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Specialty crops can receive assistance with safety certification

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The USDA’s Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops program will assist specialty producers with expenses related to complying with regulations and food safety certification. Producers can apply for assistance beginning June 27, 2022, with costs incurred after June 21, 2022.

Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that up to $200 million in assistance will be available to specialty crop producers who experience costs associated with regulatory requirements in 2022 or 2023.


Small and Medium-Sized Specialty Farms Benefit

The new program aims to assist small and medium-sized producers, providing equity while preventing supply chain disruptions.

Challenges associated with food supply chain interruptions, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, have caused concern that diversification is needed. The food system currently relies heavily on extensive capacity operations that are consolidated in geographic areas. An opportunity to produce and distribute products locally will create employment and economic opportunities in rural communities. Additionally, local markets for products will allow consumers to purchase locally-produced products.

“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 additional access markets,” Vilsack said. “These challenges were particularly acute for specialty crop producers, who 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.”


Who is Eligible?

Higher payment rates are available to disadvantage, beginning, and veteran farmers and ranchers. The program will calculate payments separately for each category of cost.

To be eligible for FSCSC, applicants must fall under specialty crop operation, meet the definition for a small business, and have qualified expenses during 2022-2023 incurred after June 21, 2022.

Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, and floriculture.

The following costs may be covered:

  • Food safety plan development for first-time food safety certification
  • Maintaining or updating food safety plan
  • Food safety certification
  • Certification upload fees
  • Microbiological testing
  • Training

To apply, producers must complete an FSA-888, Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program application. Producers can visit this website for more information and forms.

>>Related: Response to USDA’s new food-system plan highlights policy divide

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