Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica A. Chittenden

January 12, 2009

State To Help Fund Certification To Ensure Food Safety

Producers Encouraged to Obtain Third-Party Audits to Verify Good Ag Practices

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today announced a new program that will offer financial support for growers and handlers of fresh produce to obtain third-party audits and/or water tests to verify effective food safety practices. The New York State Good Agricultural Practices Certification Assistance Program will reimburse up to $750 per eligible applicant, using USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funds provided through the 2008 federal Farm Bill.

"Food safety has become an important marketing and health issue for the produce industry," the Commissioner said. "Buyers are demanding assurances from growers that their product is safe, making it necessary for growers and handlers to certify they have a food safety program in place. This program will help increase the number of New York growers and handlers using third-party audits to verify their program and further protect New York's consumers. I want to thank New York's congressional delegation for making this program possible through their support of the federal Specialty Crop Block Grant Program."

The New York State Good Agricultural Practices Certification Assistance Program will strengthen food safety and subsequently increase marketing opportunities for growers and handlers by paying the cost, up to $750, of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) audits. Costs allowed under the program will include audits, informational assessments and costs of water testing done in 2008 or 2009 by a qualified third-party, which could be the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets or a private auditor.

In addition, Specialty Crop Block Grant Funds will be used to create a water quality data base, which will provide an objective measure of current irrigation water quality, as it relates to on-farm irrigation water management practices.

For more information on New York State Good Agricultural Practices Certification Assistance Program and how to apply, growers and handlers can contact Bill Lyons, Farm Products Grading Manager for the Department’s Division of Food Safety & Inspection at 518-457-2090 or

New York State’s specialty crop sector is a vital part of the State’s agriculture industry as well as New York’s overall economy. New York nationally ranks second in apples and cabbage, third in grapes and cauliflower, and fourth in tart cherries, pears, pumpkins, sweet corn, and snap beans. Last year, New York farmers received $980 million from the sale of fruits and vegetables.

2009 Press Releases