Inviting Applications for Agriculture Innovation Demonstration Center Grants

 
CONTENT
Federal Register, Volume 84 Issue 200 (Wednesday, October 16, 2019)
[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 200 (Wednesday, October 16, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 55274-55282]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-22551]
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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Rural Business-Cooperative Service
Inviting Applications for Agriculture Innovation Demonstration
Center Grants
AGENCY: Rural Business-Cooperative Service, USDA.
ACTION: Notice.
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SUMMARY: This Notice announces that the Rural Business-Cooperative
Service (Agency) is accepting fiscal year (FY) 2019 applications for
the Agriculture Innovation Demonstration Center (AIC) program. In FY
2019, the program has $3,500,000 available for funding. If
[[Page 55275]]
additional funds are appropriated during fiscal year 2020 prior to the
selection of awards, funding amounts will be posted on the Agency
website and we will utilize those additional FY 2020 funds to make
awards under this Notice.
    The purpose of this program is to establish and operate Agriculture
Innovation Centers (Centers) that provide technical and business
development assistance to agricultural producers seeking to engage in
the marketing or the production of Value-Added products. Eligible
applicants include nonprofit and for-profit corporations, public
bodies, and institutions of higher education. This program supports
Rural Development's (RD) mission of improving the quality of life for
rural Americans and commitment to directing resources to those who most
need them.
DATES: Completed applications for grants must be submitted
electronically by no later than midnight Eastern Time, March 20, 2020,
through Grants.gov. Late applications are not eligible for funding
under this Notice and will not be evaluated.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Gail Thuner, Grants Division,
Cooperative Programs, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, United States
Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, MS 3253, Room
4208-South, Washington, DC 20250-3250, or call 202-690-1374, or email
[email protected].
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
Preface
    The Agency encourages applications that will support
recommendations made in the Rural Prosperity Task Force report to help
improve life in rural America. For more information, see www.usda.gov/ruralprosperity. Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that
provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust
and sustainable economies through strategic investments in
infrastructure, partnerships and innovation. Key strategies include:
 Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America
 Developing the Rural Economy
 Harnessing Technical Innovation
 Supporting a Rural Workforce
 Improving Quality of Life
Overview
    Federal Agency Name: USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service.
    Funding Opportunity Title: Agriculture Innovation Demonstration
Center.
    Announcement Type: Initial Notice.
    Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number: 10.377.
    Dates: Application Deadline. Your application must be received by
http://www.grants.gov no later than midnight Eastern Time, March 20,
2020, or it will not be considered for funding.
Paperwork Reduction Act
    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act, the paperwork
burden associated with this Notice has been approved by the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB Control Number 0570-0045.
A. Program Description
    The AIC program is authorized by section 7608 of the Farm Security
and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (7 U.S.C. 1632b) and is implemented by
7 CFR 4284 subparts A and K which are incorporated by reference into
this Notice. The primary objective of the AIC program is to provide
technical assistance to agricultural producers to market value-added
agricultural products through Centers. Grants are available to public
bodies, institutions of higher education, nonprofit corporations, and
for-profit corporations. It is expected that recipients will establish
and operate independently-governed Centers whose boards of directors
meet the representation requirements described in Section D.2(j) of
this Notice.
Definitions
    The terms you need to understand are defined and published at 7 CFR
4284.3 and 7 CFR 4284.1004. The term ``you'' referenced throughout this
Notice should be understood to mean ``you'' the applicant. Finally, as
required by 2 CFR 200.112, we have defined our Conflict of Interest
policy as follows.
    Conflict of Interest--A situation in which a person or entity has
competing personal, professional, or financial interests that make it
difficult for the person or business to act impartially. Federal
procurement standards prohibit transactions that involve a real or
apparent conflict of interest for owners, employees, officers, agents,
or their immediate family members having a financial or other interest
in the outcome of the project; or that restrict open and free
competition for unrestrained trade. Specifically, neither grant nor
matching funds may be used for services or goods going to, or coming
from, a person or entity with a real or apparent conflict of interest,
including, but not limited to, owner(s) and their immediate family
members. Examples of conflicts of interest include using grant or
matching funds to pay a member of the applicant's board of directors to
provide Producer Services and using grant or matching funds to pay an
immediate family member of the applicant to provide Producer Services.
