Oregon State University’s (OSU) Western Regional Food Safety Training Center has just received funding that will allow partnership with Colorado State University (CSU) and five other land-grant universities in the Rocky Mountain region.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the birth of the training center--a $1.2 million investment. Its purpose will be to help “small and midsized farms and food processors in 13 Western states prevent foodborne illnesses”.

A sub-regional team of researchers from Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming has formed to coordinate trainings in their respective states and developing region-specific food safety materials that address specific local food production challenges. CSU will serve as the lead institution for the sub-region.

In a statement, CSU says this project is particularly important because “the final rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will create a need for food safety training for agricultural producers and processors to understand and meet the requirements.”

“Small farms and food processors have limited technical and financial means to comply with FSMA rules, unlike large farming operations and food manufacturers,” says Robert McGorrin, the training center’s lead director and head of OSU’s Food Science and Technology Department. “This center will provide a large number of trainers across the region with the technical assistance to help them comply with the new rules.”

Planned trainings will be customized to fit a specific crop whether it’s hazelnuts, tree fruits, potatoes or onions since small and medium-scale farms have unique needs in terms of production, harvesting and processing.

Over the next 3 years, training opportunities will be available to participants from all 13 states. Proper training will enable growers and processors to be proactive and prevent or minimize foodborne illness outbreaks.

“It is critical that we provide relevant training and assistance to farmers, processors and wholesalers, especially to those who may struggle to meet the requirements,” says Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which awarded the $1.2 million grant.

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