The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) intends to make up to $200 million in assistance available to specialty crop producers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans to provide funding support for certain on-farm food safety expenses. USDA’s new Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) program will assist operations with food safety certification and related expenses in calendar years 2022 and 2023. The 2022 application period will begin on June 27 and will run through January 31, 2023. The application period for 2023 will be announced at a later date.
“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 in a press release. “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.”
To be eligible for the program, applicants must be specialty crop producers, meet the definition of a small business or very small business, and have paid eligible expenses related to certification. Eligible expenses include the development of a food safety plan for initial certification, as well as maintaining or updating existing plans. Food safety certification and upload fees are also eligible expenses. FSCSC will also cover training, along with microbiological testing for products, soil amendments and water.
Payments to be issued through FSCSC will be calculated separately based on the category of eligible costs. A higher payment rate has been established for socially disadvantaged, limited resource, beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers. Payments will be prorated if the calculated payments exceed the amount of available funding.