USDA has announced a new program designed to ensure the quality of all peanuts marketed in the United States.

The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 requires USDA to make a number of changes in the 60-year-old peanut program, including the establishment of a new quality standards program.

USDA said the new program becomes effective Sept 10 under what it calls an interim rule procedure. But growers can comment on the program through Oct. 9 or 30 days after the rule was scheduled to be published in the Federal Register.

Under the new program, all shipments of peanuts intended for human consumption must be inspected to ensure that they meet U.S. standards of quality, including kernel size, defects, moisture levels and foreign material. Handling standards are established to ensure that all edible peanuts are inspected and meet requirements before being shipped.

All shipments of imported peanuts are subject to the same quality and handling requirements.

The quality and handling standards in the new program are similar to requirements currently in effect. The new program will permit a greater number of peanuts meeting applicable standards to be used for human consumption by providing shellers greater flexibility in sorting peanuts.

USDA said it consulted with industry leaders, including producers, shellers and manufacturers, in promulgating the new standards. However, USDA said it will accept additional comments on the program through Oct. 9.

Comments should be sent to: Docket Clerk, AMS Fruit and Vegetable Programs, USDA Stop 0237, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-0237; fax 202-720-8938; or e-mail moab.docketclerk@usda.gov.

Full details of the interim final rule will be published in the Sept. 9 Federal Register and also will be posted on the USDA website at: www.ams.usda.gov/fv/moab.html

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