The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which started a fresh-cut apple purchase program this year, seems poised to add baby peeled carrots.

USDA officials were set to visit California in early May to visit with carrot industry shippers.

“A pilot purchase of baby carrots may also occur in the coming school year,” said Jimmie Turner, spokesman for the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

USDA considers adding carrots to school fresh-cut program

DiSogra

He confirmed that AMS representatives were to meet with carrot suppliers to discuss requirements and the process for a possible pilot purchase.

Based on the results of the apple program, industry representatives have high hopes for the carrot purchases.

Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said the recent USDA purchase of sliced apples appears to have gone well.

Turner believes the fresh-cut apples were received well.

“If the pilot is successful — which we’re confident it will be — we intend to initiate another fresh-cut apple purchase for the 2009-10 school year, Turner said.

DiSogra said United Fresh would like to see USDA set some tangible benchmarks for fresh purchases for federal feeding programs.

“I’m very thrilled we got the sliced apple program started, but what is their plan to expand it for the next contract, to how many states?” she said. “We are looking for them to have some sort of a concrete plan, but we’re not there yet.”

Of the $473 million in USDA fruit and vegetable purchases in fiscal year 2008, fresh fruits and vegetables accounted for 3.4% of the total, according to figures compiled by United Fresh. That compares with 55% for canned 20% for frozen and 14% for juice.