The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will co-manage the program with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a division of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The aim of the program is to offer small and medium-sized processors and farmers the training, education and technical assistance they need to comply with Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements.
“Priority will be given to those submitting grant applications to train owners and operators of small and medium-size farms; farmers just starting out in business; socially disadvantaged farmers; small food processors; small fruit and vegetable wholesalers; and farms that lack access to food safety training and other educational opportunities,” said an FDA spokesman.
Show them the money
Entities eligible to receive funding include: 1) a federal, state, or local agency, 2) state cooperative extension services, 3) non-profit community-based or non-governmental organizations, 4) institutions of higher education, 5) tribes and tribal stakeholders or 6) a collaboration between two of more of the aforementioned organizations.
"Education and technical assistance projects are an essential element in the FSMA implementation strategy," he added. "Such efforts will help ensure widespread voluntary compliance by encouraging greater understanding and adoption of established food safety standards, guidance, and protocols. They also facilitate the integration of these standards and guidance with a variety of agricultural production systems, encompassing conventional, sustainable, organic, and conservation and environmental practices."
Produce safety challenge
Furthermore, FDA officials said, "Meeting the technical assistance needs for produce safety will require an investment well beyond what is being announced today. This grant program underscores the commitment of both agencies to working with the grower community, Cooperative Extension Services (a nationwide education network), our state and tribal government partners, and institutions of higher education to more fully define the need and strategies for meeting it."
The FDA is beginning the process by issuing a request for applications to establish a National Coordination Center (NCC) for Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Program. Once funding is available, separate requests for applications for the establishment of Regional Centers will be forthcoming.