The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced its new Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) program, which will help offset costs for specialty crops producers who incur eligible on-farm food safety program expenses. FSCSC will provide up to $200 million in assistance to specialty crops operations that allocated financial resources to obtain or renew a food safety certification in calendar years 2022 or 2023.
FSCSC is intended to provide critical assistance for specialty crops operations, which, according to USDA, have been acutely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA strives to achieve equitable delivery of FSCSC while integrating lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions into the program.
Beginning June 27, 2022, specialty crops producers can apply for assistance for eligible expenses related to a 2022 food safety certificate issued on or after June 21, 2022. For each year, FSCSC will cover a percentage of a specialty crops operation’s cost of obtaining or renewing a food safety certification, as well as a portion of its related expenses.
To be eligible for FSCSC, the applicant must be a specialty crops 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, 2022) or 2023 certification. Specialty crops 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.
The FSCSC application period for 2022 is June 27, 2022 through January 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, then payments will be prorated.
Interested specialty crops producers can apply by completing the “FSA-888, Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program (FSCSC)” application, which will be made available on the FSCSC webpage when the application period begins. 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 farmers.gov/service-locator to find their local FSA office. Specialty crops producers can also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee or visit farmers.gov/food-safety for additional program details, eligibility information, and forms needed to apply.