Produce Safety: Producers

GAP Recertification FAQs

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Once I am GAP-certified, how often do I need to be recertified?
USDA GAP and HGAP (Harmonized) recertification is a yearly process since the certification is only good for one year from the date that the audit is conducted and the official paperwork is verified by USDA.  Since the audit is only good for one year, it is important to plan ahead and make sure to anticipate recertification steps for the next year.

What are the main steps for becoming recertified?
There are two main areas of focus for recertification: (1) Plan of Action (POA) manual revisions, and (2) on-farm implementation of practices (as reflected in any changes noted in your manual).  Since the manual is your farm food safety plan and documents the policies and practices that you are using to mitigate food safety risks of contamination to their fresh produce, it is a fluid document since your farm is never static. To recertify you must regularly update when and if any changes occur on the farm, i.e. new crop locations, crops grown, how they are grown and harvested, how they are handled, workers changing, etc..  Those changes must then be incorporated in all of your practices, and, of course, documented!

What specific things do I need to update in the POA Manual?
The first step in the POA manual update is to get a broad overview of any changes that have occurred on your farm, as compared to last year, which will help provide some orientation as to what needs to be updated in the manual.  Once this initial step is done, then it is important to work through the POA questions for each pertinent section, one by one, and as needed, update the manual accordingly.  Additionally, any changes to policies for the current growing season need to be reflected in updated SOPs and accompanying record log sheets to support POA manual.  Important documentation will need to be updated including obtaining new water analyses for irrigation and wash water sources; records for handling of soil amendments such as manure and compost; employee training records; updating and/or replacing any signage; and updates to your traceability system.

How should GAP Certification documents from past years be stored?
One way to maintain and store documentation is to take all records from the previous season, place into files or notebooks (or whatever system works best for you), and label for that growing year.  Records would include water tests, farm maps with traceability system notes, invoices, and filled in record/log sheets.  Materials should be organized, preferably following the same system you use for your current POA manual.  The previous year’s files or notebooks should be kept in a clean, dry place, like a filing cabinet, and should be handy for the current year’s audit.  You will need to maintain these files for at least 3 years.

Who should I contact to request another audit?
At least 1 month before your anticipated audit, it is important to FAX an audit request form (below) to VDACS, in order to make sure the inspectors are aware and can get you in the audit queue.  Remember the auditors are often very busy, especially during the main growing season, so the sooner you can schedule the audit, the better.  The main point of contact at VDACS is Dennis Clary,  He can also be reached at 804-768-3548 (direct) or 804-840-3934 (mobile).  Like with the first time audit, you will need to use an official audit request form.  The form can be faxed to 804-371-7785.  Make sure to put to Dennis Clary’s’ attention.

FAQ On Farm Food Safety