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Food Safety Practices Found to Increase Sales for Small Farms

Previously perceived as a financial burden to small-scale farmers, food safety practices have now been shown to open new markets to producers, leading to an overall gain in revenue.

A new study led by Todd Schmidt, an associate professor in Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, surveyed New York farmers who had participated in Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) training programs to assess the costs and returns of food safety improvements. Overall, the study showed that the benefit-cost ratio was 4.61, on average, which means that the benefits of implementing food safety practices are almost 5 times the overall annual costs.

“Our results should be welcomed by growers in understanding that food safety investments can support both reduced microbial risks and sales growth,” Schmidt told CALS News. The study showed that food safety practices are valuable to all farmers, no matter the farm size.  

The study’s survey included questions about farm characteristics, such as acreage and crops, and the cost of implementing food safety practices. Added costs from these practices included labor, annual testing, and supplies as well as investments of larger infrastructure such as hygiene facilities and equipment for harvesting, packing, cooling, and processing produce. 

“What we found is that, consistent with the literature, the relative cost burden is higher for small-scale producers, but they also have more relative benefits of increasing sales to new markets and buyers,” Schmidt told CALS.

This study is important for small-scale farms as most buyers require farmers to follow GAPs guidelines and request a third-party audit of the farm, adding another challenge. After participating in the multi-day GAPs training program, growers better understand GAPs guidelines, how to implement them on their farm, develop a food safety plan, and successfully complete a third-party audit. 

Read more about the study in CALS online news.

Zoe Loomis

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