U.S – South Carolina farmers are receiving support to enhance their commitment to food safety through a strategic partnership facilitated by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship (ACRE).

This initiative is made possible by a $100,000 grant from Duke Energy.

The focus of this collaboration is to assist South Carolina farmers in obtaining Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, a voluntary federal audit that demonstrates a farm’s significant efforts to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses associated with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Some buyers, such as grocery chains and school districts, exclusively source from GAP-certified farms. Therefore, achieving GAP certification is vital for farmers seeking to expand their operations and secure sustainable markets for their produce.

ACRE has joined forces with key partners including the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, the South Carolina Black Farmers Coalition, Pick 42 Foundation, and Bonita Global LLC to support growers in preparing for GAP audits and covering the associated certification costs.

The program is specifically tailored to benefit small, minority-owned farms in South Carolina.

Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers emphasized the importance of GAP certification as a stamp of approval, allowing buyers to recognize and trust the food safety practices implemented by South Carolina farmers.

The program aims to validate the existing excellent food safety practices employed by many small farms in the state.

Larry Harris, a produce grower and owner of Harris Farms LLC in Sumter County, highlighted the significance of GAP certification in providing opportunities and access for small, socially disadvantaged farms.

Harris, who is actively involved in bringing other farmers into the program, views GAP certification as a crucial factor for these farms to gain visibility and growth.

Duke Energy, recognizing the critical role of agriculture in South Carolina, contributed U.S$100,000 to this initiative.

Mike Callahan, Duke Energy’s South Carolina President, expressed excitement about investing in resources such as the GAP certification program that not only supports farmers in growing their businesses but also contributes to the resilience of the agricultural economy in the region.

Half of Duke Energy’s contribution is allocated to the GAP assistance program, while the remaining U.S$50,000 from ACRE is directed towards small business development grants for agricultural producers in the region served by Duke Energy.

This comprehensive approach aims to strengthen food safety practices, foster growth, and support the sustainability of South Carolina’s agriculture industry.

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