B. Federal Award Information
    Type of Award: Competitive Grant.
    Fiscal Year Funds: FY 2019.
    Total Funding: $3,500,000.
    Minimum Award: $500,000.
    Maximum Award: $1,000,000.
    Project Period: 2 years.
    Anticipated Award Date: September 15, 2020.
C. Eligibility Information
    You must meet all of the following eligibility requirements.
Applicants and/or applications which fail to meet any of these
requirements by the application deadline will not be evaluated further
or considered for funding.
    1. Eligible Applicants. Grants may be made to public bodies
(including local governments, State governments, and Federally-
Recognized Tribes), institutions of higher education, nonprofit
corporations, and for-profit corporations.
    (a) An applicant is ineligible if they have been debarred or
suspended or otherwise excluded from or ineligible for participation in
Federal assistance programs under Executive Order 12549, ``Debarment
and Suspension.'' In addition, an applicant will be considered
ineligible for a grant due to an outstanding judgment obtained by the
U.S. in a Federal Court (other than U.S. Tax Court), is delinquent on
the payment of Federal income taxes, or is delinquent on Federal debt.
The applicant must certify as part of the application that they do not
have an outstanding judgment against them. The Agency will check the Do
Not Pay system to verify the certification. (See also Section D.2.f of
this Notice.)
    (b) Any corporation (i) that has been convicted of a felony
criminal violation under any Federal law within the past 24 months or
(ii) that has any unpaid Federal tax liability that has been assessed,
for which all judicial and administrative remedies have been exhausted
or have lapsed, and that is not being paid in a timely manner pursuant
to an agreement with the authority responsible for collecting the tax
liability, is not eligible for financial assistance provided with funds
appropriated by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (Pub. L. 116-
6), unless a Federal agency has considered suspension or debarment of
the corporation and has made a
[[Page 55276]]
determination that this further action is not necessary to protect the
interests of the Government. (See also Section D.2.e of this Notice.)
    2. Cost Sharing or Matching. Matching funds are required for at
least one-third of the total project budget. For example, if the total
project budget is $300,000, matching funds must be at least $100,000.
Matching funds may be provided in cash by the applicant or a third
party or in-kind by a third party. They must be available for use
during the period of performance, and they must be used for allowable
expenses. (See also Section D.2.j of this Notice.)
    3. Other Eligibility Requirements.
    Independent Governance: The Center must be independently governed,
although it does not have to be a separate legal entity from the
applicant organization. If the applicant is a parent organization or
institution of higher education, you must demonstrate that there is a
separate Board of Directors for the Center and that the Center has
independent governance. We consider the Center to have independent
governance if it has control over personnel decisions, including hiring
and firing employees and contractors; setting policies and procedures,
including personnel and procurement; developing and approving its
budget; and selecting its own Board of Directors, which shall not
include any members who are affiliated with the parent organization.
(See also Section D.2.k of this Notice.)
    Qualified Board of Directors: The Board of Directors for the Center
must include, but is not limited to, representatives from each of the
following groups: (1) Two general agricultural organizations with the
greatest number of members in the State in which the Center is located,
(2) the department of agriculture, or similar State department or
agency or a State legislator, of the State in which the Center is
located, and (3) four entities representing different commodities
produced in the State in which the Center is located. Note that no
representative may represent more than one group or organization. Board
of Director members must not have any Conflicts of Interest. (See also
Section D.2.l of this Notice.)
    Existing Capability to Provide Services: You must be able to
demonstrate that you have previously provided services similar to the
Producer Services defined in 7 CFR 4284.1004 or that you have the
capability to provide those services. In order to be considered
qualified, you must either demonstrate at least three years of
experience providing the same type of Producer Services as those
proposed in the application and show a record of at least three
positive outcomes or you must demonstrate that you currently have key
personnel assigned to the project who have the same level of experience
and positive outcomes, even if they have not worked for you for at
least three years. (See also Section D.2.m of this Notice.)
    Support of Agricultural Community: You must demonstrate that at
least three relevant agricultural organizations support your project.
