Education and outreach: removing barriers in usda gap programs

Consumers are demanding to know more about food safety practices than ever before. Foodborne-related illnesses are linked to a major increase in public awareness, and many growers and handlers are now being required to demonstrate a commitment to food safety through third-party audits, known as a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. The USDA GAP Audit Program is a voluntary audit program that was developed to assist growers to meet buyer specifications and/or industry best practices and provide them with better access to markets. However, adoption by growers and acceptance by buyers has been limited. As a result, Michigan State University (MSU) partnered with the USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to identify barriers to the GAP Programs.


The Foundation’s cooperative agreement through the USDA-AMS is to provide an education and outreach strategy to remove the barriers identified by MSU to USDA GAP Program participation. A pilot education and outreach program will be developed to address the barriers associated with GAP products, including GroupGAP. The pilot will bring GAP awareness and outreach to small, socially disadvantaged, and underserved growers.

Why Group GAP?

The Group GAP program makes food safety certification accessible for small growers and opens new doors to larger, more stable, and more profitable markets. It allows growers, food hubs, and marketing organizations of all sizes to band together and pool resources to achieve USDA GAP certification as a group.


For assistance with USDA GAP programs, contact the cooperative extension specialist in your state, find yours through the list below.

Extension List

Non-Government Organization (NGO) GAP Resources for socially disadvantaged and underserved growers.

NGO Contact List

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) template is provided for Stakeholders as partnerships are developed to conduct GAP education and outreach.

MOU Template

If you would like more information on this project or are small grower interested in participating in group GAP, please reach out to Janna Spruill, Project Manager.

The NASDA Foundation is proud to partner with the Farm Journal Foundation in its efforts to bring the Voice of the Farmer Garden nationwide.


The Voice of the Farmer Garden is a hands-on learning experience that tells the story of U.S. agriculture and its impact on global food security currently located at the USDA in Washinton, D.C. With over 25 crops growing in the garden, engaging installations, and farmer-narrated digital content, this interactive exhibition educates visitors about food provenance, climate-smart farming, and agriculture’s contribution to the broader U.S. economy. The garden connects to schools and other stakeholder groups through digital eLearning content and other virtual experiences including augmented reality.

Join the 2022 COHORT

Farm Journal Foundation is currently in the planning stage and partner onboarding process for the 2022 planting season. Space to joining the 2022 cohort is limited to ensure the quality of the program. We realize that each state will be somewhat unique and are ready to work with you. We also believe this project has key components and deliverables that are critical to our consistency and success. In order to manage this initial process and to facilitate our discussions, we have created a State Profile Survey Form. This form and an email are requested to begin the process.

Proposed Timeline

October 29, 2022

November 1-19, 2022

December 1-10, 2022

  • Notification of 2022 & preliminary 2023 states
  • Contracts sent

January 10-28, 2022

  • Production calendars finalized

February 1, 2022

  • Production work begins

Are you interested in participating in the 2022 cohort? Please contact Maria Martinez or Todd Greenwood.

Produce Safety Rule Cooperative Agreement

Through this cooperative agreement with FDA, NASDA Foundation determined the resources needed to successfully implement a state produce safety rule and has drafted a strategic plan to assist states in aligning their produce safety requirements with FDA’s produce safety rule. NASDA is now working in conjunction with FDA, key state partners, and adjacent agencies to develop tools to assist states in the implementation of the Produce Safety Rule at the state level.

NASDA Foundation Resources

FDA Resources

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Animal Food Safety Cooperative Agreement

Through this cooperative agreement with FDA, NASDA Foundation is working to compare state authorities regarding the production of animal food, determine the resources needed to successfully implement a state animal food safety rule and drafting a strategic plan to assist states in aligning their animal food safety requirements with FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-based Preventive Controls for Animal Food Rule. We are moving to develop and distribute tools to assist states in the implementation of the Animal Food Rule at the state level.

NASDA Foundation Resources

FDA Resources

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NASDA Foundation is partnering with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to update the performance measures for their grant programs. The team is updating the performance measures to better collect the impacts of the programs and make them easier to use. The new performance measures will be used for the FY2022 AMS grant program RFAs.

The AMS grant programs involved in this project include:

  • Acer Access Development Program
  • Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives
  • Farmers Market Promotion Program
  • Local Food Promotion Program
  • Regional Food Systems Partnerships
  • Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
  • Specialty Crop Multistate Program

Collecting Stakeholder Feedback

In 2019, NASDA Foundation hosted 10 in-person and virtual sessions to collect feedback from stakeholders on the existing performance measures used to evaluate AMS grant programs. The team held in-person sessions in Illinois (2), Connecticut, Florida and California (2). More than 200 stakeholders participated from 42 states and Puerto Rico. The team transcribed 329 comments and found 14 themes from the comments. Stakeholders told us that:

  1. The data for the outcomes/indicators was difficult to collect,
  2. The grant period was too short for the outcomes/indicators to be accomplished, and
  3. The outcome/indicator language was confusing and needed clarification.

