( Photo courtesy Coco Tafoya; Source Unsplash; Graphic by Brooke Park )

Small growers can find new markets by implementing food safety practices, a new study from Cornell University reveals.

The study revealed that when small-scale farmers are trained in food safety protocols and develop a farm food safety plan, new markets and higher potential sales open up to them, according to a news release.

“Our results should be welcomed by growers in understanding that food safety investments can support both reduced microbial risks and sales growth,” Todd Schmit, associate professor in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, said in the release.

Schmit is lead author of “Assessing the Costs and Returns of On-farm Food Safety Improvements: A Survey of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Training Participants,” which published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“The study highlights the value of food safety to all farmers,” study co-author Elizabeth Bihn, director of the Cornell-based National Good Agricultural Practices Program and the Produce Safety Alliance, said in the release. “It’s great to know that by investing in food safety, you are actually getting a market benefit.”

In the study, food scientists, extension educators and economists surveyed New York state farms that had previously participated in the GAPs trainings. Researchers asked the farmers about costs of implementing GAPs. 

“What we found is that, consistent with the literature,” Schmit said in the release. “The relative cost burden is higher for smaller-scale producers, but they also have more relative benefits of increasing sales to new markets and buyers.”

While GAPs certification is voluntary, the release said market-driven and requires an audit, FSMA compliance is mandatory and farms receive inspections.

“It is important to note that markets drove food safety requirements before FSMA,” Bihn said in the release, “and will likely continue to drive markets given that FSMA exempts or excludes certain farms.”

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