We will consider the support to be relevant if the supporting
organization is based in the State or region in which the project will
take place and if the organization serves the same group of producers
(either directly or through commodity/marketing efforts) targeted by
the proposed project. (See also Section D.2.n of this Notice.)
    Improving Value-Added Markets: Your project must focus on
increasing and improving the ability of local agricultural producers to
develop markets and processes for Value-Added agricultural commodities
or products. (See also D.2.s of this Notice.)
    Use of Funds: You must propose to engage in one or more of the
following activities during the project period:
     Consulting services for legal, accounting, and technical
services to be used by the recipient for the purpose of establishing
and operating the Center;
     Hiring employees for the purpose of establishing and
operating the Center;
     Making grants to agricultural producers, individually not
to exceed $5,000, where the aggregate amount of all such grants does
not exceed $50,000. Note that these grants are considered subawards and
all Federal requirements that apply to awards made under this Notice
also apply to these subawards, including the Matching Funds
requirement.
     Producer Services (as defined at 7 CFR 4284.1004);
     Applied research; and
     Legal services.
    For information on selected items that are not allowable for
funding under this Notice, please review section D (6) of this Notice,
``Funding Restrictions.''
    Period of Performance. The proposed period of performance must be
two years or less or the application will not be considered for
funding. Note that in the future, any recipients that have already
received funding through this program will be limited to one-year
project periods while new recipients will be allowed up to two years.
This difference in time is to allow new recipients additional time for
start-up activities. The proposed start date must be no earlier than
three months after the expected award date and no later than six months
after the expected award date. Extensions may be approved on a case-by-
case basis at our discretion if circumstances beyond the recipient's
control cause a significant delay in the performance of the award.
However, in no case, will we approve a period of performance (including
any extension period) for longer than two years.
    Satisfactory Performance. We will check the Federal Awardee
Performance and Integrity Information System as well as the Do Not Pay
system prior to awarding funds. If you have deficiencies identified in
either system, we may either discontinue processing your application if
the deficiencies are significant or indicate a lack of capability to
accomplish the proposed project or we may impose special conditions to
address the deficiencies. Special conditions may include, but are not
limited to, more frequent reporting, more detailed reporting, and the
addition of benchmarks or checkpoints to assess progress.
    Financial Capability. We will assess the last three years of your
financial statements and your most recent audit to confirm that you
possess sufficient financial capabilities for the proposed project. In
particular, you must have a current ratio of at least 1:1 and the
ability to provide sufficient cash flow to cover at least three months
of total project costs to account for the lag between when expenses are
incurred, and award funds are disbursed. If you do not meet these
requirements, you are not eligible for funding. We will also evaluate
your operating expense ratio and the sustainability of your revenue
sources, and if we determine that your financial capability would
preclude you from properly managing Federal funds, your organization
will not be eligible for an award. We may also identify any concerns
that might require special conditions if an award is made. (See also
Section D.2.h.)
    Application Completeness: Your application must provide all the
information requested in Section D.2 of this Notice. Applications
lacking sufficient information to determine eligibility and scoring
will not be considered for funding.
    No Duplication of Current Services. Your application must
demonstrate that you are providing services to new customers or new
services to current customers. (See also Section D.2.s of this Notice.)
    Number of Applications. You may only submit one application in
response to this Notice.
[[Page 55277]]
    Collaboration, Contracts, and Subawards. While we support
collaboration between and among Centers, you must limit any contracts
or subawards with other Centers to 10% or less of project costs. We
consider collaboration to occur when two or more Centers work jointly
on an activity, but each Center controls its own budget for its
involvement. Any collaboration with other Centers must be identified in
the proposed Work Plan.
D. Application and Submission Information
1. Address To Request Application Package
    The application template for applying for this funding opportunity
is located at https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/agriculture-innovation-center-program. Use of the application template is strongly
recommended to assist you with the application process.
2. Content and Form of Application Submission
    Your application must be submitted electronically through
Grants.gov. Your application must contain all required information. You
must follow the instructions for this funding announcement at http://www.grants.gov. Note that we cannot accept applications through mail or
courier delivery, in-person delivery, email, or fax.
    You can locate the Grants.gov downloadable application package for
this program by using a keyword, the program name, or the Catalog of
Federal Domestic Assistance Number for this program.
