The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds specialty crop farmers that assistance is available to help cover expenses of complying with regulatory and market-driven food safety certification requirements.
Applications for the Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) program for eligible 2022 costs are due by Tuesday, Jan. 31. The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept applications for 2023 costs from Feb. 1, 2023, to Jan. 31, 2024.
The FSA has made available up to $200 million through the FSCSC program. The FSCSC assists specialty crop farming operations that incurred eligible on-farm food safety certification and expenses related to obtaining or renewing a food safety certification in 2022 and 2023 for certifications issued on or after June 21, 2022.
“It’s providing assistance that helps cover the costs with the compliance portion and regulatory portion for the food safety certification requirements,” said Deborah Tannenbaum, Florida State Executive Director. “It’s critical assistance for our specialty crop operations.”
The FSCSC covers a percentage of the specialty crop operation’s eligible costs of obtaining or renewing their certification, as well as a portion of their related expenses.
Applicants must be a specialty crop operation; meet the definition of a small business or very small business; and have paid eligible expenses related to certification.
“In January, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration established requirements for the Food Safety and Modernization Act. As a result, the specialty crop operations had to extend resources and capital to comply with the new regulations requirements,” Tannenbaum said. “Also for compliance purposes, this is very market-driven as well. Depending on who the producer may have a contract with, they may require additional certifications. This (program) is meant to help offset those costs.”
Interested producers can apply by completing the application, FSA-888. It, along with other required documents, can be submitted to the FSA office at any USDA Service Center nationwide. Producers can also visit farmers.gov/service-locator to find their local FSA office. Farmers can also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to assist.