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Agricultural Marketing Service:
Quality, Efficiency, and Fairness Through Service

The Agricultural Marketing Service was established by the Secretary of Agriculture on April 2, 1972, under the authority of Reorganization Plan Number 2 of 1953 (5 U.S.C. app.) And other authorities. AMS' mission is to facilitate the strategic marketing of agricultural products in domestic and international markets while ensuring fair trading practices and promoting a competitive and efficient marketplace to the benefit of producers and consumers of U.S. food and fiber products.

Market News

AMS provides current, unbiased price and sales information to producers, distributors, and others to assist them in the orderly marketing and distribution of farm commodities. Reports include information on prices, volume, quality, condition, and other market data on farm products in specific markets and marketing areas. Reports cover both domestic and international markets. The data is disseminated within hours of collection via a satellite system and made available through electronic means, in printed reports, by telephone recordings, and through the news media.

Standardization, Grading, and Classing

Working with industry and consumers, AMS has developed and issued more than 600 nationally uniform standards for over 235 agricultural commodities. U.S. standards facilitate the sale of agricultural products by providing a common language of trade and forming the basis for Federal-State market news reports, a tool that helps traders in agricultural products make sound buying and selling decisions.

Grading and classing services are provided to certify the grade and quality of products. Grading services are provided to buyers and sellers of live cattle, swine, sheep, meat, poultry, eggs, rabbits, fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, peanuts, dairy products, tobacco, wool, and mohair. Classing services are provided to buyers and sellers of cotton and cotton products. AMS also is responsible for the certification of turpentine and other naval stores products and the standardization and testing of seed. These services are mainly voluntary and provided upon request for a fee.

The agency's new voluntary certification and acceptance programs provide producers and processors with a range of services designed to enhance the marketability of their products. These services include auditing and registration programs, which provide third-party verification to assure potential customers that a supplier is capable of providing a consistent quality product. Also, buyers can rely on sanitation verification services to be sure that potential suppliers meet established sanitation requirements.

National Organic Program

Products labeled a organic are currently produced under a wide variety of standards, causing confusion in the marketplace.  A new national program will establish national standards governing the marketing of certain agricultural products as organically produced. It will assure consumers that organically produced products meet these standards. It will also aid organic farmers by facilitating interstate and international commerce in organically produced fresh and processed agricultural items.

Laboratory Testing

AMS laboratories perform microbiological and chemical tests of food products in support of the agency's grading, certification,k acceptance, and regulatory programs; processing and finishing tests for cotton fiber and yarn; testing of peanuts for aflatoxin; and testing of imported flue-cured and burley tobacco for pesticide residues. Laboratories also carry out quality assurance and safety oversight activities with respect to State and private laboratory programs.

Food Quality Assurance

Under a Government-wide quality assurance program, AMS develops and revises specifications used by Federal agencies in food procurement for military and civilian uses. AMS also inspects and certifies products to the contract specifications of institutions, States, governmental agencies, and other financially interested parties who use the service.

Commodity Procurement

AMS purchases a variety of food products in support of the National School Lunch Program and other Federal food assistance programs. These purchases also help to stabilize prices in agricultural commodity markets by balancing supply and demand. Fresh and processed food customarily purchased under these programs include fruits and vegetables, beef and pork, poultry and egg products, and fish.

Regulatory Programs

AMS administers several regulatory programs designed collectively to protect producers, handlers, and consumers of agricultural commodities from financial loss resulting from careless, deceptive, or fraudulent marketing practices. Such regulatory programs encourage fair trading practices in the marketing of fruits and vegetables, require truth in seed labeling and advertising, and protect farmer's rights to organize cooperatives.

Shell Egg Surveillance

AMS is responsible for shell egg surveillance inspections mandated by the Egg Products Inspection Act. The inspections enhance fair competition and facilitate marketing of consumer grade eggs by assuring the proper disposition of "restricted eggs," (i.e., checked and dirty eggs, leaking eggs, incubator rejects, loss, and inedible eggs). The inspections, performed by USDA and cooperating State agencies, are conducted at least one each calendar quarter.

Marketing Agreements and Orders

The programs, under authority of the agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 (7 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), help to establish and maintain orderly marketing conditions for certain commodities. Milk marketing orders establish minimum prices that handlers or distributors are require4d to pay producers. Programs for fruits, vegetables, and related specialty props such as nuts and spearmint oil emphasize commodity quality control and may also be used to help stabilize supplies and market prices. In some cases, they also authorize research and market development activities, including advertising programs.

Federal marketing orders originate with a request from a producer group to the Secretary of Agriculture. The Secretary can conduct hearings and referenda based on the producer group's proposal for a marketing order. Once established, marketing order activities are funded by assessments on producers and handlers.

In carrying out the Federal government's role, AMS ensures that persons interested in the development and operation of the programs have a fair hearing and that each marketing order works according to Federal law and established rules and guidelines.

Research and Promotion programs

AMS monitors service industry-sponsored research, promotion, and information programs provide farmers with a means to finance and operate research, promotion, and information activities for cotton, potatoes, eggs, fluid milk, dairy products, beef, pork, soybeans, honey, watermelon, mushrooms, and popcorn.

Pesticide Data Program

The U.S. food supply is one of the safest in the world, but the public is still concerned about the effects of agricultural pesticides on human health and environmental quality. The Pesticide Data Program (PDP) provides statistically reliable information on chemical residues found on selected agricultural commodities. These data help form the basis for conducting realistic dietary risk assessments and evaluating pesticide tolerances. The Environmental Protection Agency uses PD. data to address the registration of pesticides. Other governmental agencies use the data to respond more quickly an effectively to food safety issues.

Pesticide Recordkeeping Program

The Pesticide Recordkeeping Program, which became effective in 1993, requires that certified private pesticide applicators maintain records of federally restricted-use pesticide applications. Such records can help producers identify and apply the correct amount of pesticide based on past growing experiences, improve crop rotation decisions, and meet buyer requirements for pesticide application records. The information can also be used by licensed health care professionals for medical treatment of individuals who may have been exposed to a federally restricted-use pesticide.

Plant Variety Protection Program

Under authority of the Plant Variety Protection Act (7 U.S.C. 2321 et seq.), AMS administers a program that provides for the issuance of "certificates of plant variety protection." These certificates afford developers of novel varieties of sexually and tuber-reproduced plants exclusive rights to sell, reproduce, import, or export such varieties or use them in the production of hybrids or different varieties for a period of 18 years.

Transportation Programs

Other marketing service activities include financial grants to States for marketing improvement projects. AMS also assists in the planning and design of marketing facilities, processes, and methods in cooperation with the State and local governments, universities, farmer groups, and other segments of the U.S. food industry. This program enhances the overall effectiveness of the food marketing system, provides better quality products to the consumer at reasonable cost, improves market access for growers with small- to medium-sized farms, and promotes regional economic development.

For More Information

If you wish to learn more about the services available from AMS, contact the Public Affairs Staff, Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, P.O. Box 96456, Washington, DC 20250. Phone 202-720-8998.

Information about AMS programs also is available on the Internet. You may access the AMS Home Page on the World Wide Web at the following: http://www.ams.usda.gov.


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