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USDA Releases New Voluntary Grades and Standards for Pecans

New guidelines are the first to be issued since 1969 and take into account industry feedback from American Pecan Council and National Pecan Sheller Association members, among others.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS) published new voluntary grades and standards for inshell and shelled pecans on the U.S. Federal Register. These new standards replace the current grades, revise scoring guides for defects, create new sizes, and offer revised definitions. Specifically, AMS has revised the standards for current grades with U.S. Extra Fancy, U.S. Fancy, U.S. Choice, and U.S. Standard grades. According to AMS, these changes now represent current industry descriptions and practices.

Throughout the process, industry stakeholders from across the pecan value chain provided feedback to AMS, which was incorporated into the recently proposed rule, including:

  • Expanding the quality grades for kernels,
  • Aligning terminology within the standards for pecans in the shell and shelled meats;
  • Updating the minimum percentages under tolerances and moisture content restriction language.

“We recognize USDA’s thorough efforts to obtain the pecan industry’s feedback during multiple public comment periods,” said Anne Warden, CEO of the American Pecan Council. “While voluntary, this new rule gives our industry the opportunity to have a complete grades and standards program that can help streamline how we communicate the quality of our pecans to customers and end-users.”

The updated standards go into effect on July 26, 2024, thirty days after their publication in the Federal Register.

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The American Pecan Council (APC) is a group of pecan growers and shellers whose life work is dedicated to growing, harvesting and processing America's native nut. Founded in 2016 through a Federal Marketing Order, the APC's mission is to promote the many benefits of the American Pecan and help tell the story of this truly unique nut. With oversight by the USDA, APC aims to build consumer demand, develop markets and establish industry standards. APC is based in Fort Worth, Texas, and funded by pecan handlers in 15 pecan-producing states. Learn more at The National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA), a non-profit trade association, supports and promotes the interests of pecan shellers and the global industry to assure the quality, safety and integrity of pecan products worldwide.