There are a couple of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Handling Practices (GHPs) opportunities available. The first, is a series of workshops explaining the fundamentals of GAPS and GHPs. I will be teaching sections on Animal and Pest Control and Exclusion, Cooling, and Creating a Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure Document.
In addition, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) is offering a cost-share program for producers interesting in having their operations GAP and GHP certified.
Fruit and vegetable growers can learn techniques to make their produce safer for the consumer during one of four upcoming Mississippi State University workshops. Specialists with the MSU Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station will conduct four separate workshops across the state on developing and implementing good agricultural practices and good handling practices. The workshops are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the following locations:
- Jan. 13 at the Forrest County Extension office, 952 Sullivan Dr., Hattiesburg;
- Feb. 10 at the Frank T. (Butch) Withers Jr. Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center, 1320 Seven Springs Rd., Raymond;
- Feb. 17 at MSU’s Bost Auditorium, 190 Bost, Starkville campus; and
- March 11 at the Coastal Research and Extension Center, 1815 Popps Ferry Rd., Biloxi.
The voluntary guidelines, referred to as GAPs and GHPs, were issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998 to help growers eliminate food safety hazards that can occur during growing, harvesting, cleaning, washing, sorting, packing and transporting unprocessed foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables.
Topics include site selection and soil; agricultural water; fertilizer and pesticide use; animal exclusion; worker health and hygiene; produce cleaning and water treatment; packing and storage; traceability; harvesting; cooling; transportation; and U.S. Department of Agriculture audit verification checklist.
Registration is free and open to all Mississippi fruit and vegetable growers who sell to the fresh market. Seating at each location is limited to the first 25 participants to preregister. A pre- and post-test will be given. Those completing the course will receive a certificate of completion. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. To pre-register or for more information, contact Dr. Mahmoud at 228-762-7783, ext. 301, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The workshop is funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Southern Risk Management Education Center. Instructors are MSU Extension and Research professors Barakat Mahmoud, Christine Coker, Eric Stafne and Gary Bachman, and Alcorn State University food safety specialist Nicole Bell.
Please see the following press release from MSU for more information: http://msucares.com/news/releases/13/nr20131125_gapscertification.html
GAP/GHP Cost-Share Program Available
The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce is currently offering a cost-share program to provide financial assistance to Mississippi fruit and vegetable farmers receiving Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) Certification. Eligible farmers will receive reimbursement for 75% of the certification costs up to a maximum of $500. To receive reimbursement, farmers must submit a completed application with proper documentation of costs incurred. Only audits completed by an approved USDA certifier will be eligible for reimbursement. A list of auditor contacts is available at www.ams.usda.gov/gapghp. Funds are available on a first-come, first-serve basis until the funds are depleted. Funding for this program is provided through the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. For more information about this program or to obtain an application, visit www.mdac.ms.gov, call Michael Lasseter at (601) 359-1120 or email michaelL@mdac.ms.gov.