Share This Page
    << News and posts

    SQF and USDA Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program

    By Carey Allen, Vice President, Business Development & Strategy

    USDA Announces Financial Assistance for Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Producers  

    USDA has announced a new Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops (FSCSC) program to help offset costs for specialty crop producers to comply with regulatory and market-driven food safety certification requirements. Small and very small specialty crop operations that have incurred fees related to food safety certification achieved in 2022 and 2023 are eligible for consideration.  


    SQFI encourages all its community and partners in the certification process, trainers, consultants, certification bodies, and technology solutions providers to spread the word and build awareness of this reimbursement program.   


    If your farm operation is eligible, your first step is to contact the Farm Service Agency (FSA) office at your local USDA Service Center to apply for reimbursement of eligible on-farm food safety certification and related expenses. The Farm Service Agency will issue payments following approval of the application.  See the list of USDA Service Center locations to find your state contact.


    How does the USDA Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops program work?   

    • Sites learn about certification requirements and register at 
    • Sites sign agreements for certification with a certification body 
    • Sites prepare with training, consulting, and capital improvements if needed 
      • Expenses related to certification preparation and achievement in 2022 and 2023 are documented, and records maintained 
    • Site contacts their local USDA FSA agent to apply for funds 


    Not sure if your crop is eligible as a specialty crop?  


    Fruits, berries, vegetables, tree nuts, herbs and spices, medicinal herbs, ornamental flowers and plants, landscape plants, and even Christmas trees are specialty crops. Take a quick look at this information to see the long list of qualified products!


    USDA’s new program assists with specialty crop operations that incurred expenses related to obtaining or renewing a food safety certification, such as SQF certification, in calendar years 2022 and 2023. This means your capital expenditures for improvements, sampling and testing, consulting, and training fees, pre-assessment or readiness audit fees, certification body fees, and SQF fees could be eligible for support.   


    To gain full benefit, it is important that your expenditures related to certification are documented and justified. This process makes the internal audit, management review, and corrective action documentation even more important to identify the gaps and requirements for improvement to meet food safety certification requirements. SQF licensed consultants can be a valuable resource to support the process; search the SQF Consultant Directory.   


    Removing barriers to certification by offsetting the cost associated with improving the food safety system benefits the entire supply chain and consumers. Retailers, wholesalers, brand owners, and buyers throughout the supply chain should work to inform their small suppliers of this new program and encourage them to reach out to their state agency to apply for the benefit.   


    Retailers/Wholesalers' Role  

    Retailers and Wholesalers can partner with small and local growers to help them get started on building their food safety plans through outreach, education, and guiding suppliers to resources to help operations develop vital food safety programs. Retailers can encourage small and small specialty crop producers to apply for financial assistance through USDA’s Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops program to implement SQF primary production code.   


    Benefits to Buyers Resulting from Suppliers to Obtaining Food Safety Certification through SQFI  

    • SQF certification helps suppliers protect their brand by focusing on hazard analysis, risk assessment, and proactive prevention strategies. This, in turn, increases increasing consumer confidence and loyalty. 
    • SQF certification meets regulatory food safety requirements and enables buyers to demonstrate due diligence in food safety matters by requiring their suppliers to implement just one program and one standard. Because the Global Food Safety Initiative recognizes SQF, it is trusted by buyers worldwide. 
    • The SQF Program also makes it easier for buyers to identify qualified suppliers by providing online access to a list of SQF suppliers, along with their certification status and audit results.   

    Benefits to Small Suppliers, including Specialty Crop Producers Obtaining Food Safety Certification through The SQF Fundamentals Program  

    • Practical & Attainable – Solution tailored for small businesses & suppliers  
    • Global Recognition – Streamlined path to GFSI Food Safety & Quality Certification  
    • Reduce Costs – Cost-effective audit process designed for small businesses  
    • Safety & Security – Protects your brand from the risk of recall and provides supply chain acceptance   

    It is valuable to communicate the availability of USDA’s Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops program and work with small and very small specialty crop producers to obtain or renew food safety certification through SQFI.  


    To get started, you can find an SQF licensed consultant in the SQF Consultant directory, or feel free to schedule a call with Carey Allen, our North American SQF contact.       






    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Sign up for the SQFi newsletter!