The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) constantly seeks ways to protect consumers from bad food distribution and handling practices. Now the organization is focusing on the organic market, due to its increasing demand. The USDA aims to create stronger rules for organic farming and better food safety training across the industry.
2016 USDA Grants for Food Safety and Projects
In April 2016, the USDA announced grants totaling $4.7 million through the Food Safety Outreach Program. These include food safety education and technical project assistance to small and mid-sized farms. The grants are administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and are designed to help these farms comply with new organic food safety regulations and guidelines from the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Food and Drug Administration.
Small farms have growing economic opportunities in the local food market because consumers would rather by local, organic products. The USDA grants will help these farms acquire the tools they need to be successful. Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack states, “By supporting projects that offer tailored training, education, and technical assistance for producers and processors of local food, these grants will benefit producers, the entire food supply chain, and consumers.”
2016 NIFA Food Safety Projects
The Food Safety Outreach Program grants will help fund infrastructure for better training through regional centers. Small farms will have access to customized training, and this training extends to food processors, fruit and vegetable wholesalers, farmers’ markets, food hubs, and any farms that lack access to food safety training.
NIFA has funded three main programs, including pilot projects, community outreach projects, and multi-state education and training projects. Farms and eligible parties are able to apply to these programs, and a recorded webinar helps applicants with the process. Any farm or food producer with safety or training needs can apply for assistance from the USDA.
Stricter Rules for Organic Farming
One major reason for the Food Safety Outreach Program is that the USDA introduced new rules for organic farming in April 2016. Small farms need the most help adjusting and complying to the new rules because they don’t always have the money to invest in new training and practices. The new USDA regulations address requirements for animals’ space, along with rearing and growing practices for both crops and animals.
Consumer demand for organic food has risen dramatically over the past five years. Until this time, federal standards for producers were broad. With the organic food market reaching nearly $40 billion, it was time for the USDA to step in and set stricter regulations to keep consumers safe. Deputy Administrator of USDA’s Organic Program, Miles McEvoy, explains that the new rules for organic processes better align with consumer expectations.
Change is always challenging, especially for farms and food producers that don’t have additional financial resources to comply with new regulations. That’s why the USDA has developed a program to support farmers in local markets. The organic food supply chain as a whole will benefit from the program and successfully meet consumers’ needs.