Good Agricultural and Good Handling Practices: Compliance By Everyone?

Monday, July 22, 2013
Desert Ballroom: Salons 7-8 (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
Kurt D. Nolte, PhD , University of Arizona, Yuma, AZ
Channah M. Rock , University of Arizona, Maricopa, AZ
Recent contamination outbreaks in specialty crops have raised concerns about the safety of how these crops are grown, harvested, processed, stored, and shipped.  To this end, there is an increased awareness by buyers and consumers of specialty crop products for independent verification and certification that growers and other fresh produce handlers are following Good Handling Practices (GHP) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to improve food safety.  The University of Arizona, Yuma County Cooperative Extension and the Arizona Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Consultation and Training (ACT) Program have collaborated to implement a USDA GHP/GAP Training Program for Arizona specialty crop producers. The in-class training program has been very successful in attracting interest with the total number of small farm participants equaling 488 since the program's inception in 2010. Research findings from GHP/GAP programming indicate that growers participating in workshops are gaining a greater understanding of good growing and handling practices.  Yet, this knowledge is not necessarily leading to behavior change in the form of USDA GHP/GAP certification.  Change is primarily occurring among growers when they are required by those buying their produce to provide evidence of on-farm food safety practices.  To date, activities that Arizona small growers are most commonly pursuing are participating in GHP/GAP training, writing some form of a food safety plan, and making convenient on-farm food safety modifications.  Growers are not specifically developing a culture of food safety by keeping records that food safety plans are being acted upon, documenting potential food safety risks, or requesting on-farm site visits.  Given that only a marginal number of growers are applying for certification, evidence indicates that only a select number of buyers are currently mandating third party compliance from small producers.  Growers reported that the primary reason they did not carry out any of these GAP behaviors is that they are not required to do so, indicating that the external expectations of produce buyers are currently the primary driver in generating grower behaviors.  Time, money, and the technical complexity of requirements are also viewed as barriers to implementation. Within the totality of GAP standards, change may not appear to have much significance, but successes—even seemingly small ones—must not be overlooked.  As comprehensive and recent as GAP standards are, time is needed to address the wide range of needs of fresh produce growers.  Extension’s programming must be sensitive to the different needs that diverse growers have.
See more of: Local Food Systems (Poster)
See more of: Poster Abstracts