Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and leaders from food and agriculture organizations have introduced a free online tool to help U.S. producers achieve Good Agricultural Practices harmonized standards and certification. USDA’s GAP audit verification program focuses on best agricultural practices to verify that farms are producing, and packers are handling and storing, fruits and vegetables in the safest manner possible to minimize food safety hazards. The free online tool, developed by FamilyFarmed.org with funding from USDA’s Risk Management Agency, is available at http://www.onfarmfoodsafety.org/

The program helps farmers design a customized manual to meet GAP harmonized standards and certification requirements, including USDA GAP standards, and mitigate business risks by answering just a few questions. Once users have completed their farm’s food safety plan and compiled necessary documentation, they have the capacity to apply for GAP food safety certification, a process asked for by many larger buyers. The tool also offers farmers a full-set of record keeping templates to document their food safety efforts.  This voluntary program verifies adherence to the recommendations made in the Food and Drug Administration’s Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.