New Program Part of Broader Effort to Transform Food System, Create Jobs
JUNE 17, 2022— Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to provide up to $200 million in assistance for specialty crop producers who incur eligible on-farm food safety program expenses to obtain or renew a food safety certification in calendar years 2022 or 2023. USDA’s new Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) program will help to offset costs for specialty crop producers to comply with regulatory requirements and market-driven food safety certification requirements, which is part of USDA’s broader effort to transform the food system to create a more level playing field for small and medium producers and a more balanced, equitable economy for everyone working in food and agriculture.
Specialty crop operations can apply for assistance for eligible expenses related to a 2022 food safety certificate issued on or after June 21, 2022, beginning June 27, 2022. USDA is delivering FSCSC to provide critical assistance for specialty crop operations, with an emphasis on equity in program delivery while building on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions. Vilsack made the announcement from Hollis, N.H., where he toured a local, family-owned farm and highlighted USDA’s efforts to help reduce costs for farmers and support local economies by providing significant funding to cut regulatory costs and increase market opportunities for farmers in New Hampshire and across the nation.
“The ongoing economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic have created substantial financial challenges for small and very small producers to meet regulatory requirements and access additional markets,” Vilsack said. “These challenges were particularly acute for specialty crop producers, many of whom needed to quickly and completely pivot their operations as demand shifted away from traditional markets, like restaurants and food service. As we build back better, our food systems must be both more inclusive and more competitive. By helping mitigate the costs of on-farm food safety certification, the FSCSC program will support fair, transparent food systems rooted in local and regional production and provide small-scale producers a real opportunity to bring home a greater share of the food dollar and help create jobs.”
FSCSC will assist specialty crop operations that incurred eligible on-farm food safety certification and related expenses related to obtaining or renewing a food safety certification in calendar years 2022 and 2023. For each year, FSCSC covers a percentage of the specialty crop operation’s cost of obtaining or renewing their certification, as well as a portion of their related expenses.
To be eligible for FSCSC, the applicant must be a specialty crop operation; meet the definition of a small business or very small business; and have paid eligible expenses related to the 2022 (issued on or after June 21, 2022) or 2023 certification.
Specialty crop operations may receive assistance for the following costs:
· Developing a food safety plan for first-time food safety certification.
· Maintaining or updating an existing food safety plan.
· Food safety certification.
· Certification upload fees.
· Microbiological testing for products, soil amendments and water.
FSCSC payments are calculated separately for each category of eligible costs. A higher payment rate has been set for socially disadvantaged, limited resource, beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers. Details about the payment rates and limitations can be found at farmers.gov/food-safety.
Applying for Assistance
The FSCSC application period for 2022 is June 27, 2022, through January 31, 2023, and the application period for 2023 will be announced at a later date. FSA will issue payments at the time of application approval for 2022 and after the application period ends for 2023. If calculated payments exceed the amount of available funding, payments will be prorated.
Interested specialty crop producers can apply by completing the FSA-888, Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program (FSCSC) application. The application, along with other required documents, can be submitted to the FSA office at any USDA Service Center nationwide by mail, fax, hand delivery or via electronic means. Producers can visit farmers.gov/service-locator to find their local FSA office. Specialty crop producers can also call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to assist.
Producers can visit farmers.gov/food-safety for additional program details, eligibility information and forms needed to apply.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit usda.gov.
Vaccine to be available in all 100 counties
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is preparing for COVID-19 vaccine distribution for children under 5 years old and to ensure families across the state have the information they need to access vaccines for their young children. Children are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus just like everyone else.
A vaccine for children ages 6 months to 5 years could be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as soon as this weekend, and vaccinations in North Carolina could begin the week of June 20.
"We have never stopped working to ensure that vaccines are fast, fair and everywhere for North Carolinians," said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. "It is exciting that our best tool against COVID-19 – safe and effective vaccines – could soon be available to our youngest North Carolinians, and because of our preparation, on day one in all 100 counties."
NCDHHS’ strategy for equitable vaccine distribution ensures vaccines will be available in all 100 North Carolina counties when the vaccine is authorized and recommended. All local health departments will receive vaccine, and more than 300 pediatric offices in North Carolina have enrolled to provide the vaccine and will be receiving shipments from NCDHHS over the next two weeks. Vaccine will also be available in family medicine offices. In addition, vaccines will be available in pharmacies for children 3 years and older.
