May 19, 2015
On Monday, May 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released a request for applications (RFA) to establish Regional Centers for food safety training, education, outreach, extension, and technical assistance. These centers will work in tandem with the yet-to-be-named National Coordination Center as part of a joint effort between NIFA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to carry out the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) provision authorizing a new competitive grants program to fund food safety training, education, outreach, extension, and technical assistance projects targeted toward helping small and mid-sized farms and small food enterprises come into compliance with new FSMA requirements.
This new program is intended to take an integrated approach to food safety training, and targets the entities most vulnerable to the new food safety requirements; namely, small and mid-sized farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and small fruit and vegetable wholesalers. FSMA requires that projects funded through this program work for diverse production systems – including sustainable, organic, and conservation-based systems – with an emphasis on projects that address the co-management of food safety, conservation, and environmental health.
NIFA and the FDA are jointly funding the establishment of four Regional Centers (RCs), which will follow the same Northeast, North Central, Southern, and Western delineations as the SARE and other NIFA programs. NIFA has $2.3 million available through this RFA to fund the Southern and Western RCs.
FDA’s funding announcement will follow in the coming weeks, and will fund the Northeast and North Central RCs. The RFA and funding amounts in the FDA announcement are expected to be identical, and the overall program will be jointly managed by the two agencies.
Entities eligible to submit applications include:
RCs are expected to:
The RCs are encouraged to support training at the local and regional level through subcontracts or other resource-sharing partnerships with regional and local entities to carry out food safety outreach, education, and training programs. Per the RFA, “the intention of this program is to begin building an infrastructure that will support a national food safety training, education, outreach, and technical assistance system and provide significant opportunities for funding through subcontracts and for partnerships with eligible stakeholder groups, including [CBOs and NGOs].”
Accordingly, RC Project Teams must include and actively engage NGOs and CBOs in the RC plans and activities; these must be significant partnerships, demonstrated by, for example, the subcontracting of funds to carry out the development of educational materials and the implementation of training programs. In fact, eligible projects will “provide significant funding opportunities through subcontracts to or partnerships with eligible stakeholders that work directly with the target audience.”
NSAC strongly supports this requirement, which is essential to ensuring that farmers and small food businesses receive appropriately-tailored information and training to help them comply with new food safety rules from trusted, local sources.
This RFA marks just the beginning of the critical public investment in food safety outreach, education, and training for farmers and food entrepreneurs. Subsequent investments, like the $5 million request in the President’s FY 2016 budget, must be sustained and grow to ensure that farmers and food businesses have the tools and resources they need to prepare for and adapt to the new FSMA landscape.
Consistent with the explicit directions from Congress in the FSMA authorization for this program, it is our hope that beginning in FY 2016, with the basic infrastructure established, USDA and FDA will administer the training program as a competitively awarded grant program funding training projects at the local, state, and regional level.
Applications for the Southern and Western Regional Centers must be submitted by June 29 via Grants.gov.
You can also download the RFA here (PDF).