The Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS) is a division of the United States Department of Agriculture and has programs in five commodity areas: cotton/tobacco; dairy; fruit/vegetables; livestock and seed; and poultry. These programs provide testing standardization, grading and market news services for those commodities, and oversee marketing agreements and orders, administer research and promotion programs, and purchase commodities for federal food programs. The AMS enforces certain federal laws such as the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act and the Federal Seed Act.
In December 2005, the agency’s Microbiological Data Program began monitoring cantaloupe, green onions, lettuce, tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts for three types of bacterial contamination. Now also there is a web site that the consumer can register with and log onto to find out if there are recalls on any type of product, agriculture related or not, that would have harmful properties if consumed.
The internal Science and Technology Program provides centralized scientific support to AMS programs including laboratory analyses, laboratory quality assurance, coordination of scientific research conducted by other agencies for AMS, and statistical and mathematical consulting services. In addition the Science and Technology Division’s Plant Variety Protection Office issues certificates of protection for new varieties of sexually reproduced plants. The program also conducts a program to collect and analyze data about pesticide residue levels in agricultural commodities. It also administers the Pesticide Recordkeeping program, which requires all certified private applicators of federally restricted-use pesticide to maintain records of all applications. The records will be put into a data base to help analyze agricultural pesticide use. On each individual’s operation, whether row cropping, cow-calf, chicken or fruit and vegetables — information keeping or record keeping is imperative. There is an old saying that garbage in is garbage out….if a complete record of everything that has been done to that “crop” is not readily available along with the receipts for the purchase of the product that was applied, then the producer can be involved in a lengthy process of proving what was actually done at that location. Thus an entire operation can be shut down until further notice. Sometime lengthy legal procedures can arise from this neglect as is illustrated by the legal battle the cantaloupe farmers faced when deaths occurred from the ingestion of their product.
AMS’s Transportation and Marketing Program supplies research and technical information regarding the nation’s food transportation system to producers, producer groups, shippers, exporters, rural communities, carriers, government agencies and universities. The program also administers a program involving financial grants to States for marketing improvements. In addition, the division assists in the planning and design of marketing facilities, processes, and methods in cooperation with state and local governments, universities, farmer groups, and other segments of the US food industry. This program is intended to enhance the overall effectiveness of the food marketing system, provide better quality products to the consumer at reasonable cost, improve market access for growers with farms of small to medium size, and promote regional economic development.
MARKET INFORMATION SYSTEMS
Market Information Systems (otherwise known as Marketing Intelligence Systems, Market Information Services or MIS, but not to be confused with Management Information Systems) are information systems used in gathering, analyzing and dissemination information about process and other information relevant to farmers, animal growers, traders, processors and others involved in handling agricultural products. Market Information Systems play an important role in agro-industrialization and food supply chains. With the advance of ICTs in developing countries, the income-generation opportunities offered by Market Information Systems have been sought by international development organizations.