Statewide communication efforts are also underway to provide families with information about COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5. NCDHHS is prepared to:
For more information about how vaccines for children work and where you can find a vaccination appointment nearby, visit MySpot.nc.gov. The North Carolina COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center can also help you make an appointment by calling 888-675-4567. The help center is open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends. Parents and guardians with questions about COVID-19 vaccines can also talk with their child's health care provider.
NCDHHS se prepara para la distribución de vacunas para
niños menores de 5 años
Las vacunas estarán disponibles en todos los 100 condados
El Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de Carolina del Norte se está preparando para la distribución de la vacuna contra el COVID-19 para niños menores de 5 años y para garantizar que las familias de todo el estado tengan la información que necesitan para acceder a las vacunas para sus niños pequeños. Los niños son vulnerables al virus COVID-19, igual que todos los demás.
La Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos (FDA) podría autorizar una vacuna para niños de seis meses a cinco años y los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC) la recomendarían tan pronto como este fin de semana, y la vacunación en Carolina del Norte podría comenzar la semana del 20 de junio.
"Nunca hemos dejado de trabajar para garantizar que las vacunas se distribuyan de manera rápida, justa y que estén en todas partes para los habitantes de Carolina del Norte", dijo el secretario del NCDHHS, Kody H. Kinsley. "Es emocionante que nuestra mejor herramienta contra el COVID-19, las vacunas que son seguras y efectivas, pronto puedan estar disponibles para nuestros habitantes más pequeños de Carolina del Norte y, gracias a nuestra preparación, estarán disponibles el primer día en los 100 condados".
La estrategia del NCDHHS para la distribución equitativa de las vacunas garantiza que la vacuna estará disponible en los 100 condados de Carolina del Norte cuando esté autorizada y recomendada. Todos los departamentos de salud locales recibirán la vacuna y más de 300 consultorios pediátricos en Carolina del Norte se han inscrito para proporcionar la vacuna y recibirán envíos del NCDHHS durante las próximas dos semanas. La vacuna también estará disponible en los consultorios de medicina familiar. Además, la vacuna estará disponible en las farmacias para niños de 3 años o más.
También se están realizando esfuerzos de comunicación en todo el estado para brindar a las familias información sobre las vacunas contra el COVID-19 para niños menores de 5 años. NCDHHS está preparado para:
Para obtener más información sobre cómo funcionan las vacunas para niños y dónde puede encontrar una cita de vacunación cercana, visite Vacunate.nc.gov. El Centro de Ayuda para la Vacunación contra el COVID-19 de Carolina del Norte también puede ayudarle a programar una cita llamando al 888-675-4567. El Centro de Ayuda está abierto de 7 a.m. a 7 p.m. de lunes a viernes y de 8 a.m. a 4 p.m. en los fines de semana. Los padres y tutores que tengan preguntas sobre las vacunas contra el COVID-19 también pueden hablar con el proveedor de atención médica de sus hijos.
Forest Service agencies reminding residents across the state to keep drones away from wildfires
As spring fire season enters its third month, the USDA Forest Service and N.C. Forest Service are reminding the public to keep drones away from wildfires. Flying drones or unmanned aircraft systems near wildfire activity is not only extremely dangerous, but illegal.
“Flying a drone near or around a wildfire compromises the safety of forest service pilots and ground crews and interferes with firefighting efforts,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “It’s important to remember that if you fly, we can’t.”
Firefighters use a variety of tactics when containing and suppressing wildfires from the air and on the ground. Unauthorized drone flights hinder all of them. Helicopters, planes and other aircraft that deliver hundreds of gallons of water and fire retardant to a burn site are already flying low, with minimal visibility and under smoky and windy conditions. When drones and firefighting aircraft share the same airspace, the risk of a midair collision increases.
To avoid the threat of midair collisions, all aerial wildfire operations are suspended when a drone is present, thus delaying wildfire suppression response and allowing the wildfire to grow larger. “The longer an uncontained wildfire burns, the greater the risk for loss of life to residents and firefighters, property and valuable resources and increased cost,” said State Forester David Lane. “There’s also the possibility of a drone malfunctioning while in flight, only to fall onto responders and members of the public below, potentially injuring them.”
According to the USDA Forest Service, 172 drone incursions took place between the years of 2015 and 2020. Since there is no centralized system to report these situations, the actual number is believed to be much higher.
The Federal Aviation Administration implements a temporary flight restriction around wildfires to protect aircraft engaged in firefighting operations. Individuals in violation of this law will be subject to civil penalties, including fines up to $25,000 and criminal prosecution.
It’s important to know the rules and remember if you fly, we can’t. To learn more about the unauthorized use of drones, go to www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/fire/uas/if-you-fly.