NSAC's Blog

Food Safety Outreach Program to Provide Additional Trainings in 2020

February 27, 2020

Young lettuce seedlings in field. Photo Credit: Lindsey Scalera

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.

Program Overview

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.

FY 2019 Award Types

This year, two types of projects received funding:

  • Community Outreach Projects – support food safety programs for hard to reach and underserved communities.
  • Collaborative Education and Training Projects –  establish multi-county, state-wide, or multi-state food safety programs for areas that have similar food safety concerns. 

Spotlight on FY 2019 Grantees

NSAC would like to congratulate this year’s FSOP grant recipients, especially the four NSAC member organizations that received awards this cycle.

  • Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), Massachusetts – CISA’s $150,000 FSOP grant will provide farms in their region with targeted, individualized support in meeting FSMA guidelines. It will focus on small farms that sell at least 50% of their products direct to consumers; farms and aggregators doing light processing or producing value-added products; and farms that must comply with Produce Safety Rule standards and require sustained, individualized support to enable them to initiate or complete the process. The project will also help farms provide food safety support and training for farm employees, especially those with limited English or low literacy skills.

“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.”

  • Agriculture & Land Based Training Association (ALBA), California – The Latino Immigrant Farmers Trained in Organic Farm Food Safety (LIFT OFFS) project will address Spanish-speaking organic farmers’ urgent call for assistance in meeting FSMA requirements. The project will provide hands-on food safety training and technical assistance to 120 beginning, Latino-owned organic berry and vegetable farms on the Central Coast. Another 180 farmworkers, students and food safety professionals will build knowledge and skills through the project. The expansion of services to new groups both at ALBA and around the region is made possible through collaboration with longstanding partners including Hartnell College and Community Alliance with Family Farms (CAFF). The Food Safety Outreach Program grant could not have come at a better time as start-up farms in the ALBA program and alumni farming in the region are under pressure from USDA, certification bodies and buyers to comply to new regulations. The burden of compliance falls especially hard on those with limited resources and language skills, whom FSOP will enable ALBA to reach.

“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.”

  • Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA), North Carolina – CFSA’s Local Produce Safety Initiative provides research-based, practical, and approachable food safety education, training, and outreach programs to small-scale, limited-resource, and new and beginning produce growers serving markets for local foods in communities across North and South Carolina. With support from the USDA’s Food Safety Outreach Program, CFSA will modify our existing curriculum and training material and develop technical fact sheets and resources that specifically meets the needs of small scale, historically underserved farmers, and provide 450 producers with food safety education, including assistance developing a farm level food safety plan.

“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.”

  • National Young Farmers’ Coalition (Young Farmers), New York –Young Farmers received a $399,994 grant to conduct 12 Produce Safety Spring Training Tours, providing PSA trainings, shorter specific workshops on food safety topics geared toward the audience’s needs, and guided on-farm risk assessments. Additionally, this grant will allow Young Farmers to create an interactive, online food safety plan writing course with integrated plan feedback.

“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.”

More Oversight, Funds Needed

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.  

Categories: Food Safety, Grants and Programs, Research, Education & Extension

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