    When you enter the Grants.gov website, you will find information
about applying electronically through the site, as well as the hours of
operation. We have included additional information about how to
register and use the Grants.gov website in our Application Guide.
    To use Grants.gov, you must already have a DUNS number and you must
also be registered and maintain registration in SAM. We strongly
recommend that you do not wait until the application deadline date to
begin the application process through Grants.gov because it can take up
to four weeks to complete the registration process.
    You must submit all application documents electronically through
Grants.gov. Applications must include electronic signatures. Original
signatures may be required if funds are awarded.
    After applying electronically through Grants.gov, you will receive
an automatic acknowledgement from Grants.gov that contains a Grants.gov
tracking number.
    Your application must contain the following required forms and
other components:
    (a) Standard Form SF-424, ``Application for Federal Assistance,''
to include your DUNS number and SAM Commercial and Government Entity
(CAGE) code and expiration date. If you do not include your DUNS number
and your CAGE code or your DUNS number or Cage code is inactive or
expired, we will not consider your application for funding.
    (b) Form SF-424A, ``Budget Information-Non-Construction Programs.''
This form must be completed and submitted as part of the application
package.
    (c) Form SF-424B, ``Assurances--Non-Construction Programs.'' This
form must be completed, signed, and submitted as part of the
application package.
    (d) Form AD-3030, ``Representations Regarding Felony Conviction and
Tax Delinquent Status for Corporate Applicants,'' if you are a
corporation. A corporation is any entity that has filed articles of
incorporation in one of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the
Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic
of the Marshall Islands, or the various territories of the United
States including American Samoa, Guam, Midway Islands, the Commonwealth
of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin
Islands. Corporations include both for profit and non-profit entities.
Institutions of higher education are not required to submit this form.
    (e) You must certify that there are no current outstanding Federal
judgments against your property and that you will not use grant funds
to pay for any judgment obtained by the United States. You must also
certify that you are not delinquent on the payment of Federal income
taxes, or any Federal debt. To satisfy the Certification requirement,
you must include this statement in your application: ``[INSERT NAME OF
APPLICANT] certifies that the United States has not obtained an
unsatisfied judgment against its property, is not delinquent on the
payment of Federal income taxes, or any Federal debt, and will not use
grant funds to pay any judgments obtained by the United States.'' A
separate signature is not required.
    (f) Certification on Lobbying. Your authorized representative must
sign a certification which contains the entire statement from 2 CFR
part 418, Appendix A.
    (g) Financial Capability. You must include the last three years of
your financial statements (balance sheets, income statements, and cash
flow statements) and your most recent audit (including the Letter to
the Managers).
    (h) Applicant Eligibility. You must verify your legal status and
demonstrate your eligibility for the program.
     Public bodies must provide information regarding their
authorization.
     Non-profit and for-profit corporations must submit the
State's Certificate of Good Standing and your Articles of
Incorporation. You may also submit your Bylaws if they provide
additional information not included in your Articles of Incorporation
that will help verify your legal status.
     Institutions of Higher Education must demonstrate that you
qualify as an Institution of Higher Education as defined at 20 U.S.C.
1001.
    (i) Verification of Matching Funds. Matching funds must be provided
for at least one-third of the total project cost. For example, if your
total project cost is $300,000, you must provide at least $100,000 in
matching funds. Matching funds can be provided in cash by the applicant
organization or a third-party. They can also be provided in-kind by a
third-party organization. You must verify the amount of funds to be
contributed, the source of the funds, the availability of the funds,
and the purpose for which the funds will be used. All verification must
be done on an organization's letterhead and be signed by the
organization's authorized representative.
    (j) Governance Structure of the Center. The Center does not need to
be an independent legal entity; however, it must be independently
governed. You must provide an explanation of how the governance of the
Center works (or will work if it hasn't been established at the time of
application). In particular, you must address how the Center carries
out personnel decisions, including hiring and firing employees and
contractors; sets its policies and procedures, including personnel and
procurement; develops and approves its budget; and selects its own
Board of Directors.
