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USDA’S NIFA to fund establishment of two regional centers to focus on food safety training

Published 15 October 2015

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has issued $2m in grants for the establishment of two regional centers that would undertake comprehensive food safety training and education in relation to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The regional centers will focus on implementing FSMA training programs for small and medium sized farms, novice farmers, small food processors and fruit and vegetable wholesale vendors.

NIFA director Sonny Ramaswamy said: "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.

"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 will help set up regional centers that would focus on helping farmers and food industry personnel to understand and implement food safety standards, guidance, and protocols.

Through this training program, several agricultural production and processing systems such as conventional, sustainable, organic, and conservation and environmental practices are intended to be addressed.

This training program is a collaboration with FDA and includes establishment of one national center with four regional hubs. The national coordination center will manage the overall programs. The regional hubs will work with FSMA audiences and stakeholders and get in touch with the local communities.

The regional centers will also coordinate with each other through the national center.

The NIFA is funding University of Florida in Gainesville with $1,197,751 to establish the Southern Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Produce Safety. This center will develop a set of trainers who will focus on supporting FSMA compliance in the food produce industry. Technical assistance programs, training curricula, stakeholder education will be developed. The impact on the target audiences will also be assessed.

It is also giving out $1,197,606 to Oregon State University in Corvallis to set up Western Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Food Safety. In this project, trainers will be taught to deliver FSMA-compliant workshops to small and medium farms, small processors, fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers, who work under the FSMA guidelines.

The university will partner with state and local governments, other western region universities, and community-based and non-government organizations.