Montpelier, VT – The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is pleased to announce the first round of a two-round grant opportunity for Vermont produce growers. The grant opportunity, which is intended to improve on-farm produce safety, will have approximately $74,000 in funding each round. To be eligible for the grant, applicants must grow, harvest, pack, or hold “covered produce” as defined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR) and have average annual produce sales of greater than $25,000 over the past three years. Prospective applicants may download the request for proposals (RFP) at http://agriculture.vermont.gov/produceprogram on October 20, 2017 and submit applications beginning on November 15, 2017. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible applicants until all funds in the round have been allocated.
The Vermont Produce Safety Improvement Grant Program supports Vermont produce growers in implementing on-farm improvements to help prevent or reduce produce safety risks. Covered farms under the PSR will find this grant as a useful resource to help meet certain requirements under the PSR, or for produce safety programs such as USDA’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers’ Association’s Community Accreditation for Produce Safety (CAPS). A few examples of grant application requests may include, but are not limited to:
· Wash/pack equipment or infrastructure
· Cold storage infrastructure
· Handwashing stations and hygiene signage
In the face of new regulations and evolving market expectations, VAAFM and the Vermont Produce Program aim to grow Vermont’s produce industry by assisting produce farms of all sizes to meet food safety requirements, access markets, and promote public health as sustainable agricultural businesses.
“Vermont’s produce industry faces a changing environment. We are excited to offer these grant opportunities to support growers as they develop and improve produce safety practices on their farms. This grant will also help our Agency learn about the best infrastructure and materials for growers to implement as FSMA regulations come into play,” said Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts.
While the Produce Safety Improvement Grant is only for farms subject to the FDA’s Produce Safety Rule, VAAFM encourages all produce farms to follow good agricultural practices to ensure the safety of their produce. Applications may be submitted online at https://agriculturegrants.vermont.gov beginning November 15, 2017. The Agency plans to release a second round of produce safety improvement grant funding in June 2018.