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State Announces $1 Million in Grants to Improve Massachusetts Farm Food Safety

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration announced $1,000,000 in grants to 23 Massachusetts farms to implement practices that improve food safety within their operations.

The Agricultural Food Safety Improvement Program (AFSIP), administered by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, is a competitive grant program that allows produce and aquaculture operations to address food safety on their farms, enabling the operations to meet buyer demands, increase consumption of local food, and protect public health by reducing food-safety risks.

“The Commonwealth’s agricultural industry continues to grow and upgrade its practices to meet both marketplace demands and regulatory requirements,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “These grants underscore our administration’s commitment to helping farmers implement important upgrades within their operations to ensure that food-safety risks are managed, that their marketplace needs are addressed, and their businesses continue to grow.”

This round of grant funding has a focus on assisting commercial oyster farmers to comply with the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Marine Fisheries and the Department of Public Health’s Vibrio Control Program. Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) is a human pathogen known to cause foodborne illnesses from the consumption of raw oysters. To address these foodborne illnesses, the Vp control plan requires strict harvesting controls for oysters. Examples of awards to aquaculture operations to help meet these requirements include oyster graders, refrigerated vehicles, and ice machines that work toward reducing the temperature of oysters at harvest and continued cooling of oysters thereafter.

Grant funds for produce operations provided through AFSIP focus on helping these efforts meet regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act, as well as to protect public health, sustain public confidence in the food system, and meet buyer requirements. Examples of awards to produce operations include cold storage, wildlife fencing, washing/packing facility upgrades, and produce washing lines.

Western Mass. farms included in the AFSIP grants include Hagers Farm Market LLC, Shelburne, washing and packing facility ($172,000); Kosinski Farms, Westfield, washing and packing upgrades ($29,000); Quonquont Farm LLC, Whately, washing and packing upgrades ($10,700); Upinngil Farm, Gill, washing and packing facility ($102,800); and Red Shirt Farm LLC, Lanesborough, refrigeration ($28,500).

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