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FDA awarded almost $31 million in funding last month to help states implement FSMA produce safety programs — on top of the almost $22 million the agency awarded last fall for that purpose. The year-two funding underscores the importance of state partnerships as the agency moves forward with prevention-based oversight of U.S. food safety.

Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency’s partnerships with states are especially critical for fresh fruits and vegetables. Transformation of the U.S. food safety system “can’t happen without the support of state partners who are helping food producers and growers understand and achieve the new requirements promulgated at Congress’ direction,” he said, in announcingthe new funding.

The states applied for funding under two tracks – one covering infrastructure, education, technical assistance, and inventory, and the other also including inspection, compliance and enforcement activities. The level of funding was based on the number of farms growing covered produce within the jurisdiction. So, for example, California ($1.9 million), Pennsylvania ($1.3 million) and Washington state ($1.3 million) were among the top recipients of the 43 total states to receive funds.

Using the new funding, states will, among other activities:

  • Establish a process to develop and maintain a produce farm inventory.
  • Formulate a multi-year plan to implement a produce safety system.
  • Develop a performance measurement system, plan, and/or process to measure progress towards the goals of the cooperative agreement.
  • Evaluate legislative or regulatory authority for produce safety.
  • Provide education, outreach, and technical assistance, prioritizing farming operations covered by the rule.
  • Implement a compliance program for applicable produce safety regulations at the state level.

The funding will help awardees provide education, outreach and technical assistance, Gottlieb said. The agency will also continue its own outreach. “We want to hear from farmers and other food producers to understand what challenges remain and how the FDA can best support their efforts to enhance produce safety,” Gottlieb said.

The agency also recently announced plans to extend the compliance dates for agricultural water standards under the produce rule, and it is considering simplifying those standards.

There are no certainties for future funding, but broad support from states will be a major influence on upcoming appropriations.

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