Welcome to our New Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue

Erin Morris, Acting Deputy Administrator 

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.  Please see the fee structure for FY17

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.   

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.

In this issue of Specialty Crops News, we’ll introduce you to a GroupGAP success story.  Read on to learn more about the PACA Hotline, what makes a “Good Delivery”, and the remarkable value it contributes to the fruit and vegetable industry.  Finally, you’ll see the results of how the industry uses the AMS website and the Specialty Crops Programs links to important services that benefit you.