NSAC's Blog

New Grants Help Farmers Navigate Food Safety Regulations

October 20, 2016

Photo courtesy of Iowa Food Hub.

Photo courtesy of Iowa Food Hub.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has just announced the grantee awards for its Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP). FSOP is a food safety training grant program authorized under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and is designed to help the most vulnerable farms and food businesses adjust to the new Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new food safety requirements.

FDA’s recent overhaul of the food safety system has meant that farmers are facing a variety of new, complex food safety requirements, many of which they may never have had to deal with before. FDA’s own analysis of the rules showed that for some farms the burdens and costs of compliance might even exceed revenues. There is a very real danger that those farmers – particularly small operations and beginning farmers – may choose to leave the marketplace or not enter it in the first place if food safety compliance is too complex or burdensome.

FSOP was created to bridge this gap by funding education, training, and technical assistance projects targeted toward vulnerable farm operators, including: small to mid-sized operations, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small fresh fruit wholesalers, food hubs, farmers markets, and small-scale processors.

FSOP has only had funding since fiscal year (FY) 2015, and in that year (USDA and FDA together) funded one National Coordination Center and four Regional Centers to support grantee recipients and coordinate future on-the-ground projects. Those on-the-ground projects were in turn funded this year. The four Regional Centers include the:

  1. Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety, located at the University of Vermont
  2. North Central Region Center for FSMA Training, Extension and Technical Assistance, located at Iowa State University
  3. Southern Center for Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance to Enhance Produce Safety, located at the University of Florida, and
  4. Western Regional Food Safety Center, located at Oregon State University.

Starting with this round of awards in FSOP funds will now directly target training projects. FY 2016 projects were required to fit into one of three categories:

  1. Pilot Projects: Grants for pilot projects are for those in the development or implementation phase, particularly for high-risk outreach programs in local communities. These projects target a specific audience and will customize their outreach and educational approach accordingly.
  2. Community Outreach Projects: Projects in this category are those that are already established, but will use the grants to enhance or expand offerings. These projects utilize additional funding to either scale up the number of producers they can reach, or to align with new FSMA requirements.
  3. Multistate Education and Training Projects: These projects function on a larger scale and support the development of in-state, state-wide and regional outreach and training initiatives. Ultimately, these projects will foster the ability to collaborate and combine resources among different areas for use by a more comprehensive audience, in addition to provide direct education and training to producers.

We are happy to announce that three NSAC members were awarded FSOP grants, each of which represents a different project category. We recognize that this a highly competitive pool, so we would like to offer particular congratulations to:

  • Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (Pilot): The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) was awarded $58,493 to engage in a training program on FSMA’sCurrent Good Manufacturing Processes, designed for small-scale producers producing low-risk foods for local and regional foods. While some training is already available for these types of producers, CFSA will provide customized assistance and education, while also helping producers avoid the time and costs required for the current training program. Training will cover education for prerequisite Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) programs and a hands-on GMP based course.
  • Community Alliance with Family Farmers (Community Outreach): Community Alliance with Family Farmers’ (CAFF) FSOP grant of $163,500 will help them to continue their ongoing efforts to provide food safety support for small, minority, disadvantaged, immigrant, and organic farmers in California. CAFF will use FSOP funding to expand their production of FSMA-related materials for workshop presentations, handouts, webinars, and on their web site; offer workshops in areas with limited presence; and create organic-specific education materials.
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association (Multistate Education and Training): Using their award of $522,348, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) will continue to engage in a collaborative project with their allies in Vermont and New York, ensuring that all organic producers in these states follow federal food safety regulations. Ultimately, this project will provide targeted education for organic producers in key areas like New York, which has the third highest number of organic farms in the country.

Categories: Food Safety, Grants and Programs

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