The Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) currently comprises federal, state, and local government regulatory laboratories with varying capacities to perform threat agent testing. The FERN division in USDAâ€™s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is seeking to award up to 20 cooperative agreements targeting state, local, and tribal FERN labs to continue its program of providing capacity and capability for biothreat and biosafety food testing. The agreements will enhance the ability to analyze for microbiological, radiological and chemical threat agents utilizing FERN and other methods to improve laboratory capacities for food defense assignments and outbreak response. The agreements will support FERN threat agent method training, supplies required by the selected methods, and the possible purchase of equipment and reimbursement of personnel expenses. All cooperative agreements are on a 1 year funding cycle. However, we expect to renew the awards of successful laboratories, without competition, for a total of 5 years of funding contingent on continued Agency funding of the program. These cooperative agreements are highly competitive and the selections of laboratories for the program, as well as actual funding for each lab selected, will be based on an evaluation of that labâ€™s specific proposal, past performance in the program (if applicable), and other relevant criteria (geographical considerations, testing capability, testing capacity, laboratory accreditation etc.). Furthermore, the program will differ from previous years by increasing funding at laboratories that meet the highest qualifications ( Level 1/primary) while providing lessor funding to several other laboratories (Level 2/surge) to support continued testing and maintenance of capacity and capability. Applications submitted for this program should be specifically written to the level of funding appropriate for the applicantâ€™s laboratory based on the qualifications below.