Many small and mid-size farm operators compete successfully in today’s agricultural marketplace by supplying specialty farm products. Growing numbers of consumers and commercial buyers are interested in purchasing farm products with specific qualities. These customer preferences may be as simple as a request for a specific volume of product, such as requiring a 20-metric-ton container of grain rather than a 40,000-metricton bulk vessel—the typical size of an overseas grain shipment—or it may be as complex as a set of specific practices for growing, processing, packaging, and merchandising a farm item, as is the case with organically labeled farm products.
To properly maintain the integrity of niche farm products throughout the supply chain and to meet customers’ exacting standards, suppliers of such products must use specialized sorting, handling, shipping, and transportation methods. This document provides small and mid-sized agricultural producers and processors with an overview of the special logistical requirements that highly differentiated farm products require. It gives examples of the logistical requirements for handling and shipping three different niche farm products—food-grade soybeans destined for the Japanese export market, organic potatoes destined for the domestic market, and GMO-free dehydrated potatoes destined for the Asian export market.