Last week, I drove out to Pittsboro, NC to guest lecture at Central Carolina Community College (Pittsboro campus) in the Advanced organic crop production class. This class is part of the Sustainable Agriculture program which provides training in organic farming methods and technical skills. I was asked to speak with the class about good agricultural practices, the USDA GAP/GHP audit, and review the Opening markets project. Most of the students either own their own farm or work on a farm in the area. At the beginning of the lecture students raised their concerns regarding the cost of audits and food safety practices in general. One student asked, “Why aren’t audits performed by Cooperative Extension agents – for free?” My answer is, there could be a conflict of interest if the educators in the community also administered the audits. Beyond this salary and travel costs would still have to be paid for the agents – increase in tax dollars and/or cost recovery. And then there are liability issues. For example, PrimusLabs, who inspected the cantaloupe farm and facility associated with the recent listeria outbreak, is being sued by the victims and their families.
The presentation lasted an hour and a half with a majority of the time spent on class discussion. There is a lot of interest in good agricultural practices and the opening markets project particularly understanding the GAP requirements and overall process. Here is the presentation.