USDA Grants Establish Regional Centers for Food Safety Training, Outreach and Technical Assistance

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced more than $2 million in grants to establish two regional centers supporting comprehensive food safety training and education, pursuant to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). These centers will play a leading role in coordinating and implementing FSMA-related training, education, and outreach programs for small and medium sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and/or small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers. 

“USDA is committed to ensuring that farmers, food processors and wholesalers receive relevant training and assistance as they work to comply with new rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “These newly established centers, along with the centers created by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will help producers and businesses across the country safely add value to agricultural products and expand their access to local, regional, and national markets.”

The National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Grant Program funds regional centers that facilitate work across their regions to increase the understanding and adoption of established food safety standards, guidance, and protocols. The training and education funded through this program should address a variety of agricultural production and processing systems, including conventional, sustainable, organic, and conservation and environmental practices.

This collaborative program with FDA includes one national coordination center and four regional centers. The FDA-funded national coordination center will coordinate the overall program, while the regional centers will reach out into local communities to work with FSMA audiences and stakeholders across the country. Regional centers will also coordinate with one another through the national coordination center. NIFA and FDA are each funding two regional centers. NIFA grants include:
  • The University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., will receive $1,197,751 to establish the Southern Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Produce Safety. The center will support FSMA compliant training, education, extension, outreach, and technical assistance related to the produce industry in the Southern Region. The center will partner with a variety of entities, including state and local governments, land-grant universities within the southern region, community-based organizations, and non-governmental organizations. The center will develop a cadre of trainers within the South focused on supporting FSMA compliance in the produce industry. It will also develop and deliver regional and stakeholder-specific education, training curricula, and technical assistance programs, and assess the impact of the training and technical assistance programs on the various target audiences. 
  • Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., will receive $1,197,606 to establish the Western Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Food Safety. This project will develop trainers to deliver FSMA compliant training workshops targeted towards small- and medium-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers affected by the FSMA guidelines. It will also deliver regional and stakeholder training and assistance programs and assess the impact of these programs. The university will partner with state and local governments, other western region universities, and community-based and non-government organizations.
 FDA announced in September it awarded the National Coordination Center grant to the International Food Protection Training Institute, in Battle Creek, Michigan.
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