Jan 24, 2023
USDA to reimburse specialty crop food safety costs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds specialty crop producers of available assistance to help cover certain costs 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 Jan. 31. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept applications for 2023 costs from Feb. 1 to Jan. 31, 2024.

FSA is making available up to $200 million through the FSCSC program, which is part of USDA’s broader effort to transform the food system to create a more level playing field for small-scale agricultural operations and a more balanced, equitable economy for everyone working in food and agriculture, according to a news release.

USDA logoUSDA first announced and opened the program for signup in 2022, delivering critical assistance for specialty crop operations. The program included an emphasis on equity in program delivery while building on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions, according to the release.

“Specialty crops growers experienced many challenges meeting regulatory requirements and accessing additional markets due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Zach Ducheneaux, FSA’s administrator, said in the release. “Many of these producers had to pivot quickly as demand shifted away from traditional markets, like restaurants and foodservice, and many continue to feel the impacts of those abrupt changes.

“By helping mitigate the costs of on-farm food safety certification, the FSCS program will help create new markets and opportunities for small-scale producers. In turn, these producers will have another tool to leverage as they work to become more nimble and more resilient in the face of unforeseen challenges, serve their local and regional economies, and support fairer and more transparent markets.”

FSCSC assists specialty crop operations that incurred eligible on-farm food safety certification and expenses related to obtaining or renewing a food safety certification in calendar years 2022 and 2023 for certifications issued on or after June 21, 2022. For each year, 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.

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 certification, according to the release.

Specialty crop operations may receive assistance for 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 and training

FSA calculates FSCSC payments for each category of eligible costs. FSA set a higher payment rate for underserved farmers and ranchers, which includes socially disadvantaged, limited resource and beginning and veteran producers who have a CCC-860 on file with FSA.

Interested specialty crop producers can apply by completing the application, FSA-888. The application, along with other required documents, can be submitted to the FSA office at any USDA Service Center nationwide by mail, fax, hand delivery or via electronic means. Producers can visit farmers.gov/service-locator to find their local FSA office. Specialty crop producers can also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to assist.




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