In addition to traditional certification programs, the Seed Department offers additional services to meet the needs of producers and processors in the state.
In 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued guidelines for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry aimed at reducing the possibility of microbial contamination. In 2002, the USDA implemented the voluntary Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) audit programs to verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards. By 2015, the USDA reported that audits were performed in 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada, covering over 90 commodities.
As food safety and security receive more attention, GAP/GHP inspections have become much more frequent at farms producing potatoes for processing. Process-based audits have become more common in the food industry as consumer concerns regarding the manner in which food is grown and processed has expanded.
Since 2007, the Seed Department has performed GAP/GHP audits on commercial potato farms that deliver products to processors. Inspectors have been trained by the USDA to conduct inspections for GAP/GHP farm operation audits. These inspections focus on verifiable procedures and processes, rather than the product. Audits are intended to occur on a scheduled basis at a minimum of once a year. The responsibility for continuing safe practices leading to product safety rests with the company.
- USDA GAP & GHP audit
- Harmonized GAP audit
- Harmonized GAP Plus + audit
Shipping Point Inspection programs are operated under an agreement between USDA-AMS and the Seed Department. Tuber inspections are provided for both seed and commercial potatoes and performed inspectors licensed by the USDA.
For certified seed potatoes, lot inspections or shipping point inspections, are done during packing and grading of potatoes, after the potatoes have passed field and storage inspections.
Tuber inspection grades for fresh and processing potatoes are established under United States Standards for Grades of Potatoes for Processing, and United States Standards for Grades of Potatoes for Chipping, unless otherwise determined by an agreement between buyer and seller.
According to North Dakota rules, seed potatoes can be labeled as follows:
- BLUE TAG grade means the seed lot meets the requirements for physical defects, condition and size as stated in the rules and regulations of administrative code. They are similar to U.S. No. 1 seed grade.
- YELLOW TAG grade has higher tolerances for defects and sizes, but not for diseases that may affect the yield potential.
- WHITE TAG is used only for non-inspected intrastate shipments or for intrastate shipments meeting agreed upon tolerances for rot between buyer and seller.
Inspections are carried out at the request of the grower or purchaser by ND State Seed Department potato inspection staff. Inspections are not mandatory for fresh and processing potatoes. Inspections of seed potatoes are mandatory for seed shipped interstate, and voluntary for seed shipped intrastate. Inspections for processing are often used to determine payment to the producer.