January 26, 2018 marks the first major compliance date for farms covered by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule. Farms that grow, harvest, pack, or hold produce with greater than $500,000 in annual produce sales must be in compliance with the rule’s standards for on-farm produce safety practices beginning Friday.
To assist growers in making on-farm improvements that prevent or reduce produce safety risks, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) launched the Vermont Produce Safety Improvement Grant Program, which recently awarded eight grants of between $7,000 and $10,000 to Vermont growers to make on-farm food safety improvements. Growers will have another opportunity to apply for Produce Safety Improvement Grants beginning February 28, 2018 at 9:00 AM.
Vermont produce growers have shown a strong demand for support to grow produce safely, efficiently, and economically. The Agency accepted applications for the first round of the Vermont Produce Safety Improvement Grant Program on Wednesday, November 15, and within several hours, applications exceeded the total available funds. “It was remarkable how timely applications were submitted. We’ve seen just a glimpse of how much funding demand there is for produce farms working to implement produce safety practices on their farm,” said Vermont Agriculture Secretary, Anson Tebbetts.
Growers interested in applying for the second round of grants are encouraged to submit their applications as early as possible on February 28, as the Agency expects a similarly strong demand for funding. Projects granted in the first round include produce safety upgrades to wash and pack areas, employee handwashing stations, health and hygiene signage, and improvements to produce cold storage and temperature controls, with awards totaling $74,029 made to the farms listed below:
- Bread & Butter Farm, LLC to make wash/pack house improvements, install handwashing stations, and provide health and hygiene signage for employees and visitors ($8,664)
- Cate Farm to make pack house improvements and replace existing wood and galvanized steel equipment with stainless steel ($7,156)
- Dutton Berry Farm to upgrade their wash and pack facility with concrete flooring and drainage and install equipment with easy-to-clean surfaces ($9,407)
- Hoolie Flats, LLC to renovate their wash/pack facility with drainage, cleanable wall panels, and cleaning and sanitation equipment ($9,650)
- Last Resort Farm to add an additional cold storage cooler and upgrade existing coolers with temperature and humidity monitoring controls ($10,000)
- Old Soul Farm to enclose their wash and pack house to reduce the risk of pest intrusion and upgrade the facility with concrete flooring and stainless steel washing tables ($10,000)
- Pete’s Greens to integrate a wash water chiller into the wash line and install temperature and humidity monitoring systems into cold storage bays of the wash and pack house ($9,152)
- Sweetland Farm to extend their farm stand roof to cover an improved vegetable wash station and pack room ($10,000)
Approximately $74,000 in funding will be available in the second round of the grant, and again, funds will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible applicants. Applicants must grow, harvest, pack, or hold “covered produce” as defined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule and have average annual produce sales of greater than $25,000. To prepare to apply for grants in the second round, applicants should—
- Visit www.agriculture.vermont.gov/produceprogram to download the Request for Proposals and review grant eligibility and submission requirements.
- Enroll in the Vermont Produce Portal at www.agriculture.vermont.gov/produceprogram and click on “Produce Portal.” This is a requirement for grant eligibility.
- Log onto www.agriculturegrants.vermont.gov to create a user account. This is where you will submit your online application.
- Plan your project and prepare to submit your application beginning February 28, 2018 at 9:00 AM.
VAAFM’s Produce Program looks forward to reviewing second round applications and remains committed to assisting produce growers with making produce safety improvements and upgrades to their farm operation focused on food safety and improving the sustainability of their businesses.
Questions related to the Produce Safety Improvement Grants or the FSMA Produce Safety Rule should be directed to (802) 522-3132 or AGR.FSMA@vermont.gov.