Photo courtesy of N.C. Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

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From the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, shared June 6:

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RALEIGH — Fruit and vegetable farmers can apply for two cost-share grants offered through the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to assist with the costs for water analysis and independent certification of an operation’s good agricultural practices.

“Both of these grants help farmers with their on-farm food safety efforts, which are critical to marketing their farm products,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “I am glad we were able to secure these U.S. Department of Agriculture funds to assist our growers. Farmers can apply for both grants, which will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Strawberries are in season at North Carolina farms. Photo courtesy of N.C. Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

This is the third year for the Water Analysis Cost Share grant program, which will reimburse growers up to $200 for certified laboratory analysis of irrigation and/or packing house wash water for the presence of generic E. coli bacteria. Growers can be reimbursed for one water test or multiple tests throughout the year.

For more information or to obtain an application for the Water Analysis Cost Share program, go to www.ncgradingservice.org, or contact Kevin Hardison at (919) 707-3123, or kevin.hardison@ncagr.gov.

The department has previously offered the Good Agricultural Practices Certification Assistance Program, which covers up to $600 for independent audits of a farm’s GAP or good handling practices.

To be eligible, growers must have a third-party audit from an approved government agency or company that verifies GAP or GHP efforts, the audit must be conducted in 2011 and the grower must submit an application to participate in the program prior to the audit. The audit can be for farm review, field harvest and field packing activities, packing house facility, storage and transportation, and traceback.

For more information or to obtain an application for the GAP Certification Assistance Program, go to www.ncgradingservice.org, or contact Shirley Nicholson at (919) 707-3126, or shirley.nicholson@ncagr.gov.

“Food safety is important at every level of the food chain,” Troxler said. “Produce buyers are demanding assurances from growers that their produce is safe. It’s going to become more difficult for farmers to market their fruits and vegetables if they don’t have a program in place to make sure their produce is free of contamination.”

Funding for both NCDA&CS-managed grants comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Kathleen O'Nan

Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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