Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, along with leaders from food and agriculture organizations, introduced a free online tool to help U.S. producers of all sizes achieve Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) harmonized standards and certification, helping to further expand economic opportunities for American agriculture.

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 (RMA) — 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.

"USDA believes that a strong farm safety net — including effective, market-based risk solutions for producers of all variety and size — is crucial to sustain the vitality of American agriculture," said Merrigan.

"Effectively managing risk is important to all producers, and having an acceptable food safety program is in the best interest of consumers, buyers, and the farmers themselves. USDA is proud to have worked with private, public and non-profit partners to introduce this free tool to farmers seeking to gain certification as a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) producer."