    (k) Board of Directors. You must provide the following information:
    For the representatives from the two organizations with the
greatest number of members in your State, you must identify the
representatives, the organization, its purpose, and the number of
members it has in your State. The purpose must focus on agriculture in
general; it cannot be restricted to a specific group, commodity, or
sector. The membership of the organization
[[Page 55278]]
does not need to be restricted to your State. You must also explain how
you determined that it had the most (or second most) members.
Acceptable sources for this information can include the state
Department of Agriculture, or its equivalent, or a third-party,
reliable source, such as a trade journal or university agriculture
department.
    For the representative from the State department of agriculture (or
equivalent) or State legislator, you must identify the representative
and include the person's title and job responsibility if from the
Department of Agriculture or identify the district the State legislator
represents.
    For representatives from entities representing four commodities,
you must identify each representative and the entity they represent.
You must use data from State Department of Agriculture, or its
equivalent, to demonstrate that the commodities are produced in your
state and provide a copy of the information used.
    You must also submit a signed statement from each representative
stating that they either are currently on the Center's Board of
Directors or that they commit to being on the Center's Board of
Directors during the proposed period of performance.
    If your application is selected for funding, we will confirm the
Board of Directors still meets the requirements. If at any time, the
Center's Board of Directors does not meet the requirements during the
period of performance, the award will either be suspended until the
requirements can be met or it will be terminated if the requirements
can no longer be met.
    (l) Existing Capability to Provide Services. The applicant
organization must be able to demonstrate that it has previously
provided services similar to the Producer Services defined in 7 CFR
4284.1004 or that it has the capability to provide those services. In
order to be considered qualified, the applicant organization must
either demonstrate at least three years of experience providing the
same type of Producer Services as those proposed in the application and
show a record of at least three positive outcomes or the applicant
organization must demonstrate that it currently has key personnel
assigned to the project who have the same level of experience and
positive outcomes, even if they have not worked for the organization
for at least three years. You must explain your role or your key
personnel's role in the project and identify the organization that you
worked with. Note that examples of positive outcomes include assisting
a business with incorporation and assisting a business with expanding
its operation in terms of additional staff or additional products
marketed. It can also mean working with an organization and determining
that going forward with a proposed project is not feasible.
    To demonstrate previously providing services, you must include a
chart or narrative that describes the services provided during the last
three years. The description must include the specific type of service
provided, how many times it has been provided, and the outcomes of the
services provided (preferably with quantitative measurements). To
demonstrate current capability when the applicant has not previously
provided Producer Services, the applicant must provide a narrative that
describes the key personnel's experience with providing Producer
Services. The narrative must include a description of the services
provided, how many times it has been provided, and the outcomes of the
services provided (preferably with quantitative measurements). We will
assess the capability of each applicant organization based only on what
is submitted with the application.
    (m) Support of the Agricultural Community. You must include at
least three letters of support from agricultural organizations, other
than the applicant organization, that are relevant to the project.
Evidence of support includes contributions of cash or in-kind matching
funds. Other examples of support include referring clients and intent
to collaborate. We will consider the support to be relevant if the
organization is based in the State or region in which the project will
take place and if the organization serves the same group of producers
(either directly or through commodity/marketing efforts) targeted by
the proposed project.
    (n) Title Page. Your application must contain a Title Page. It is
recommended that your Title Page include a short title for your
proposed project as well as contact information or other application
identifying information.
    (o) Table of Contents. Your application must contain a detailed
Table of Contents (TOC). The TOC must include page numbers for each
part of the application, including each evaluation criterion. Page
numbers should begin immediately following the TOC.
    (p) Executive Summary. A summary of the proposal, not to exceed one
page, must briefly describe the Project, tasks to be completed, and
other relevant information that provides a general overview of the
Project.
    (q) Goals of the Project. You must include a listing of each
Producer Service to be offered during the project. You must also
identify one or more specific goals relating to increasing and
improving the ability of identified local agricultural producers to
develop a market or process for Value-Added agricultural commodities or
products.
    (r) Work Plan. You must include a description of your proposed work
for the project, including how your project focuses on increasing and
improving the ability of local agricultural producers to develop
markets and processes for Value-Added agricultural commodities or
products. This description must include the actions that will be taken
in order for the Producer Services to be available from the Center.
