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[EDITOR’S NOTE — SPW welcomes contributions from the industry. This piece came from AMS Specialty Crops program Deputy Administrator Erin Morris, who explained the reason for the coming increase in inspection fees. If you are interested in submitting an article or idea for an editorial piece, contact us at info@southeastproduceweekly.com]

Erin Morris, USDA photo by Ken Hammond

On April 25th AMS and the rest of our colleagues at USDA were pleased to welcome Secretary Sonny Perdue to the Department. As the Secretary literally rolled up his sleeves and shared his vision for USDA, one point especially resonated with the work that the AMS Specialty Crops Program (SCP) has undertaken as part of our efforts to continuously improve how we provide services to the produce industry.

We look forward to supporting the Secretary and his vision to better serve our stakeholders, the specialty crops industry and those that enjoy all that it offers.

One of the major ways we can contribute is to ensure AMS Specialty Crops Program is run as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible and that it is a financially healthy organization. We recently announced adjusted rates for our grading, inspection, audit and certification services.

Not the Beginning of A Trend of Rate Increases

We want to assure you that this is not the beginning of a trend of rate increases. AMS is required by law to cover the costs of providing user-fee funded grading, inspection, audit and certification services, among others. For various reasons, AMS has not been able to adjust rates for the past decade despite steadily increasing costs, some of which are mandated, such as costs associated with inflation. The fee adjustments over the past two years have allowed us to more closely align our fee structure with our costs.

AMS understands that raising fees is just one component needed to recover costs and improve our efficiency and overall service delivery. As such, over the past few years we have undergone major restructuring to combine two organizations into one serving the fresh and processed segments of the produce industry. This has allowed us to streamline our organization and better manage our costs. Among other steps, we have reduced staff and closed offices, consolidated management structures, cross trained employees, and made reductions in administrative costs. We also know that to continue to offer services that are of value to the produce industry, we need to continually adapt to meet its changing business needs.

‘There Is More Work to Be Done’

The AMS Specialty Crops Program helps buyers and sellers of all sizes in the U.S. produce industry to market their perishable products in the most efficient manner. We partner with State agencies and other industry organizations for the benefit of nationwide growers, shippers, brokers, receivers, processors, retailers and restaurants, direct to consumer sales, and the foodservice industry.

The program offers a wide array of services that span from helping market the quality of products to ensuring that there is fair trade in the produce industry. The program also helps specialty crops growers and handlers to combine their resources to help their respective industries overcome marketing barriers.

We realize there is more work to be done to ensure we are providing value added services in a cost effective manner. We look forward to discussing ways that we can further reduce our costs and enhance our service delivery for the future with our industry stakeholders. More information will be coming soon on how you can share your ideas with us.

 

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