I’m currently conducting a blog series where each week I give an overview of the responsibilities of a government agency regulating our food and agriculture system. I think it’s a helpful reminder for everyone on just how complex our regulatory system really is. It’s a game of Who’s Who for government players in the U.S. food and agriculture economy.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) Agriculture Marketing Service (“AMS”) reports to the Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. AMS works with the marketing of agriculture products at the domestic and international level. It too works to ensure there are fair trading practices with the food, fiber and specialty crop industries.
AMS promulgates regulations for the following federal programs:
- Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (“PACA”) of 1930 – requiring buyers and sellers of fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables to comply with contractual requirements and establishes for Alternative Dispute Resolution;
- Federal Seed Act – protecting buyers of seed by prohibiting false labeling and advertising of seed in interstate commerce;
- Plant Variety Protection-providing for intellectual property rights protection to developers of seed-reproduced and tuber-propagated plants, including farm crops and flowers;
- Shell Egg Surveillance Program– requiring AMS to oversee shell egg surveillance inspections pursuant to the Egg Products Inspection Act; and
- Country of Origin Labeling Program (“COOL” or “mCOOL”)-requires retailers to label food products with the country of origin.
AMS is the government agency responsible for establishing the yield and quality grade marks for beef, pork and lamb. It has also established standards for grading, certification and verification of chicken, turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas, pigeons, shell eggs, and dairy products. Furthermore, AMS has established quality grades for wholesale purchasers of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables
Organizationally, AMS has the following programs:
- Cotton and Tobacco Program
- Dairy Program
- Fruit and Vegetable program
- National Organic Program
- Transportation and Marketing Program
- Compliance and Analysis Program
- Livestock and Seed Program
- Poultry Program
- Science and Technology Program
AMS is also greatly involved with farmers’ markets and other forms of direct marketing for livestock producers. Specifically, AMS facilitates the Farmers Market Promotion Program (“FMPP”) and Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (“FSMIP”) grant programs. A list of farmers’ markets around the country can be found at http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/.
Additionally, AMS administers commodity research and promotion programs funding through “Checkoff” programs (e.g., Beef Checkoff). It is also involved in the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Organic Cost Share Program.