Nicole Brunner checks the Gras2p training manual, which can be purchased by any Washington grower.

Nicole Brunner checks the Gras2p training manual, which can be purchased by any Washington grower.

Photo by Geraldine Warner

More Washington growers and packers are turning to Gras2p (Growers Response to Agricultural Safe and Sustainable Practices) for help in preparing for third-party certifications, such as GlobalGAP.

The Washington State Horticultural Association developed the Gras2p audit readiness program three years ago. Nicole Brunner, Gras2p coordinator, said the giant retailer Walmart forced fruit growers to address food safety when it announced two years ago that it would require on-farm certification by Primus, SQF, or GlobalGAP. Shortly afterwards, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is likely to result in more food safety regulations affecting tree fruit producers.

Gras2p is designed to help growers prepare for GlobalGAP auditing. The association has a manual of procedures and forms to guide growers through the audit process and has a team of ten trained auditors to conduct preaudits. Several of the Hort Association’s auditors are themselves growers who have been trained on internal auditing and HACCP and GlobalGAP procedures.

The preaudits serve as the internal audits that GlobalGAP requires before growers go through the official audit, so growers can identify areas where they might be out of compliance and make corrections before the final audit. The certifying company NCSI conducts final GlobalGAP audits for Gras2p participants at a preferential rate.

Last year, four packers signed up to do training and preauditing through Gras2p: Blue Star Growers in Cashmere, Blue Bird in Peshastin, McDougall and Sons in Wenatchee, and Cowiche Growers in the Yakima area. More than 250 growers went through a half-day training session on the manual and had preaudits.

This year, another four companies are working with Gras2p: Matson Growers in Selah and Washington Fruit and Produce Company, Columbia Reach, and Hansen Fruit and Cold Storage in Yakima.

GlobalGAP offers individual grower certification (Option 1) or group ­certification (Option 2).

Under Option 1, growers become individually certified under GlobalGAP each year and hold their own certifications, which means they would still be certified should they move to a different packer.

Under Option 2, the warehouse holds the GlobalGAP certification on behalf of its growers. All growers must have annual preaudits, but only the square root of the total number of growers in the group (for example, 10 out of 100) needs to be audited by GlobalGAP in a given year.

Brunner said there was some pushback from growers initially because tree fruits are considered low-risk products in terms of food safety. However, most growers who have gone through the Gras2p training found they were already following most of the requirements and didn’t have to make many changes, other than documenting their practices. Many of the GlobalGAP practices are also required by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. “It wasn’t as hard as they were anticipating,” she said.

The Gras2p program has been funded by two Specialty Crop Research Initiative block grants that the Hort Association has received through the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The association received $195,000 in 2010 and $172,577 in 2011.

Growers can purchase training tools from the association, even if their warehouses are not participating in Gras2p. The food safety training manual costs $125. A DVD on worker orientation and food safety is available in English or Spanish for $30. A laminated master poster of all the posters that Washington growers are required by the state or GlobalGAP to display on their bulletin boards is available in Spanish and English at a cost of $70 per set.

For more information about Gras2p, check the Web site