Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Friday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) intends to provide up to $200 million in assistance for specialty crop producers who incur eligible on-farm food safety program expenses to obtain or renew a food safety certification in calendar years 2022 or 2023.
USDA’s new Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) program will help offset costs for specialty crop producers to comply with regulatory requirements and market-driven food safety certification requirements.
Specialty crop operations can apply for assistance for eligible expenses related to a 2022 food safety certificate issued on or after June 21, 2022, beginning Monday, June 27. USDA is delivering FSCSC to provide critical assistance for specialty crop operations, with an emphasis on equity in program delivery while building on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions.
“The ongoing economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic have created substantial financial challenges for small and very small producers to meet regulatory requirements and access additional markets,” Vilsack said. “These challenges were particularly acute for specialty crop producers, many of whom needed to quickly and completely pivot their operations as demand shifted away from traditional markets, like restaurants and food service. As we build back better, our food systems must be both more inclusive and more competitive. By helping mitigate the costs of on-farm food safety certification, the FSCSC program will support fair, transparent food systems rooted in local and regional production and provide small-scale producers a real opportunity to bring home a greater share of the food dollar and help create jobs.”
FSCSC will assist specialty crop operations that incurred eligible on-farm food safety certification and related expenses related to obtaining or renewing a food safety certification in calendar years 2022 and 2023. For each year, FSCSC covers a percentage of the specialty crop operation’s cost of obtaining or renewing their certification, as well as a portion of their related expenses.
To be eligible for FSCSC, the applicant must be a specialty crop operation; meet the definition of a small business or very small business; and have paid eligible expenses related to the 2022 (issued on or after June 21, 2022) or 2023 certification.
Specialty crop operations may receive assistance for the following costs:
- Developing a food safety plan for first-time food safety certification.
- Maintaining or updating an existing food safety plan.
- Food safety certification.
- Certification upload fees.
- Microbiological testing for products, soil amendments and water.
FSCSC payments are calculated separately for each category of eligible costs. A higher payment rate has been set for socially disadvantaged, limited resource, beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers. Details about the payment rates and limitations can be found at farmers.gov/food-safety.
Applying for Assistance
The FSCSC application period for 2022 is June 27, 2022, through January 31, 2023, and the application period for 2023 will be announced at a later date. FSA will issue payments at the time of application approval for 2022 and after the application period ends for 2023. If calculated payments exceed the amount of available funding, payments will be prorated.