Food Safety Outreach Program

Important Update:

Please note that the Grassroots Guide has not yet been updated to reflect changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill, which was passed and signed into law in December 2018. We are in the process of updating the Guide and expect to publish an updated version in the spring of 2019. In the meantime, please use this guide for basic information about programs and important resources and links for more information, but check with USDA for any relevant program changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill. Also, check out our blog series covering highlights from the new farm bill. 

Funding outreach, education, and training to help farmers, processors, and wholesalers adapt to new food safety requirements.

Everyone has a role in ensuring safe food from field to fork: and training for farmers and food processors is a key piece of the food safety puzzle. In 2010, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – the first major overhaul to our nation’s food safety laws since the 1930s.  Recognizing the importance of training as a part of a food safety system focused on prevention – as well as the disproportionate impacts that food safety requirements would have on smaller, more vulnerable operations – Congress created a targeted competitive grants program to help farmers and processors comply with new food safety requirements.

The Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP) funds outreach, education, training, and technical assistance projects that directly assist small and mid-sized farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and small-scale wholesalers. FSOP’s focus is to ensure that trainings are tailored to the diverse needs of these businesses and the production systems they use, particularly sustainable production systems, including organic and conservation practices.

Learn More About FSOP!

Program Basics

FSOP is a competitive grants program administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Grants are intended to help community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, food hubs, farm cooperatives, extension, and other local groups create innovative outreach and training programs to help farmers and small food processors prepare for and adapt to new food safety requirements. Grant recipients are expected to coordinate their activities with the four Regional Centers for FSMA Training.

These grants technically require a 100 percent match in resources for non-land grant applicants. However, this match requirement can be waived because the purposes of this grant program align with the USDA National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board’s national research priority on food safety. This means that nonprofit organizations that apply for this grant can have the match requirement waived by stating in the budget justification section of their application that their proposed project aligns with the NAREEEAB food safety priority.

In addition to funding the Regional Centers for FSMA Training, FSOP funding is available for two types of projects:

  • Pilot Projects
  • Community Outreach Projects

Pilot Projects support the development and implementation of new 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.

Pilot Projects support the development and implementation of highly-customized food safety education and outreach programs where no current community programs for food safety education exist. Pilot project proposals only need to have a minimum amount of food safety education experience and expertise; the Regional Centers will provide technical support for these projects as necessary.

Community Outreach Projects 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.


The following groups and organizations are eligible to apply for funding from this program:

  • Cooperative Extension Services;
  • Community based organizations;
  • Non-governmental organizations;
  • Federal, state, local, or tribal agencies;
  • Colleges and Universities;
  • Foundations maintained by an institution of higher education; or
  • A collaboration of two or more of the above groups.

The Program in Action

FSOP received first-ever funding in fiscal year (FY) 2015. The first year of FSOP funding was used to develop a National Coordination Center and four Regional Centers for FSMA Training.

The International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI) received the grant award to serve as the National Coordination Center for FSMA Outreach, Education, Training, and Technical Assistance. The National Center coordinates the regional centers, and serves as a liaison between FDA, the centers, and other training partners. Starting in FY 2018, however, instead of funding a separate National Center, one of the Regional Centers will be identified as a Lead Regional Center to provide that coordination role.

Each of the four Regional Centers is made up of a consortium of University partners, broken out along the same lines as the SARE regions. Currently, Oregon State University heads the Western Regional Center, the University of Florida leads the Southern Regional Center, Iowa State University is the North Central Regional Center lead, and the University of Vermont heads the Northeast Regional Center. 

The Regional Centers serve as resources for their regions, providing train-the-trainer opportunities and working with state-based organizations to develop and provide appropriately tailored trainings at the local level. The FY 2018 RFA will renew funding for the Regional Centers, which could mean that the location of a Regional Center could change to being housed at a different university.

In subsequent years, FSOP funding move away from establishing the regional infrastructure for the program, and refocused on its priority of funding on-the-ground training projects.  In FY 2016 and FY 2017, funds were awarded in one of three categories: pilot projects, community outreach projects, and multistate education and training projects.  For FY 2018, NIFA will not fund Multi-State projects as in past years. Instead, it will renew funding for the four Regional Centers.

