The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has 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 and Agriculture (NIFA), are designed to help these stakeholders comply with new food safety guidelines established by the Food and 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," said Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack. "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 the Food and Drug Administration (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 the FSMA.
In fiscal year 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, state-wide, or multi-state food safety education and outreach programs where there are common food safety concerns, but the states are not necessarily located within the same regions.
A webinar for potential applicants is scheduled for April 19, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. EST. Applications are due June 2. See the request for applications on the NIFA website for more information.
The Food Safety Outreach Program is just one example of the many USDA programs and services that support strong local and regional food systems. Across USDA, the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative coordinates the Department's policy, resources, and outreach efforts related to local and regional food systems. Over the past seven years, USDA has supported providing consumers a stronger connection to their food with more than $1 billion in investments to over 40,000 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects since between 2009. Industry data estimates that U.S. local food sales totaled at least $12 billion in 2014, up from $5 billion in 2008. More information on how USDA investments are connecting producers with consumers and expanding rural economic opportunities is available in Chapter IV of USDA Results on Medium.
Since 2009, NIFA has invested in and advanced innovative and transformative initiatives to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. To learn more about NIFA's impact on agricultural science, visit www.nifa.usda.gov/impacts, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @usda NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.