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Assessing the costs and returns of on-farm food safety improvements: A survey of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) training participants

Todd M Schmit, Gretchen L Wall, Elizabeth J Newbold and Elizabeth A Bihn

PLOS ONE, 2020, vol. 15, issue 7, 1-18

Abstract: Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) training programs were developed to provide guidance to fruit and vegetable growers on how to reduce food safety risks on the farm. These programs have been enhanced over the years due, in part, to increasing buyer and regulatory requirements. However, the costs of implementing additional food safety practices has been identified as a primary barrier to long-term farm financial feasibility, particularly for smaller scale producers. A survey of past participants in New York State revealed that increasing food safety improvements facilitated by GAPs have not significantly impacted the size of farm operations or the types of crops grown. In terms of farm size, we show that both the financial costs and financial benefits of food safety improvements increase with farm size, but at decreasing rates. In so doing, relatively higher market sales gains per acre by smaller farms from additional food safety investments offset the relatively higher costs to them of their implementation. We also demonstrate that benefits of food safety improvements were significantly higher for farms that had third-party food safety audits and for those that market primarily through wholesale channels. The results should prove welcome by educators as they encourage participation by all scales of producers in GAPs trainings and for growers in understanding that food safety investments can support both reduced microbial risks and sales growth.

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0235507

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