The follow NSAC members and allies have received FSOP grants:

    • Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) was awarded $58,493 for a pilot program to provide Current Good Manufacturing Practices training to small-scale producers, and $165,000 to support and expand their Local Produce Safety Initiative.
    • California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) received $120,000 to support long-term efforts to create a culture of informed food-safety decision-making, consistent compliance, and engender a more complete understanding of the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule amongst small, organic, and Spanish-only farm communities in California
    • Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) received $163,500 in FSOP grant funding for a community outreach program that gives food safety support to small, minority, disadvantaged, immigrant, and organic farmers in California.
    • The Northeast Organic Farm Association (NOFA-NY) was awarded $522,348 for a multi-state project in partnership with the Vermont NOFA chapter (NOFA-VT), which will go towards funding targeted food safety education for organic producers.
    • The Wallace Center at Winrock International received $165,000 to support their ongoing efforts to improve market access for limited-resource, African-American grower cooperatives throughout the Mississippi Delta.
  • Global Growers Network Inc. was awarded $305,944 for their Practical Tools for Food Safety on Small, Diversified Fruit & Vegetable Farms project, which aims to support small and mid-sized farmers in Georgia, and strengthen the supply chain in Georgia for sustainably produced fruits and vegetables for local distribution.
  • Family Farmed was awarded $84,277 for their On-Farm Food Safety Website Translation and Food Safety Training Expansion project, which will expand its already-existing On-farm Food Safety education and outreach programs to Spanish-speaking farmers, and train new presenters (including bilingual instructors) to reach more farmers.

In fiscal year (FY) 2018, NIFA will provide nearly $7 million dollars in total grant funding for training, outreach, and education programs. Successful applications will have a specific focus on local communities, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, food hubs, farm cooperatives, extension, and other local groups.

Applications for FY 2018 FSOP grants are due by 5pm Eastern Time on June 7th, 2018.

How to Apply and Program Resources

NIFA typically releases a Request for Applications (RFA) once a year in the spring. Organizations prepare applications and submit them by the required deadline to Applications are then reviewed by panel of peer experts and evaluated for relevance, applicant experience, and overall impact of the project.

Interested applicants can find out more about program and application requirements, future RFAs, and how to apply for funding at USDA’s FSOP page.

NIFA actively recruits farmers, community food advocates, and non-profit leaders to serve on the Peer Review Panels for NIFA grants. Contact the National Program Leader listed in the RFA for more details on serving on the panel, and find more information about being a grant reviewer by visiting the NSAC advocacy toolkit.

You can read more about FSOP here:

You can learn more about FSMA here:

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

In 2010, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – the first major overhaul to our nation’s food safety laws since the 1930s. Recognizing the importance of training as a part of a food safety system focused on prevention, Congress created a competitive grants program in FSMA, to be administered by USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture, to fund farmer and food processor training efforts.

FSOP first got off the ground in 2015, jointly funded by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the USDA. The first round of grants was used to establish a National Coordination Center and four Regional Centers for FSMA Training. These Centers are intended to provide the infrastructure to coordinate a nationwide outreach and education effort. Starting in 2018, the National Center funding will not be renewed. Rather, one of the Regional Centers will be designated a Lead Regional Center and will provide that national coordination function.

In 2016, the Request for Applications (RFA) refocused FSOP back to Congress’ initial intent of providing funds for on-the-ground outreach and education programs, with a focus on community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, food hubs, farm cooperatives, extension, and other local groups that work directly with the target audience.

FSOP received its first-time funding of $2.5 million in fiscal year (FY) 2015, due in large part to the advocacy of NSAC and its member organizations. For FY 2015, FDA roughly doubled the amount of money available through FSOP to help fund the establishment of the National and Regional Centers described above.

Thanks to NSAC’s successful advocacy campaign in 2015, FSOP received a 100% increase in funding for FY 2016 – to $5 million – with a renewed focus on directly funding farmer training projects.

In FY 2017, the program received level funding at $5 million, despite advocacy efforts to increase funding to $10 million.

In FY 2018 the program received an additional $2 million, increasing the total funding to $7 million, getting closer to our $10 million goal.

Food Safety Outreach Program Funding

Fiscal Year Total Funding (in millions)
2015 $2.5
2016 $5.0
2017 $5.0
2018 $7.0

For the most current information on program funding levels, please see NSAC’s Annual Appropriations Chart.

Last updated in May 2018.