Farmers in the United States are raising a high-value crop, but the world is buying it at commodity prices. A new program – U.S. Identity Preserved – wants to change that. Created by the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance, the quality assurance program represents an advancement in food traceability. The new program was announced Dec. 2, at a special event in Minneapolis, Minn., including the unveiling of the logo that signifies products marketed with the program.
"We want to help the buyer understand why premium crops are worth paying for," says Eric Wenberg, executive director, SSGA. "This is an education and promotion system to reach new buyers with fork to farm traceability."
Wenberg says the new program will help U.S. producers access more foreign markets and with the use of US Identity Preserved farmers can take part in this value-added market. "And I said fork to farm, though in identity preserved systems it's usually the other way around," he explains. "We say fork to farm because identity preservation is the means by which the consumer can tell the grower what they want, and it can be delivered through the value chain as ordered."
Rob Prather, chief strategic ambassador, Global Processing, Inc., a Monticello, Ill., processor, explains that U.S. Identity Preserved will add value. "We process, package and ship identity preserved product in containers around the world from Iowa," he says. "The significance of this mark shows that we as a company stand behind what we've done and what we're doing. The consumer has input in this and we will give the customer what they want, not what we have."
Busting out of the "commodity" business into identity preserved markets has long been a goal of farm organizations. Wenberg told Farm Progress that in today's market where margins are under significant pressure, broadening demand for specialty grains and identity preserved business can offer better prices. "This market is under tremendous margin pressure, but this approach can add value," he says. "U.S. Identity Preserved will help U.S. processor and exports broaden access and open more foreign markets, as well as better compete in the international market."
US Identity Preserved provides certification of the product for the customer, it's a system that processors can tap for supply of high-value products to meet customer needs. In addition, the end customer can access information through the value chain with the system.
Business for the future
The idea of an identity preserved system is about booking business for the future. The buyer is working to meet a specific consumer demand, and through identity preservation they essentially order today crops they'll need in the future. Crops that meet specific consumer requirements.
There's growing consumer and retail demand for increased understanding of how and from where food is produced, making traceability increasingly important. Growers participating in the program must follow rigorous specifications throughout the production process – preplanting through harvest, storage, processing, and distribution. This includes taking great care to avoid cross contamination, adhering to field verifications and program audits, chain of custody verification, proper labeling, product identification and other checks and assurances.
By making that investment in the crop, and meeting the needs of buyers, the farmer is paid a premium for the finished crop, and that premium is guaranteed in the final price before the crop goes into the ground.
Add Wenberg: "The value U.S. Identity Preserved processers offer comes through the strict protocols and safety measures that ensure the quality, consistency and security of their products throughout the value chain. Identity preserved products demand a premium because of the close attention IP farmers, processors and shippers pay to quality requirements and safety and the commitment to fulfill the needs of their customers."
Information on the new program is available at usidentitypreserved.org where farmers and potential buyers can learn more about the system.