NSAC's Blog

$3 Million Available in New Specialty Crop Multi-State Program – Food Safety Highlighted

September 8, 2015

Federal grant funding totaling $3 million in funding is now available through the new Specialty Crop Multi-State Program (SCMP). The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a press release on Friday, September 4, 2015 and a Request for Application this week. The SCMP will provide funds to State departments of agriculture on a competitive basis to make awards to collaborative, multi-state projects that address one of the following regional or national level specialty crop issues:

  • Food safety
  • Plant pests and disease
  • Research
  • Crop-specific projects addressing common issues
  • Marketing and promotion

AMS will give priority to proposals where the main project activities fall under the following project types: food safety; plant pests and disease; and research.

In particular, USDA is encouraging proposals that will:

  • Improve producer and facility capacity to comply with the requirements of Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA);
  • Develop adaptation and mitigation strategies for farmers in drought-stricken regions of the country;
  • Increase opportunities for new and beginning farmers;
  • Develop strong local and regional food systems;
  • Protect pollinator habitats and improve pollinator health;
  • Support the growth of organic specialty crops; and
  • Benefit underserved communities and veterans;

Of those proposal categories, only the the first one – projects dealing with FSMA training and education – will receive priority ranking points in the grant review and evaluation process.

Logistical Details

Administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), SCMP is aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.  The funding amount available consists of $1 million which had not been awarded in FY 2014 plus an additional $2 million allocated for FY 2015. Funds not awarded will be rolled over into the next fiscal year. The minimum award is $250,000 and the maximum award is $1,000,000. Cost share or match (cash or in-kind) is encouraged but not required.

A SCMP project must involves at least two partners located in different states. Project partners can include, but are not limited to: State departments of agriculture, State agencies, tribal governments, land grant or State universities or colleges, specialty crop producer organizations, non-profit organizations, and community-based organizations.

While the multistate projects can be broad partnerships of NGOs, colleges and universities, and agencies, the only entities eligible to submit SCMP proposals are “Participating State departments of agriculture” in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

State departments of agriculture must notify USDA by September 30, 2015, if they would like to be designated as a Participating State department of agriculture who will help administer SCMP projects, such as handling inquiries from the public, developing internal procedures to screen applications for eligibility under the RFA, and accepting administrative responsibility for those applications ultimately selected for funding.

A Participating State department of agriculture that develops its own proposal can submit it directly to AMS along with other proposals determined to meet the RFA requirements. Non-participating State departments of agriculture must submit their proposals to a Participating State department of agriculture, which will submit the proposal to AMS if it meets the RFA requirements. An entity other than a State department of agriculture may develop a SCMP proposal, but only a Participating State department of agriculture may submit the proposal to AMS.

SCMP applications must be submitted by the participating state department of agriculture to USDA via www.grants.gov by January 14, 2016.

SCMP and Food Safety Training and Outreach

Created in the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill), the SCMP has been highly anticipated to include food safety among the areas to be funded, and for its potential to help farmers and local and regional food processors develop and follow food safety practices that will comply with the regulations the Food and Drug Administration will soon be releasing under FSMA. Because the only source of dedicated funding for food safety training, education, and outreach — the  Food Safety Outreach Program — is currently in the early stages of establishing infrastructure to coordinate food safety training grants through national and regional centers, the SCMP can serve as a critical and more immediate source of funding for projects serving the food safety training and outreach needs of producers and local and regional food processors.

Among the types of projects that may be funded by SCMP are those that:

  • Improve detection, monitoring, control, and response to potential food safety hazards in the production, processing, and handling of specialty crops;
  • Develop procedures and mechanisms and provide assistance/education in implementing Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), or Good Handling Practices (GHP) on a national or regional level;
  • Conduct research focused on issues (such as die-off rates/survival rates of pathogens) related to (1) water quality; or (2) use of biological soil amendments of animal origin, on similar agro-ecological regions or localities;
  • Apply new or improved food processing technologies to prevent and reduce foodborne pathogen loads in specialty crops;
  • Strengthen national and regional traceback systems; promote an outbreak response system that shortens the time between outbreak detection, resolution, and recovery; and improve methods for communicating with consumers about traceback and foodborne illness outbreaks; and/or
  • Improve national support and coordination of food safety programs by conducting national and regional conferences, building collaborative networks, and exchanging information about integrated food safety.

In November 2014, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) submitted comments in response to an AMS call for public comments on the SCMP RFA. AMS provides a summary of all comments submitted in the fall 2014 in the current RFA, along with their response.

AMS did not adopt NSAC’s recommendations to dedicate at least half of the funding available to food safety training and outreach, nor to provide priority points for projects that target small and mid-sized family farms, or that focus on assistance to beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers. The RFA also does not require partnerships between states and non-governmental and community-based organizations as NSAC had recommended. We are disappointed these recommendations to focus attention on farms and other businesses most vulnerable to the impacts of the new food safety requirements. We are glad, however, that food safety projects are accorded additional priority ranking points.

We are also pleased to see the adoption of other NSAC recommendations, including allowing projects to:

  • Conduct training in the field (and not solely training restricted to the classroom);
  • Utilize both Produce Safety Alliance and other FDA-recognized training and resources for producers and/or processor training or education; and
  • Provide for translation or interpretation services for farmers with limited English proficiency to achieve project goals.

For More Information

More information on SCMP is available on the SCMP website: www.ams.usda.gov/scmp or by contacting Janise Zygmont by email: Janise.Zygmont@ams.usda.gov or phone: (202) 720-5024.

AMS will hold a teleconference on Sept. 16, 2015, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time to discuss the RFA and take questions.  Call in number: 1-888-844-9904; Access Code:  1589536

Opportunity to Comment on the RFA

AMS seeks public comments on the SCMP RFA. Written stakeholder comments on the current RFA (to help inform the next RFA) are due by January 14, 2016, to: Janise Zygmont, Specialty Crop Multi-State Program, Grants Division, Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, STOP 0267; 1400 Independence Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20250-0267; or via e-mail to: janise.zygmont@ams.usda.gov.

Categories: Farm Bill, Food Safety, Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems

One response to “$3 Million Available in New Specialty Crop Multi-State Program – Food Safety Highlighted”

  1. leopoldo guevara rubiano says:

    thank you very much for the information, I believe please consider that from Colombia can participate in this great program, we have land, water, labor scattered peasant labor, indigenous groups, heads of households and most importantly we can produce all year , I thank you in advance to be indicated as part of sustainable global food and a warm hug greeting sustainable bio region president.
    Movil +57 317 623 16 51
    – +57 311 836 51 11
    Skype: lguevarar