The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of $4.7 million in grants for food safety education, training and technical assistance projects that address the needs of owners and operators of small to mid-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers, food hubs, farmers markets and others.
The grants, offered through the Food Safety Outreach Program and administered by USDA's National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA), are designed to help these stakeholders comply with new food safety guidelines established by the Food & Drug Administration under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
"As growing demand for local food creates new economic opportunities for small farms, beginning farmers and others, we are committed to ensuring that all types of farmers and businesses have the tools they need to be successful," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "By supporting projects that offer tailored training, education and technical assistance for producers and processors of local food, these grants will benefit producers, the entire food supply chain and consumers."
In fiscal year 2015, NIFA and FDA funded an infrastructure of national and regional centers to extend food safety education, training and technical assistance to specific audiences affected by new guidelines established under FSMA. In fiscal 2016, the Food Safety Outreach Program at NIFA will build upon this established national infrastructure by focusing on the delivery of customized training for owners and operators of small farms, food processors, small fruit and vegetable wholesalers, food hubs, farmers markets, terminal markets and farms that lack access to food safety training and other educational opportunities.
This year, NIFA will fund three types of projects to help producers comply with FSMA. Pilot projects will support the development and implementation of new and potentially high-risk, high-impact food safety education and outreach programs in local communities that address the needs of small, specialized audiences from among the various target groups. Community outreach projects will focus on the growth and expansion of already-existing food safety education and outreach programs that are currently offered in local communities. Multistate education and training projects will support the development and implementation of multi-county, statewide or multistate food safety education and outreach programs where there are common food safety concerns, but the states are not necessarily located within the same regions.