is a voluntary certification program which verifies, through an independent third party audit, that sound food safety practices are being used on a farm or produce handling facility. GAP audits focus on the best agricultural practices to verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored in the safest manner possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.

 

GAP for Growers

Consumers are demanding to know more about food safety practices than ever before. Foodborne related illness are increasingly linked to a major increase in public awareness, and many growers and handlers are now being required to demonstrate a commitment to food safety through third party audits, known as a GAP certification. By incorporating GAP into farm businesses, growers can yield food in a safer way while working to expand their business and access new markets.

GAP is also one of the fundamental components of the NYS Grown and Certified Program. NYS Grown and Certified promotes and markets the New York State producers that are meeting the new consumer demand for high quality food. 

The Food Safety Modernization Act, enacted in 2011, charged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with developing regulations to establish safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding standards for farms that fall under the Produce Safety Rule. The Produce Safety Rule encompasses farms that grow produce meant to be consumed without additional processing, like many fresh fruits and vegetables.

The USDA GAP audit is based on the FDA’s Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. Although the USDA audit is part of a voluntary audit program, meaning that it does not have a regulatory function, it may help farms prepare for potential regulation from the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The next section on this page gives information on how to become GAP Certified.

 

GAP for Consumers

It’s no secret that eating fruits and vegetables provides a multitude of health benefits. GAP reinforces these benefits and provides another layer of assurance for consumers. GAP, as part of the NYS Grown and Certified program, reaffirms that you are making a safe and beneficial purchase for you, your family and your community.

By choosing GAP certified produce, consumers can rest assured that the produce they are purchasing was grown, harvested and handled following established food safety standards. The growers, handlers and processors participating in GAP have made a commitment to food safety and are documenting their practices for traceability.

 

GAP for Wholesalers

GAP can help prevent food safety recalls, which can be very costly in both immediate financial terms and the lasting impact of a damaged consumer confidence and loyalty. Food safety is a constant concern for consumers who want to ensure that the items they purchase in the supermarket have been properly and safely sourced. That’s why implementing GAP can result in safer food practices at every point in the supply chain. Buyers who choose not to participate in GAP or establish recognized food safety standards may be at a competitive disadvantage.

One of the guiding principles of the GAP program is enacting preventative practices to help avoid problems from occurring in the first place. By setting clear standards and partnering with suppliers who understand the expectations, we can anticipate, monitor and understand emerging issues before they are a concern. These standards can be used to educate consumers about the health benefits of fresh produce as well as food safety practices at home.

Get Certified

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets can assist with getting GAP certified. See below to learn about how the process works as well as available resources for New York businesses.

 

Food Safety Plan

Developing a food safety plan is the first step in becoming GAP certified. The food safety plan provides guidelines – specific to each farm/business – to then be implemented and documented. Once the food safety plan is written and implemented an audit is scheduled.

Once the food safety plan is written, the operation should implement the practices and supporting documentation. The audit consists of steps that require the observation of various practices, as well as the review of supporting documentation in the food safety plan.

 

GAP Workshops

Cornell University is the national GAP coordinator and works closely with Cornell Cooperative Extension to host two-day GAP training workshops throughout New York State. These workshops have proven to be very beneficial to participants in developing their food safety plan and implementing GAP in their operation.

 
Schedule a GAP Audit

The audit requires the observation of various steps and practices, as well as reviewing the supporting documentation referenced in the food safety plan. The audit can cover categories such as growing/harvesting and packing/storage. It must take place while the farm or operation is conducting the processes and specific commodities chosen to be audited.  For example, the farm must be packing apples in order to be audited for apple packing.

One way to schedule a GAP audit is by contacting our Farm Products Unit.

A USDA GAP audit provides documented verification that an operation’s food safety plan is being followed and that the requirements of the applicable audit checklist are being met.

 
Certificate of GAP Recognition

Operations that successfully meet the requirements of a USDA audit receive an embossed certificate from USDA and will be listed on the national website. The certification is good for one year from the date of the passing audit.

Reimbursement Program

The GAP certification assistance program is a cost-share/reimbursement program designed to assist the specialty crop industry with the cost of an operation’s first GAP food safety audit. Funding for this program is provided by the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets reimburses up to $1000 of the cost of the audit. Reimbursement may include the cost of training, obtaining required water tests, and the cost of the on-site visit. Funds are available on first-come, first-served basis.

GAP Reimbursement Documents

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a GAP "audit"?

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) is a voluntary certification program which verifies through an audit that sound food safety practices are being used. This helps reduce the risk of microbial contamination in fruits, vegetables and nuts and aims to make sure these foods are safe for you to eat. These types of practices are evaluated during growing and harvesting, and then again during packaging and handling. This includes soil amendments usage, field sanitation practices, products traceability and food defense, among others.

 

What types of food can be audited?

The USDA GAP can certify fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts.

 

What does the audit cost?

The current audit fee is $92 per hour plus a $50 administrative fee (the administrative fee is for an initial audit only). The hourly fee covers all travel time, preparation time including food safety plan review, and time of actual audit. Any subsequent visits for unannounced or follow-up reviews are charged on the same hourly basis, but no administrative fee is charged for such visits. GAP recipients are typically eligible for reimbursement of up to $1000 the cost of audit on first-come first-served basis, and on the availability of funds.

 

Do I have to be audited for everything I grow?

You do not have to be audited for everything you grow, however, only the commodities that have been certified will be noted on your certificate and listed on the USDA GAP website. It is often helpful for growers to confer with their buyers about buyer expectations and market opportunities to ensure you are providing exactly what they need.

 

How long is the GAP good for?

As long as unannounced follow-up visits are satisfactory, the audit is valid for one year from the date of passing.

 

How do I market my GAP certification?

Your GAP certification can help positively promote your business in a number of different ways. You can provide buyers and potential buyers with a copy of your certificate, and you can also use the official USDA GAP logo on your marketing materials. You must submit a separate application after you receive your certification in order to use the USDA logo.

 

What is the Food Safety Modernization Act, and how does GAP fit into it?

The Food Safety Modernization Act, enacted in 2011, charged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with developing regulations to establish safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding standards for farms that fall under the Produce Safety Rule. The Produce Safety Rule encompasses farms that grow produce meant to be consumed without additional processing, like many fresh fruits and vegetables.

While it is likely that the Produce Safety Rule will cover different foods and establish different standards, the GAP programs will have laid a foundation for the new regulations.

 
What happens when I get my GAP audit?

On the agreed upon date, an auditor will visit the grower’s establishment to verify GAP practices by making observations about the operation, reviewing documents and conducting interviews. Upon completion of the audit, the auditor will go over all observations made with the applicant. The auditor will continue the verification process by conducting one or more unannounced follow-up visits. The audit report is then submitted to the USDA for final approval or denial. If the establishment passes, the applicant receives a certificate and information about their establishment is also posted on the USDA GAP website.

Resources

For additional information about GAP, please visit these resources:

  • USDA GAP Website: This site provides an overview of GAP program updates, audit services, and more.
  • Group GAP: Small and mid-sized growers, food hubs, and other marketing organizations can collaboratively obtain GAP certification.
  • Farm Products Services information: Learn about scheduling an audit through the Department's Farm Products Unit.

 

Contact the New York State GAP team

Contact us by phone:
Albany Office (for eastern and southern New York)  (518) 457-2090
Rochester Office (for central and western New York)  (585) 427-0200
Contact us by email: