This page provides a text alternative
for the December 2007 issue available in full-color
Assistance Available to Small Plants
in Rural Areas
By Linda B. Singletary and Keith Payne
Owners and operators of small and very small meat, poultry and processed
egg product establishments in rural America can take advantage of
the many opportunities the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
provides to improve their business development plans. Since announcing
a groundbreaking outreach program in May 2006 to assist small and
very small plants, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
has worked diligently to make plant owners and operators aware of
loan programs available through the Department.
USDA Rural Development is the lead agency in providing either financial
or technical assistance for small food businesses. The Agency administers
approximately $16 billion in program loans, loan guarantees and
grants through its programs.
"Plant owners, working through lenders, will be able to obtain
loan guarantees, making it easier for them to gain access to commercial
credit in order to upgrade facilities or equipment, which will further
enhance food safety," said USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development
Thomas C. Dorr.
Depending on their needs, small plant owners and managers may go
through either Rural Development's Business Programs or Cooperatives
Program to expand or enhance their operations. Each program has
a successful track record of improving the economy and quality of
life in rural areas of the United States.
For instance, the Cooperatives Program provides a wide range of
services for plants that are considering forming a new cooperative,
getting technical assistance for an existing cooperative or conducting
research to support a cooperative dealing with changing markets
and business trends. Whatever the issue, the Cooperatives Program
has a dedicated staff ready to provide assistance. "You might
see one specialist or an appropriate team to tackle your project.
Regardless of the size, we strive to bring you the best services
possible," said Ben Anderson, Administrator, Business and Cooperative
Under the Business Programs there are several loans and grants
that plant owners and operators may want to consider. The general
stipulation for a plant to receive a loan or grant is that it must
be in a rural area, with a population of less than 50,000. Other
guidelines for eligibility may apply depending on the loan.
One such loan is available through the Business and Industry Guaranteed
Loan Program. A business can borrow up to $25 million under this
program; the interest rate is negotiated between the lender and
the applicant and may be either fixed or variable as long as it
is a legal rate. The maximum percentage of government guarantee
for these loans is 80 percent.
Another option is the Section 9006 Program, which encourages the
commercial financing of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
This program provides grants, loans, and loan guarantees to eligible
farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses to assist in developing
renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.
Projects provided assistance must be located in a rural area (any
area other than cities or towns of greater than 50,000 population
and the immediate and adjacent urbanized areas of the cities or
There are other loan and grant programs, which don't go directly
to businesses, but can be helpful. These are important for small
plants to be aware of as well.
As an example, the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program
provides funding to rural projects through local utility organizations.
Under this program, USDA provides direct zero-interest loans to
local utilities, which in turn, lend through either a direct loan
or revolving loan fund to local businesses that will create and
retain employment in rural areas.
The rural Business Opportunity Grants program is yet another program
that provides grants to rural public organizations, nonprofit corporations,
Indian tribes and cooperatives with primarily rural members. The
grants are designed for developing export markets, feasibility studies,
long-term trade strategies, community economic development planning,
business training and technology-based economic development.
Another source, which provides grants for rural projects that finance
and facilitate development of small and emerging rural businesses,
is the Rural Business Enterprise Grants program. The direct recipients
of the grants are rural public entities, Indian tribes and nonprofit
corporations. These organizations, in turn, help private businesses
that employ 50 or fewer employees and have less than $1 million
in projected gross revenue. Under this program, there is no maximum
level of grant funding; however, smaller projects are given higher
This overview of some of the loan and grant programs provides just
a glimpse of the wide variety of services available to small businesses
through USDA Rural Development. Because Rural Development programs
generally are administered through a network of state and field
offices, you should call the USDA Rural Development State Office
in your state to discuss which programs will best meet your needs.
Or you may want to check out Rural Development's Web site at www.rurdev.usda.gov,
which can provide you with contact information as well. For further
assistance and information, go to the following Web site at www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/busp/bpdir.htm,
or contact the Business Programs Office in Washington, D.C. at (202)
For information on the Cooperatives Program, go to the following
Web site at www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/coops/cswhat.htm. The Cooperatives
Program office in Washington, D.C. can also be reached at (202)
[Back to Top]
By Mary Gioglio
Keeping good records is an important part of a whole Hazard Analysis
and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. The HACCP - Plan Implementation
and Records Management video was developed by Ohio State University
through a cooperative agreement with FSIS. The video and accompanying
manual provide examples of critical control points (CCPs), how to
do process verification and pre-shipment reviews and how to manage
the records that will be generated from CCPs.
To request this item or any other food
safety resource, fax the order form found on the Food Safety Resources
brochure to (202) 690-6519, or complete an online version of the
form and send it to FoodSafetyResources@fsis.usda.gov.
The online form can be found at www.fsis.usda.gov/Science/
[Back to Top]
Food Defense Plan: Why It's Essential
By Marianne Elbertson
The words "food defense" could conjure up
different meanings from one person to another. But, it's certainly
not the same as food safety.
Food defense focuses on protecting the food supply from intentional
contamination from a variety of chemicals, biological agents or
other dangerous substances by people who want to harm consumers
or create economic havoc. An attacker's goal might be to harm or
kill people, disrupt the economy, spread fear in society or achieve
all these goals.
On the other hand, food safety addresses the accidental contamination
of food products during processing or storage by biological, chemical
or physical hazards. The main types of food safety hazards are microbes,
chemicals and foreign objects. This unintentional contamination
can be addressed through the required use of Hazard Analysis and
Critical Control Point plans.
Because intentional acts are generally difficult to anticipate,
it's important for slaughter and food processing establishments
to have a food defense plan. The reputation of your plant and the
safety of your customers depend on it.
A food defense plan helps you identify steps that can be taken
to minimize the risk that food products will be tampered with or
intentionally contaminated at vulnerable points in your distribution
chain. Although the plan should be in place at all times, it can
be particularly helpful during emergencies. During a crisis, when
stress is high and response time is at a premium, a documented set
of procedures improves your ability to respond quickly to protect
the public, employees and resources.
FSIS has developed some guidance to help you devise a food defense
plan that meets your own needs. An easy, three-step process to complete
a plan is available on FSIS' Web site at
It's important to remember that there is no "one size fits all"
in creating a food defense plan, and it can be as long or short
as is appropriate for your operation. FSIS recommends that you review
these important guidelines and assess which preventive measures
are suitable and most cost effective for your situation.
"The business advantage to having a food defense plan," according
to Dr. Carol Maczka, assistant administrator for FSIS' Office of
Food Defense and Emergency Response, "is that it further protects
consumer health, provides additional process control of a plant's
products and protects a company's bottom line."
The sources of threats can vary. Individuals motivated to attack
a plant or its product who do not have authorized access are considered
to be intruders. Another threat may come internally, such as disgruntled
employees and other insiders, who typically know what procedures
are followed in the plant and often know how to bypass many security
controls that would detect or delay an outside intruder.
Plant owners have already taken proactive measures to minimize
threats. In 2006, Mark Schad, owner and operator of Schad Meats
in Cincinnati, Ohio, decided to develop a food defense plan. Schad
initially did not see the relevance of terrorism for his very small
plant. After learning about what food defense meant and attending
an FSIS exercise, he gained a better understanding of the need for
a plan. His particular concern was the potential of intentional
contamination by a disgruntled employee.
Schad participated in a focus group, which included other small
and very small plant owners, that created FSIS' guidance document,
and he used the information to put together his own plan. For his
facility, it was as simple as walking through the plant to evaluate
entry access points. There was already a security system in place
and the exterior doors are kept locked, so it was determined that
there was no need to implement additional physical security measures.
However, a key ingredient to a successful plan is testing and employee
training. Schad educated his employees about outsider access concerns
and advised them that they should report any suspicious activities
to him immediately. He also discusses any food defense issues with
the FSIS Inspector at their weekly meetings.
Schad also encourages other small and very small establishments
to "look at food defense from the perspective of intentional contamination
by an insider and not just from an international terrorism group."
"A plan will help protect a business from those who wish to harm
the plant and its customers," said Schad. And for those who want
to wait to see if a food defense plan becomes mandatory, he says,
"Creating a plan while it is voluntary will give you a head start
and make it easier when, and if, it becomes mandatory."
FSIS offers a wide array of helpful food defense materials on its
Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov/Food_Defense_&_Emergency_Response/
You also can contact the Office of Food Defense and Emergency
Response at (202) 720-5643.
[Back to Top]
By Sheila Johnson
Recently, FSIS has been holding Web seminars for small and very
small plant owners and operators. These classes have included the
November 6 seminar on removal of specified risk materials and the
December 5 seminar on FSIS policies and guidance on statistical
process control procedures in slaughter operations. Upcoming classes
include a February 20, 2008, seminar on generic labeling of meat
and poultry products. For a full listing of seminars and their starting
times, visit FSIS' Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/
or call (202) 690-6520.
FSIS held a public meeting titled "Public Health Significance of
Non-O157:H7 Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli" on October 17,
2007. Presentations, issue papers and transcripts from this meeting
are now available at www.fsis.usda.gov/Regulations_&_Policies/
To obtain information on any other public meetings, please visit
FSIS' Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov or call (202) 690-6520.
Small Plant News is also posted on FSIS' Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov.
If you or your colleagues would like to receive an electronic copy,
visit FSIS' Web site today and sign up for a complimentary e-mail
subscription. Please continue to submit your comments to SmallPlantNews@fsis.usda.gov
or call (202) 690-6520. We look forward to hearing from you on how
we can provide the resources you need.
Don't forget, when you're at FSIS' Web site you may also sign up
to receive be FoodSafe: The FSIS Magazine,
the FSIS Constituent Update
and other e-mail subscription services that will keep you
informed of the latest agency developments as soon as they are posted.
[Back to Top]
Submitting Applications for Label Approval
By Mary Gioglio
Every day FSIS evaluates label applications for a variety of meat,
poultry and processed egg products. Each application must be carefully
examined to ensure that the proper information about the product
and the company is listed accurately.
What can you do to ensure your product's label application will
be approved? Just follow these simple steps.
Complete all appropriate sections on FSIS Form 7234-1. It's recommended
that the form be typed; however, legible printing is acceptable.
And don't forget to sign the form.
Prepare a label sketch and include supporting documentation about
the product's required labeling features. There are up to eight
required features for each label sketch. They are:
- Product Name
- USDA Inspection Legend
- Net Weight
- Handling Statement
- Manufacturer's or Distributor's Address (Signature Line)
- Ingredients Statement
- Nutrition Facts
- Safe Handling Instructions
Make sure all the features that apply to your product are included
on the label sketch, and include supporting documentation for all
claims mentioned on the label. If something is missing or not accurately
stated, the application will be returned to you.
After you complete FSIS Form 7234-1 and the sketch labeling, staple
these documents together. Two copies of the application and sketch
labeling are required. An additional copy is required for Foreign,
Child Nutrition, Animal Production or Organic Claims.
Applications can be sent to FSIS' Labeling and Program Delivery
Division by mail, delivery services or hand delivery by a company
representative. The mailing address is:
USDA, FSIS, OPPED
Office of the Chief Operating Officer
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Room 2540 South Building
Washington, DC 20250-3700 | Updated Information
Small businesses may also fax a label application if it is 15 pages
or less. Forms cannot be sent electronically. Applications are reviewed
on a first-come first-served basis.
To learn more about the label application and approval process,
obtain a copy of FSIS Form 7234-1 or review guidance material on
labeling or any other FSIS requirement, visit FSIS' Web site at
If you need further assistance, call FSIS' Labeling
and Program Delivery Division at (202) 205-0279 or fax to (202)
[Back to Top]
Commonly Asked Question & Answer
Q. Where will I locate the FSIS Directives
that address food defense issues?
A. FSIS Directives that address food defense issues are found in the 5420 series
of FSIS Directives. This information is posted on FSIS' Web site
For assistance in obtaining either a list of these directives or
a specific directive, contact the Office of Food Defense and Emergency
Response at (202) 720-5643.
[Back to Top]
Small Plant NEWS
Editor: Keith Payne
Design: Rowena M. Becknel
Production: Jeff Tarrant, LCDR, U.S. Public Health Service
Contact: Small Plant News, USDA/FSIS/ SIPO, Aerospace Building,
3rd Floor-Room 405, 14th and Independence Ave., SW, Washington,
DC 20250. (202) 690-6520