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How USDA inspections facilitate fresh produce exports
by Peter Wood, Abigail Campos, & Jen Dougherty, Specialty Crops Program LEAD Program
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) oversees fruit, vegetable, and specialty crop marketing orders and agreements. This ensures orders and agreements comply with all Federal requirements under the Agriculture Marketing and Agreement Act of 1937.
The AMS staff provides management support and oversight to marketing order committees and boards, including those for almonds, tomatoes and avocados among others. To help verify marketing order standards are met, SCP conducts inspections at various steps along the produce supply chain, including for various imports. To provide timely service, we have built a nationwide network of trained Federal and State inspectors located in 160 offices.
The marketing order committees and boards AMS support and oversee includes those for almonds, tomatoes, and avocados. Here’s a look at how we work with these groups:
Under the California Almonds Marketing Order, AMS works with the Almond Board of California to help expand export markets. In collaboration with the Almond Board, AMS helped to develop a system-based audit review program that ensures the integrity of its voluntary pre-export program. AMS staff issued over 13,000 pre-export certificates, helping companies get over 583 million pounds of U.S. almonds valued at $1.7 billion to the European Union. AMS staff also inspected almost 1.9 million pounds of imported almonds.
AMS oversees the federal marketing order related to tomatoes. We provide oversight of Florida Tomatoes, which controls their grade, size, quality and maturity. We also inspect tomatoes at terminal markets across the United States. Last year AMS staff inspected over 217 million pounds of tomatoes at terminal markets across the United States. In Arizona alone, 4.7 million pounds of greenhouse tomatoes were inspected. AMS auditors perform “Food Safety and Auditing Protocol for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain” audits nationwide as published by United Fresh Produce Association. Helping both the tomato buyers and suppliers, these voluntary audits are performed throughout the production and supply chain.
AMS works to expand market share and maintain quality for the Florida avocado federal marketing order and oversee promotion of the Hass Avocado Board. AMS inspectors reviewed 340 lots of avocados at terminal markets last year. Under marketing order import requirements, AMS inspected more than 1.6 billion pounds of avocados. For the week of the 2017 Super Bowl, Hass avocado sales exceeded $50 million as all regions saw sales grow.
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