MACON, Ga. — On June 17, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA plans to provide up to $200 million in assistance for specialty crop producers who incur eligible on-farm food safety program expenses to obtain or renew a food safety certification in calendar years 2022 or 2023.
USDA’s new Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) program will help offset costs for specialty-crop producers to comply with regulatory requirements and market-driven food safety certification requirements.
For each year, FSCSC covers a percentage of the specialty crop operation’s cost 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 the 2022 (issued on or after June 21) or 2023 certification.
Specialty crop operations may receive assistance for the following costs:
• 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
FSCSC payments are calculated separately for each category of eligible costs. A higher payment rate has been set for socially disadvantaged, limited resource, beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers. Details about the payment rates and limitations can be found at www.farmers.gov/food-safety.
The FSCSC application period for 2022 runs through Jan. 31, 2023, and the application period for 2023 will be announced at a later date. FSA will issue payments at the time of application approval for 2022 and after the application period ends for 2023. If calculated payments exceed the amount of available funding, payments will be prorated.
Interested specialty crop producers can apply by completing the FSA-888, the FSCSC application. 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 www.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.
Producers can visit www.farmers.gov/food-safety for additional program details, eligibility information and forms needed to apply.
–Georgia Farm Bureau