Food Safety Outreach Program

Funding outreach, education, and training to help farmers, processors, and wholesalers adapt to new food safety requirements

Training farmers and processors in food safety practices is a critical piece of ensuring a safe food supply. In 2010, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – the first major overhaul to our nation’s food safety laws since the 1930s.  Recognizing the importance of providing training – particularly for smaller, more vulnerable operations – as a part of cultivating a food safety system focused on prevention, Congress created a competitive grants program to help farmers and processors comply with new food safety requirements.

The Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP) funds outreach, education, training, and technical assistance projects that directly assist small and mid-sized farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and small-scale wholesalers. FSOP’s focus is to ensure that trainings are tailored to the diverse needs of these businesses and the production systems they use, particularly sustainable production systems, including organic and conservation practices.

Learn More About FSOP:

Program Basics

FSOP is a competitive grants program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Grants are intended to help community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, food hubs, farm cooperatives, extension, and other local groups create innovative outreach and training programs to help farmers and small food processors prepare for and adapt to new food safety requirements. Grant recipients are expected to coordinate their activities with four Regional Centers established to coordinate FSMA training activities across the country.

Each of the four Regional Centers is made up of a consortium of university partners, which are broken out along the same lines as the SARE regions. Current centers include:

The Regional Centers serve as resources for their regions, providing train-the-trainer opportunities, and working with state-based organizations to develop and provide appropriately tailored trainings at the local level.

In addition to funding the Regional Centers for FSMA Training, FSOP funding is available for two types of on-the-ground training projects: 1) Community Outreach Projects, and 2) Collaborative Education and Training Projects.

Community Outreach Projects support new and existing food safety education and outreach programs offered in local communities. These projects should enable existing programs to broaden their scope by reaching out to a larger number of participants, or to expand programs to reach new and broader audiences. Additionally, these projects may modify existing education and training curricula to ensure that they are consistent with new FSMA guidelines and that they meet the needs of expanded audiences.

Collaborative Education and Training Projects are focused on multi-county, state, or multi-state programs, including collaborations across regions. Applicants must have a history of working with target audiences including underserved and smaller producers and businesses. Projects should ensure the training touches on the new FSMA rules.

An additional source of funding is available for both types of projects listed above. A Collaborative Engagement Supplement can be used for outreach to communities of color. The Collaborative Engagement Supplement must include a partnership with an 1890, 1994, Insular Areas, Alaska Native, Hawaiian, and Hispanic Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities.

No match is required for this grant program.


The following groups and organizations are eligible to apply for funding from this program:

  • Community-based organizations
  • Non-governmental organizations
  • Cooperative Extension Services
  • Federal, state, local, or tribal agencies
  • Colleges and universities
  • Foundations maintained by an institution of higher education
  • A collaboration of two or more of the above groups

Organizations that have received previous FSOP grant awards are eligible to apply for a new FSOP grant once they have completed their current grant term.

The Program in Action

Since 2015, FSOP projects have made real, positive impacts in the lives of beginning, small-scale, and organic farmers looking for support in meeting FDA’s new expansive food safety regulations. To date, FSOP has invested nearly $20 million in developing and strengthening innovative food training programs and resources across the country. In total, FSOP has funded 4 regional food safety training centers and 75 on-the-ground projects in 37 states.

Select project highlights from some of NSAC’s members include:

  • Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) – ALBA received a $75,000 Pilot Project grant to fund its Latino Immigrant Farm-Owner Education (LIFE) food safety initiative. This comprehensive, bilingual food safety assistance program seeks to provide information, training and technical assistance to underserved farmers. The project also helps to facilitate Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) implementation.
  • Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) received a $163,500 Community Outreach Program grant to provide food safety support to minority, disadvantaged, immigrant, and organic farmers in California. CAFF was also awarded a $150,000 Community Outreach Project grant to continue their efforts providing food safety outreach and education for minority, disadvantaged, and organic farmers in California. CAFF will expand their program to provide annual food safety trainings, collaborate with partner farms, provide in-depth one-on-one technical assistance, and expand their library of resources in collaboration with the University of California Cooperative Extension.
  • La Montañita Food Cooperative, New Mexico was awarded $150,000 for a Community Outreach Project grant to help farmers in the four corners region achieve FSMA compliance through USDA Harmonized Good Agricultural Practices (H-GAP) certification.
  • The Wallace Center at Winrock International received $165,000 to support their ongoing efforts to improve market access for limited-resource, African-American grower cooperatives throughout the Mississippi Delta.

Read more about recent FSOP awardees:

How to Apply and Program Resources

NIFA typically releases a Request for Applications (RFA) once a year, usually in the spring. Organizations prepare applications and must submit them electronically by the required deadline through the online application portal. Applications are then reviewed by a panel of peer experts and evaluated for relevance, applicant experience, and overall impact of the project.

Interested applicants can find out more about program and application requirements, future RFAs, and how to apply for funding at USDA’s FSOP page.

NIFA also actively recruits farmers, community food advocates, and non-profit leaders to serve on the Peer Review Panels for NIFA grants. Contact the National Program Leader listed in the RFA for more details on serving on the panel, and find more information about being a grant reviewer by visiting the NSAC advocacy toolkit.

You can read more about FSOP and FSMA via the following NSAC resources:

Program History, Funding, and Farm Bill Changes

While established in 2010 with the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, FSOP did not get off the ground until 2015 when the program received its initial funding of $2.5 million – due in large part to the advocacy of NSAC and its member organizations. The first year of FSOP funding was used to develop a National Coordination Center and four Regional Centers for FSMA Training.

The International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI) ran the National Coordination Center for three years, and in this role, helped to coordinate the regional centers and serves as a liaison between FDA, the centers, and other training partners. In 2018, however, NIFA dissolved the National Center in favor of allowing one Regional Center to serve as a “Lead Regional Center”. Regional Centers reapply every three years; currently, the Southern Regional Center serves at the lead regional center. In subsequent years, FSOP refocused funding toward on-the-ground farmer training projects.

While FSOP is not authorized in the Farm Bill, the 2018 Farm Bill did make some significant changes to the program – including the repeal of the match requirements for non-land grant applicants. Previous grants required applicants (except for land-grant applicants) to secure a 100 percent match to awarded funds. In practice, however, the match requirement was waived most fiscal years because the purposes of this grant program align with the USDA National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board’s (NAREEEAB) national research priority on food safety. Following clarifications made in the farm bill, nonprofits and other non-land grant entities that apply for FSOP grants no longer have to worry about a match requirement.

The 2018 Farm Bill also repealed language that prohibited an entity from receiving more than three years of FSOP funds. NIFA previously allowed organizations that had already received three years of funds to list a new Principal Investigator on their application in order to avoid this limitation, but now previous awardees and Principal Investigators can now reapply for a new grant term even after receiving three years of prior support. The 2018 Farm Bill did, however, also limit FSOP grant terms to three years.

The 2018 farm bill also added veterans to the FSOP priority target audience of small to medium sized, historically underserved, and / or beginning farms and food businesses.

Thanks to NSAC’s successful advocacy since the program was created, FSOP has grown to an $8 million program as of Fiscal Year 2019, and includes a renewed focus on directly funding farmer-training projects.

Food Safety Outreach Program Funding

Fiscal Year Total Funding (in millions)
2015 2.5
2016 $5.0
2017 $5.0
2018 $7.0
2019 $8.0

For the most current information on program funding levels, please see NSAC’s Annual Appropriations Chart.

Authorizing Language

Section 7301 of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 amends Section 405(e)(3) of the Agricultural Research, Extension, And Education Reform Act of 1998, to be codified at 7 U.S.C. 7625.

Last updated in April 2019.