GAP Connections – Helping Companies Better Support the Agriculture Industry

By Jane Howell Chadwell
President, Executive Director at GAP Connections

While comprised of countless individuals, the agriculture industry can, in essence, be broken down into three major parties – the growers, the companies who purchase their crop and the companies and organizations that provide inputs and services to the other two. As a clearinghouse between farmers and purchasers, GAP Connections pays close attention to not only the men and women in the field, but the people to whom they are ultimately providing business. In the previous entry of this three-part blog series, the benefits offered to growers by joining GAP Connections were discussed. For part three, the focus will center on how the nonprofit can benefit the companies and organizations that help bring the agriculture industry full circle.

In addition to the grower memberships, GAP Connections welcomes companies and organizations rooted in agriculture to join in an effort to provide a transparent set of standards and measures for quality, efficiency and compliance. Consisting of three member groups – contract purchasing companies (Regular Company Members), manufacturers and processors who do not directly contract with growers (Non-contracting Members), and associate organizations (Associate Members) which are united around the goal of developing and implementing good agricultural practices. GAP membership gives each company and organization involved an important voice in the various processes, procedures and dealings involved in reaching this goal.

Regulations that affect farmers ultimately affect the purchasing companies and in the same sense, the pressures on purchasing companies to meet regulatory requirements and to insure sustainable and socially responsible production ultimately impacts farmers. Fragmented, uncoordinated efforts by individual companies to meet these challenges result in higher costs and greater frustration on the part of farmers trying to meet the expectations of multiple buyers. However, with help from GAP Connections, the standards and methods of measuring compliance are streamlined and made uniform across the industry, enabling growers and companies a “one-stop shop” which minimizes the burden, maximizes compliance, and creates efficiencies for everyone involved.

By becoming a member, companies are given a way to provide a transparent set of accepted producer standards for the crops they are looking to purchase, educational opportunities for their suppliers such as GAP training in topics including crop, environmental, and labor management, and tools for themselves to help monitor and measure compliance. The GAP Connections’ Company Access System allows company users to login and view information about their suppliers’ compliance efforts in real-time from their computer or tablet and the GAP Connections’ Audits System provides third-party, on-farm assessments that measure supplier compliance.

In addition to purchasing companies and manufacturers, GAP Connections also offers memberships for associate organizations entrenched in the agricultural industry. These groups – like the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences (VDACS), the University of Kentucky (UK), TaplogicAgrian, and Agriculture Workforce Management Association, Inc. (AWMA) – are given an opportunity to participate in the development of good agricultural practices and various other stakeholder events. In order to improve the entire U.S. agriculture industry, input and expertise from associate organizations is highly valued and allows GAP Connections the ability to supply education, training and resources to farmers that support environmentally and socially sustainable agriculture. In recognition of their support, associate members receive mention at highly trafficked training events, in newsletters, resource materials and online at influential industry websites. Associate membership allows valued agricultural businesses and organizations a chance to be a part of a shared vision that benefits farmers, farm labor, the environment, communities and the rural economy.

GAP Connections cannot function without the support of both the purchasing companies and the organizations that are instrumental in agricultural processes. There are many standards and regulations that govern the farmers and streamlining these procedures and minimizing their cost is not possible without input from farmers, those who help farmers, and those who purchase crops. This united effort maximizes the rate of producer compliance, lowers the cost and eases the burden for companies by providing the reassurance of consistent quality to their consumers, stakeholders and regulators. All member companies as well as growers and associate members participate in setting the standards and procedures through their representative on the GAP Connections Board of Directors, thus helping to fill the figurative “gaps” of the agriculture industry. If you want to make a difference in agriculture, please contact GAP Connections today and find out how becoming a member can help play a role in creating a better agricultural industry.