NASDA Foundation presented a summary of the feedback to the USDA Agricultural Marketing team. The AMS team used the feedback to help craft the updated performance measures.

Conducting Grantee Training

NASDA Foundation is developing a series of programs to help train current and prospective grantees on the new performance measures. The team will offer live training sessions at the 2021 AMS Grantee Conference in March 2021 and through online, self-directed modules.

NASDA Foundation is dedicated to educating key stakeholders about agriculture. The Congressional Farm Tours were created to teach Congressional staff about emerging issues in the agricultural industry and their impacts across the supply chain.

Collecting Stakeholder Feedback

In August 2019, NASDA Foundation brought 12 Congressional staffers to Louisville, Kentucky for a two-day farm tour to learn about the hemp industry and value-added agriculture. Staff members came from the House of Representatives, Senate, House Agriculture Committee, and House Committee on Small Business. They visited the University of Kentucky Research Farm, Victory Hemp, Sherwood Acres and the River Hill Ranch. Check out the farm tour agenda.

2018 Farm Tour

In February 2018, NASDA Foundation and the Farm Foundation conducted a two-day farm tour in Orlando, FL. Eleven Congressional staff members participated in the tour and learned about food waste, invasive pests, citrus greening, and Florida’s diverse agriculture industry.

Group show at Southern Hill Farms

NASDA Foundation developed the Invasive Pest Grant Program to provide state departments of agriculture with grants to combat invasive pests impacting the agricultural industry. Project proposals focused on research, outreach and training.

Pecan Trees

Pecan trees included in New Mexico survey.

2019 Grant Program

The 2019 grant program accepted applications from July 2019 – August 2019. State departments of agriculture submitted applications for projects that addressed invasive pests negatively impacting agriculture in their state.

NASDA Foundation awarded one grant in the amount of $25,000 to New Mexico Department of Agriculture to increase the detection and monitoring of the pecan weevil in New Mexico.

spotted lanternfly

Spotted Lanternfly attacking grapes.

2018 Grant Program

The 2018 Invasive Pest Grant Program focused on the Spotted Laternfly. The NASDA Foundation awarded $60,000 to state departments of agriculture in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

The grant recipients were:

  • New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets
  • Delaware Department of Agriculture
  • New Jersey Department of Agriculture
  • Maryland Department of Agriculture
  • Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

NASDA Foundation and USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) hosted the 2019 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program State Coordinators Conference on February 20 – 21, 2019 in Arlington, VA. The conference had over 70 attendees, including state coordinators from 37 states and AMS national and regional staff.

The two-day conference provided state department of agriculture staff with in-depth sessions on grant monitoring, evaluation, working with sub-awardees, and applicant training tools. Attendees had the opportunity to network with peers across the country and connect with USDA AMS staff who provided technical support.


Materials and templates have been compiled from SCBGP state coordinators across the country.


NASDA Foundation hosted the National Farm to School Conference ahead of the 2018 NASDA Annual Meeting in Hartford, CT. The one-day conference provided state department of agriculture staff with in-depth sessions focusing on helping farmers and ranchers sell more products to schools. Sessions explored existing farmer training materials, working with the DoD (Department of Defense) Fresh Program, and creating grant programs to accelerate innovation. A total of 51 participants attended the conference from 27 state departments of agriculture.

Travel Scholarships

NASDA Foundation offered scholarships to department of agriculture staff to help offset travel costs to attend the event. We offered 10 scholarships to staff from the following states: AL, AZ, GA, LA, MD, NJ, OK, TX, UT and VT.

F2S Needs Assessment

NASDA Foundation conducted a farm to school needs assessment with state departments of agriculture staff across the country. The needs assessment asked staff members about challenges and opportunities they faced engaging in farm to school activities in their states, their preferred learning strategy, topics of interest, and who do they wanted to learn from. Check out what they told us in the report below.

View Report

NASDA Foundation worked with the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to provide educational and technical assistance for black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and underserved groups wishing to apply for the Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP) grants. NASDA Foundation hosted webinars to provide resources and information on how to apply to the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) grants.


NASDA Foundation provided technical assistance in the form of answering technical questions, reviewing drafts, clarifying RFP questions, budget questions, and providing other resources for applicants to complete their applications.

  1. 200 emails were sent providing technical assistance to applicants on the RFP, budgeting, project qualification, and letters of support.
  2. 30 – 30 min to 1-hour phone calls were facilitated with applicants to answer questions and review parts of their applications.
  3. Guided applicants through the submission process i.e.: assisted with providing resources for obtaining SAMS and DUNS numbers, letters of support, and reviewing and editing applications.


A post technical assistance survey was conducted to gather feedback on the application process. The survey found that over 77% of BIPOC businesses did not apply for a LAMP grant despite receiving technical assistance, with a majority citing the application processing was both too daunting and time-consuming.

Did you apply for a USDA Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) grant?

Archived Resources