Did your specialty crop operation recently incur on-farm food safety program expenses related to obtaining or renewing a food safety certification in calendar years 2022 or 2023? You may be eligible for financial assistance through USDA’s Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program (FSCSC).
USDA’s Farm Service Agency will accept FSCSC applications for calendar year 2023 from February 1, 2023, through January 31, 2024. Enrollment for calendar year 2022 closed January 31, 2023.
How the Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program Works
The FSCSC program provides financial assistance for specialty crop operations that incur eligible on-farm food safety program expenses related to obtaining or renewing a food safety certification in calendar years 2022 or 2023. This program helps offset costs to comply with regulatory requirements and market-driven food safety certification requirements.
FSCSC provides up to $200 million to specialty crop operations that incur eligible on-farm food safety program expenses related to obtaining or renewing a food safety certification in calendar years 2022 and/or 2023. For each year, FSCSC will cover a percentage of the specialty crop operation’s cost of obtaining or renewing their certification, as well as a percentage of their related expenses.
The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) and partners hosted a webinar for stakeholders and producers that focused on the new FSCSC program. Both the webinar recording and presentation slides are available below.
- Webinar: Expanding Market Access FSCSC Program
- Presentation: November 3 Webinar - Expanding Market Access: Financial Assistance through USDA's FSCSC Program
Eligibility requirements for FSCSC applicants are outlined below. We recommend you review these requirements before initiating your FSCSC application.
To be eligible for FSCSC, an applicant must:
- Have obtained or renewed a:
- 2022 food safety certification that was issued between June 21, 2022 and December 31, 2022; or
- 2023 food safety certification issued during the 2023 calendar year, and
- Have paid eligible expenses. Expenses that have been incurred by the applicant, but have not yet been paid, will not be eligible.
- Be a specialty crop operation; and meet the definition of a small business or very small business.
- A small business means an applicant that had an average annual monetary value of specialty crops the applicant sold during the 3-year period preceding the program year of more than $250,000 but not more than $500,000.
- A very small business means an applicant that had an average annual monetary value of specialty crops the applicant sold during the 3-year period preceding the program year of no more than $250,000.
- Be located in the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Please note, eligible expenses for FSCSC are available by clicking the boxes below. Ineligible expenses include infrastructure improvements, equipment, supplies, salaries and benefits, and fees or penalties for late payment.
Specialty crop operations that obtain food safety certification through a group model under a food safety management system are eligible to apply for assistance for their share of eligible expenses paid by the group, in addition to any eligible expenses they incur individually. If requested by the Fam Service Agency, specialty crop operations certified as part of a group under a food safety management system must provide documentation of the applicant’s portion of the group’s expenses from the entity responsible for maintaining the group’s certification.
FSCSC payments are calculated separately for each category of eligible costs based on the percentages and maximum payment amounts as described in the sections above. Applicants must report any previous cost share assistance received for the expenses included on their application.
The Farm Service Agency will issue payments for program year 2022 following approval of the application. For program year 2023, payments will be issued after the end of the application period. USDA may prorate 2023 final payments if calculated payments exceed the amount of available funding.
Apply for the Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crop Program
The FSCSC application period for calendar year 2022 will be June 27, 2022, through January 31, 2023. The application period for calendar year 2023 runs from February 1, 2023, through January 31, 2024.
Eligible specialty crop operations can apply for FSCSC by working directly with the Farm Service Agency office at their local USDA Service Center. Applications will be accepted via mail, fax, hand delivery, or electronic means.
Alternatively, producers with an eAuthentication account may apply for FSCSC via our FSCSC Application Portal. Applications will be completed, electronically signed, and submitted directly to your local USDA Service Center through this online system. Please reference our FSCSC Application Portal User Guide for additional information, including step-by-step application instructions. Producers interested in creating an eAuthentication account should visit farmers.gov/sign-in to learn more.
The following forms are needed to apply for FSCSC:
- FSA-888, Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) Program Application: This form includes a certification of the applicant’s status as a specialty crop operation and a small or very small business, and their eligible expenses. Complete the form according to the FSA-888 instructions.
- AD-2047, Customer Data Worksheet: This form will be required if not already on file with the Farm Service Agency and documents personal information that positively identifies the customer. Existing customers can also use this form to update their customer profile. Complete the form according to the AD-2047 instructions.
- SF-3881, ACH Vendor/Miscellaneous Payment Enrollment Form: This form will be required if not already on file with the Farm Service Agency and will be used to collect your banking information to allow USDA to make payments to you via direct deposit.
- CCC-860, Socially Disadvantaged, Limited Resource, Beginning and Veteran Farmer or Rancher Certification (if applicable): This form allows customers to certify that they, or the entity or joint operation, are a member (of if applicable members) of a socially disadvantaged group; qualify as a limited resource producer(s); are beginning farmer(s) or rancher(s); or are veterans. Complete the form according to the CCC-860 instructions.
- Supporting Documentation, if requested: Please note that applicants may be required to provide additional documentation to the Farm Service Agency, if necessary, to substantiate the expenses reported on the application. Examples of supporting documentation include paid invoices, purchase receipts, test results, food safety plans, and certifications, training documentation, and other records determined acceptable by FSA.
You are encouraged to contact the Farm Service Agency office at your local USDA Service Center with any questions about FSCSC, program eligibility, or the application process. You may also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to provide one-on-one assistance.
- Jan 20, 2023 News Release: USDA Announces Signup for 2023 Assistance for On-Farm Food Safety Expenses for Specialty Crop Growers
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program
- Notice of Funds Availability: Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program
- Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program Fact Sheet in English
- Stakeholder Toolkit: Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program
- June 17, 2022 News Release: USDA Announces Assistance for On-Farm Food Safety Expenses for Specialty Crop Growers
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