Small Farms and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

The Washington Insider section of DTN reported today that, “In spite of their reputation for cold hearts, lawmakers and USDA regulators often show at least some signs of sensitivity. An example is lawmakers’ willingness to exclude the smallest farm operations from many of the FDA’s new requirements and rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act [FSMA].

“However, not everyone is happy with the initial approach. Some have suggested that recent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses have links to heavy reliance on local supplies. Retailers, restaurants and school districts, among others, are increasingly demanding that local products meet certain food-safety requirements, Food Safety News reports. As a result, USDA is using federal funds to help local producers comply. A new program costing nearly $5 million for food safety grants is the result.

“In addition to small and mid-sized farms, the grant program is intended to help beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers, food hubs and farmers’ markets.”

More specifically, a news release on this issue from USDA earlier this month stated that, “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 [FSMA].”

The USDA release added that, “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.”

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