U.S – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced an investment of US$10 million for 21 grants to device and execute food safety and Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)-related training, education, extension outreach and technical assistance for food processors and farmers with small to mid-size operations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 48 million people in the US get sick from foodborne illness each year.  The NIFA Director, Dr. Carrie Castille stated that education and outreach are essential for ensuring the food supply is safe from the field to the table.

She explicated that NIFA’s integrated approach to enhancing food safety practices includes multi-state coordination, community outreach and collaborative projects that enable small farm operators, wholesalers and small-scale processors to get the support they need.

“This program helps deliver critical trainings and resources that equip our small business owners with tools to provide safe, high-quality food, strengthen their businesses and contribute to national nutrition security,” said Castille.

Additional communities buoyed through this Food Safety Outreach Competitive Grant Program (FSOP) include beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, veteran farmers and ranchers, and small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers.

The NIFA Awards are made under three categories, Multistate Education and Training Projects, Community Outreach Projects and Collaborative Engagement Supplements. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, NIFA made 13 Collaborative Education and Training Project awards, four Community Outreach Project awards and four Regional Center awards.

Winning FSOP 2021 projects

Examples of the 21 funded FSOP grants include The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), passed into law in 2011 with food codes that protect communities from foodborne illness which largely focuses on training for large farmers and ranchers with commercial operations.

Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Council, Inc., will use the US$300,000 to modify the FSMA training curriculum for Tribal growers, producers, and traditional harvesters so that they will increase their knowledge on safe handling of produce and traditional and wild foods.

Another project is Auburn University’s project, “Building a Food Safety Training Program to Empower Disadvantaged Producers in Alabama – Empowering Farmers Project,” which will develop a food safety training program to empower limited-resource, minority farmers in the Black Belt region of Alabama.

These small farmers have access to the fertile black belt soil, yet they lack access and adequate information to reap the full benefits of this resource hence will benefit from the US$300,000 grant.

Further, the Oregon State University’s project, “Western Regional Center to Enhance Food Safety,” will continue to foster collaboration in food safety education and stakeholder support of FSMA implementation after being furnished with US$793,592.

Leveraging  a multi-institutional infrastructure already established across the U.S. Western Region, this initiative will expand the education network to include additional participants from Land-grant Universities, Alaska Native-serving, Native Hawaiian-serving, and Hispanic-serving Agricultural Institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations from 13 western states and two Pacific territories.

NIFA supports initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture and applies an integrated approach to ensure that groundbreaking discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach the people who can put them into practice. In FY2020, NIFA’s total investment was US$1.95 billion.

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