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$5 Million Available for Farmer Food Safety Training Projects

April 27, 2017


Workers rinse and pack just-picked yellow squash on a processing trailer. Photo credit: USDA

With new federal food safety requirements recently finalized for produce farmers and food processors, there is a critical need for targeted food safety outreach, education, and training. In fact, when Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), it authorized the development of a brand-new competitive grants program specifically dedicated to providing the education and training farmers and producers needed to prepare for and adapt to the new requirements.

This program – the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP) – received first-time funding in fiscal year (FY) 2015, thanks in large part to the advocacy of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and our member organizations. The 2015 funding was used to develop a National Coordination Center and four Regional Centers for FSMA Training. Thanks to NSAC’s successful advocacy campaign, an 100% increase in FSOP funding was adopted for FY 2016, with a renewed focus on directly funding farmer training projects.

USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently released their third round of training grants, the FY 2017 FSOP Request for Applications (RFA). This year NIFA will provide nearly $5 million in funding for on-the-ground outreach and education programs with a focus on funding for local communities, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, food hubs, farm cooperatives, extension, and other local groups.

Applications for FSOP grants are due by June 6, 2017

According to the RFA, new FY 2017 projects should “focus on (though are not limited to) addressing knowledge and resource gaps for the target audience in the areas of pre- and post-harvest water testing and sampling, soil amendments, developing supply chain programs, and/or developing food safety plans.” NIFA also encourages projects that address bilingual and culturally sensitive training resources.

Successful applicants will be expected to report to and coordinate their activities with the Regional Centers for FSMA Training.

Funding is available for three types of projects:

  • Pilot Projects
  • Community Outreach Projects
  • Multistate Education and Training Projects

Pilot Projects

Awards of up to $50,000 will be made available for Pilot Projects. According to the RFA, pilot project awards will:

Support the development and implementation of new and potentially high-risk, high-impact food safety education and outreach programs in local communities that address the needs of small, specialized audiences from among the various target groups, including those with cultural or language barriers.

Project teams are encouraged to identify the specific training and education needs within their communities, and to then develop and implement food safety education and outreach programs that meet the very specific needs of those communities.

In other words, Pilot Projects will support the development and implementation of highly-customized food safety education and outreach programs where no current community programs for food safety education exist.

NIFA anticipates that:

Project Directors for Pilot Projects will have only a minimum amount of food safety education and expertise. Thus, where needed, Regional Centers will assist in providing support for Pilot Project teams by helping them identify and modify customized training curricula, by conducting train-the-trainer sessions, and by helping project teams develop mechanisms for reporting program outcomes.

Pilot Projects are evaluated based on how well they:

  • Identify and address the specific food safety education and training needs of various target audiences within local communities;
  • Develop and implement community-based, potentially high-impact food safety education and training programs that are consistent with FSMA guidelines; and
  • Address the needs of small, non-traditional, niche, or hard-to-reach audiences, including those with educational, cultural or language barriers. 

Community Outreach Projects

Awards of up to $150,000 will be made available for Community Outreach Projects that:

Support the growth and expansion of already-existing food safety education and outreach programs currently offered in local communities. These projects will enable existing programs to broaden their scope by reaching out to a larger number of participants, or to expand the programs to new and broader audiences.

In addition, these projects will enable existing education and training curricula to be modified to ensure that they are consistent with new FSMA guidelines and that they meet the needs of expanded audiences.

Community Outreach Projects are assessed based on how well they propose to meet the following objectives:

  • Identify and justify specific food safety education and training needs and other resources for various target audiences within local communities;
  • Support the growth and expansion of already-existing food safety education and training programs within communities, and ensure that they are consistent with new FSMA requirements; and
  • Leverage partnerships with non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, extension, food hubs, farm cooperatives and/or others who typically work with owners and operators of small and/or medium-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers.

Multistate Projects

Up to $400,000 per award will be made available to Multistate Education and Training Projects. Such projects will:

Support the development of multi-county, statewide, or multi-state food safety education and outreach programs. These projects will encourage collaborations among counties and states sharing common food safety concerns, even though they may not necessarily be located within the same region. These collaborating states may share very similar food safety issues, produce the same or similar types of commodities, or market their products to similar audiences. Potential applicants must be capable of developing and modifying food safety education and training curricula and other resources to meet new FSMA guidelines for a variety of agricultural production and processing systems.

Multistate Education and Training Projects are assessed based on how well they meet the following objectives:

  • Support the development of multi-county, state-wide, or multi-state food safety education and outreach programs and other resources that are consistent with the FSMA guidelines;
  • Encourage collaborations among counties and states sharing common food safety concerns, commodities, or production and processing practices; and
  • Leverage partnerships with non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, extension, food hubs, farm cooperatives and/or others who typically work with owners and operators of small and/or medium-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers.

Matching Requirement

Technically, non-governmental and community-based organizations that apply to FSOP are required to provide a 100% match (cash or in-kind) for the federal funding. However, NIFA is authorized to waive the match requirement for these entities because the activities proposed to be carried out under this RFA are consistent with the existing National Agricultural Research, Education, Extension and Economics Advisory Board (NAREEEAB) priority of food safety extension activities. Proposals just need to include a justification in their budget narrative for the waiver, which can simply state “we propose that NIFA grant us a waiver form the match requirement because it is consistent the NAREEEAB food safety priority.”

Peer Reviewers Needed!

If you will not be part of an application, but do have experience in farmer or small business food safety training and education efforts, consider submitting your qualifications to serve as a peer reviewer for this grant panel!

Interested panelists can send their resume to Jodi Williams, NIFA National Program Leader for Food Safety: jwilliams@nifa.usda.gov

Additional Resources

For additional application details and requirements, see the RFA.

NIFA is hosting a webinar on Thursday, May 18 at 11am EST to answer questions from potential applications.

Additional information is available via Grants.gov, or the NIFA FSOP webpage.

You can also learn more about FSOP through NSAC’s Grassroots Guide to the Farm Bill.


Categories: Food Safety, Grants and Programs


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