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Agricultural Marketing Service
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) administers programs that facilitate the efficient, fair marketing of U.S. agricultural products, including food, fiber, and specialty crops. AMS programs promote a strategic marketing perspective that adapts product and marketing practices and technologies to the issues of today and the challenges of tomorrow.

Agricultural product markets are increasingly international in scope, and USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service is a strong partner in enhancing the competitiveness of American agriculture. AMS roles include quality grading and certification for export marketing, reporting international market news and participation in trade-oriented international forums that develop international agricultural product standards.

Grading involves determining whether a product meets a set of quality standards. Certification ensures that contract specifications have been met--in other words, that the buyer receives the product in the condition and quantity described by the terms of the contract. AMS commodity graders frequently support other USDA agencies involved in export assistance, including the Farm Service Agency and the Foreign Agricultural Service.

U.S. companies often request certification services when exporting to a country that has specific import requirements. Certification services provided by AMS help avoid rejection of shipments or delay in delivery once the product reaches its foreign destination. Delays lead to product deterioration shipper losses, and, ultimately, affect the image of U.S. quality. AMS’ Quality Systems verification Program, a user-funded service for the meat industry, provides independent, third-party verification of a supplier's documented quality management system. The program was developed to promote world-class quality and to improve the international competitiveness of U.S. livestock and meat. AMS also certifies that all dairy products exported to the European Union (EU) meet the requirements of a trade agreement between the United States and the EU.

AMS provides laboratory testing for exporters of U.S. food commodities on a fee basis in keeping with sanitary and phytosanitary requirements of foreign countries. To date, this service has been requested by exporters of products destined for Japan, South Korea, and other Pacific Rim countries, South Africa, European Union member countries, and countries of the former Soviet Union. AMS also provides a seed testing service used by U.S. seed exporters. Seed analysis certificates containing test results have been issued for seed exported to more than 50 countries.

For selected fruits, vegetables, nuts (including peanuts), and specialty crops, the grading of imports is mandatory. For the most part, however, firms importing agricultural products into the United States use grading services voluntarily. AMS graders are also often asked to demonstrate commodity quality to foreign firms and governments.

In addition to export grading and certification services, AMS market news offices provide information on sales and prices of both imports and exports. Today, U.S. market participants can receive market information on livestock and meat from Venezuela, New Zealand, Japan, Poland, and other Pacific Rim markets, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand; poultry from Canada, Mexico, Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands; fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals from Argentina, Bulgaria, France, Canada, Chile, Columbia, the Caribbean Basin, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, and Spain; dairy products from Eastern and Western Europe and Oceania; and a host of products from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Russia.

AMS participates in a number of international forums that aim to facilitate world agricultural trade and avoid potential trade barriers. Technical assistance has been provided to countries in Eastern and Central Europe, and elsewhere around the globe, to improve their marketing systems. With improved transportation, distribution, and marketing information systems, these countries will become better customers for U.S. food and fiber products.

Whether at home or abroad, AMS strives to help U.S. agriculture market its abundant, high-quality products. And AMS will continue to work to help U.S. agriculture market its products in growing world markets, while assuring U.S. consumers an abundant supply of high-quality, wholesome food at reasonable prices.

Visit the Agricultural Marketing Service website at http://www.ams.usda.gov/ ( Agricultural Marketing Service website ) .

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