Defining a Second Century of Service

Christopher Purdy
Associate Deputy Administrator, Specialty Crops Program

AMS has been providing on-demand, user-fee funded inspection and grading services to the specialty crops industry since 1917.  For over 100 years, we have adapted and improved our services, introducing new offerings to meet evolving market needs.  Entering our second century of service, we are committed to ensuring that our improvement process remains dynamic and robust.  We are carrying out our continuous improvement process with the recognition that we, like you, must be as efficient as possible to ensure our cost-effectiveness to our customers.  With these goals in mind, we are examining how we can best enhance our services to meet your evolving needs.

To help us chart our course, we are working directly with both stakeholders and USDA experts.  At the recommendation of several produce industry leaders, we formed the AMS Specialty Crops Inspection Service Outreach Initiative.  This effort is designed to gain industry insights, perspectives, and input on strategies to strengthen and enhance USDA’s specialty crops inspection programs and services.  Through a series of virtual meetings, we heard from dozens of customers and other industry leaders on how we might create value, gain efficiencies, and best meet the needs of the specialty crops industry.

In addition to the virtual meetings, we also are engaging with industry leaders directly; at their places of business, on the phone, online, and at industry conferences.  To date, we have delivered presentations and held discussions at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit, United Fresh’s Public Policy Conference in Washington, DC, at the National Association of Perishable Agriculture Receivers’ Board of Directors meeting in New York City, and at individual meetings.  More engagement opportunities are on the books; we encourage you to invite us to your next event to discuss our specialty crops inspection program.

To date, we have identified several key themes that will guide our improvement process.  Reflecting the values of our customers, we will continue to ensure that our programs and services are:

  • Delivered on a timely basis
  • Easily accessible
  • Professionally delivered
  • Cost-effective

Using these themes as guides, we are examining all aspects of our operation and services to identify new service lines and improvements to existing programs, including how we can best leverage technology to improve processes, and improve data collection and dissemination.

As we examine our services, I invite you to share your ideas for service offerings and improvements.  Our doors, phones, and emails are always open to you.  Please contact me at 202-720-3209 or christopher.purdy@ams.usda.gov, or stop by if you are in Washington, DC.  From our end, we will share information on our process improvements with you in future editions of this newsletter, and as we engage with you throughout the year.