The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) has been insistent FDA fund already-strapped state agencies charged with implementing the massive FSMA program, particularly the new produce rules. Planning is essential as large farms will need to comply with the first federal produce safety rule beginning in January 2018.
FDA announced it was making the grants available in March. Successful implementation of the produce safety rule “depends on partnerships between the FDA and the states, both to deliver education and technical assistance to farmers and to provide on-going inspection, compliance and oversight,” the agency said.
FDA’s five-year program has categorized states into five tiers of funding eligibility based on the estimated number of farms growing covered produce within their jurisdiction. California is the only Tier 1 state and is receiving $1.1 million.
Applicants must complete Competition A for funding, which includes building the infrastructure, education, technical assistance and a farm inventory. States can receive funding for the next step, Competition B, which involves implementing a compliance program through standardized regulatory inspections.
“The next step will be an October official kickoff meeting with the grantees and partner organizations to review post-award management and oversight responsibilities,” FDA said in an email. “This includes an overview of the deadlines for financial and progress reports, infrastructure goals and objectives for each year of the program, and identifying key federal and non-federal partners who will collaborate with each grantee to achieve the goals of the cooperative agreement.”
NASDA CEO Barbara Glenn praised FDA for making the funding available to states, as federal and state authorities try to build a brand new program based on consistent education, uniform compliance and a stable infrastructure.
“FDA’s actions show full recognition of the valuable role states will play in the implementation of FSMA,” Glenn said. “NASDA appreciates the confidence that FDA is placing in the states to work with their local farmers to help to prevent foodborne illnesses. NASDA Members have the knowledge and relationships needed for farm-level front-line prevention.”
NASDA and FDA entered into a 2014 cooperative agreement to develop an implementation strategy for the funding. As a part of this effort, NASDA has developed a proposed NASDA Model Produce Safety Implementation Framework for states to consider as they contemplate the implementation of the produce safety rule.
However, it’s still unclear how many states will adopt the FSMA program if there’s not enough federal funds.
Much of future funding for states regulators will depend on congressional approval, including next year’s budget that has yet to be wrapped up on Capitol Hill.
“We have been steadily building this system, and in our FY 2017 budget request we have asked Congress for an additional $11.3 million in new budget authority to further support the development of state produce safety programs,” wrote Stephen Ostroff, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, in a Sept. 9 blog.
In March, NASDA estimated it needed $100 million annually to run the produce program.