February 27, 2020
This is the first year small farms will be inspected if they fall under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule. Fortunately, there are a number of exceptional FSMA training programs that were recently funded by the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP) that will assist farmers trying to navigate the complex rules.
The United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) announcement of FSOP awards for fiscal year (FY) 2019 is several months late due to the relocation of the agency. This has caused a significant delay in the delivery of essential food safety trainings and programs at a critical time for farmers preparing for first-time inspections.
FSOP provides grant awards to organizations that provide food safety training and assistance primarily to small and mid-sized farms, beginning and historically underserved farmers, small processors, and small produce wholesalers. FSOP was first funded in FY 2015, thanks in part to advocacy by NSAC and our members. NSAC has continued to push for additional funds and program funding has increased from $2.5 million in FY 2015 to $8 million in FY 2020.
This year, two types of projects received funding:
NSAC would like to congratulate this year’s FSOP grant recipients, especially the four NSAC member organizations that received awards this cycle.
“CISA is very pleased to receive grant funding from the USDA’s Food Safety Outreach Program, which will allow us to provide in-depth support to farms on food safety practices, in partnership with UMass Extension and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ Produce Safety Team,” said Margaret Christie, Special Projects Director. “One focus of our work will be helping farms improve on-farm communication, especially across language and cultural divides, helping farms create a positive workplace while meeting food safety and productivity goals.”
“ALBA is excited to receive funding through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA’s Food Safety Outreach Program grant,” said Patricia Carrillo, Executive Director of ALBA. “This grant will enable us to expand our bilingual food safety program and provide services to ALBA graduates who are farming in the region. This is vital as there is an urgent need for Spanish language assistance for small farmers.”
“The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association is excited to have been awarded funding through the USDA’s Food Safety Outreach Program, which includes a Collaborative Engagement Supplement”, said Karen McSwain, the Associate Executive Director for Programs. “This funding will enable us to expand our technical assistance in order to provide equal opportunities for small-scale, limited-resource, historically underserved, and new and beginning farmers seeking access to the high-value markets for local foods in Carolina communities.”
“The National Young Farmers’ Coalition is grateful to USDA’s Food Safety Outreach Program for the opportunity to educate young farmers on reducing food safety risks to keep their customers and their businesses safe,” said Cara Fraver, Business Services Director. “We are very excited to conduct regional food safety tours, meeting farmers where they are, diving into the details of implementation, and creating spaces for farmers to learn from one another.”
The delay in the release of FSOP FY 2019 awards funds, some of which still have not been released due to the relocation of NIFA and subsequent high attrition rates, is concerning for farmers that need to receive this assistance and training before their first FSMA inspection. For FY 2021, appropriators should provide oversight of NIFA’s functions and services, including staff hires, training and publication of RFAs, and award management, especially for critical FSOP programs.
NSAC will also continue to advocate for an increase to FSOP from $8 million to $10 million for FY 2021 to ensure more farms are able to attend programs that promote food safety practices that support historically underserved farmers, and small, sustainable, and organic farm operations.