Each action should include a target date for completion. General start-
up tasks should be listed, followed by specific tasks listed for each
Producer Service to be offered. Tasks associated with the start-up of
the Center should include a focused marketing and delivery plan
directed at the local agricultural producers that were identified in
the Goals section of your application. The actions to be taken should
include steps for identifying customers, hiring key personnel (if not
already hired), contracting for services for the Center, and making
arrangements for strategic alliances. Each defined task needs to have a
description, assigned key personnel, and an expected time frame for
accomplishment. You must also clearly demonstrate how your project will
provide services to new customers or provide new services to existing
customers.
    (s) Budget Justification. You must provide additional information
regarding the budget you submit on the SF-424A, including your matching
funds. This additional information should describe each category of
expense and what specific costs are included in each category as well
as how your Matching Funds will be used. For example, the Salaries
justification should include the names of each staff member (not just
key personnel) who will be paid and how much they will be paid. The
Fringe Benefits category should include a description of how fringe
benefits are calculated and what is included. The Contracts category
should identify the contractors by name (if known) as well as the
amounts expected for each contract and the purpose of each contract.
The Other category should include the expected expenses (e.g. supplies)
that will be included. The Travel category should identify specific
trips that will be taken, who will be traveling, and the reason for the
travel. Additionally, if there are any unusual expenses, you should
describe
[[Page 55279]]
them and why they are appropriate for the award.
    (t) Scoring Criteria. Each of the scoring criteria in this Notice
must be addressed in narrative form, with a maximum of three pages for
each individual scoring criterion, unless otherwise specified. Failure
to address each scoring criteria will result in the application being
determined ineligible.
    (u) Strategic Coordination and Alliances. Describe arrangements in
place or planned with end users (for example, processing and
distribution companies and regional grocers) as well as with entities
that have technical research capabilities, broad support from the
agricultural community in the State or region, significant coordination
with end users, strategic alliances with entities having technical
research capabilities and a focused delivery plan for reaching out to
the producer community.
3. DUNS Number and SAM
    To be eligible, you are required to:
    (a) Provide a valid DUNS number in your application, which can be
obtained at no cost via a toll-free request line at (866) 705-5711 or
at http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform.;
    (b) Register in SAM before submitting your application. You may
register in SAM at no cost at https://www.sam.gov/SAM/. You must
provide your SAM CAGE Code and expiration date; and
    (c) Continue to maintain an active SAM registration with current
information at all times during which you have an active Federal award
or an application or plan under consideration by a Federal awarding
agency.
    If you have not fully complied with all applicable DUNS and SAM
requirements, the Agency may determine that the applicant is not
qualified to receive a Federal award and the Agency may use that
determination as a basis for making an award to another applicant.
Please refer to Section F. 2 for additional submission requirements
that apply to grantees selected for this program.
4. Submission Dates and Times
    Application Deadline Date: March 20, 2020.
    Explanation of Deadlines: Applications must be RECEIVED by http://www.grants.gov by midnight Eastern Time March 20, 2020, to be eligible
for funding. Please review the Grants.gov website at http://grants.gov/applicants/organization_registration.jsp for instructions on the
process of registering your organization as soon as possible to ensure
you can meet the electronic application deadline. Grants.gov will not
accept applications submitted after the deadline.
5. Intergovernmental Review
    Executive Order (E.O.) 12372, ``Intergovernmental Review of Federal
Programs,'' applies to this program. This E.O. requires that Federal
agencies provide opportunities for consultation on proposed assistance
with State and local governments. Many States have established a Single
Point of Contact (SPOC) to facilitate this consultation. For a list of
States that maintain a SPOC, please see the White House website:
https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/SPOC-Feb.-2018.pdf. If your State has a SPOC, you may submit a copy of the
application directly for review. Any comments obtained through the SPOC
must be provided to us for consideration as part of your application.
If your State has not established a SPOC, or if you do not want to
submit a copy of the application, we will submit your application to
the SPOC or other appropriate agency or agencies.
6. Funding Restrictions
    Grant funds must be used for Technical Assistance. No funds made
available under this solicitation shall be used to:
    (a) Plan, repair, rehabilitate, acquire, or construct a building or
facility, including a processing facility;
    (b) Purchase, rent, or install fixed equipment, including
processing equipment;
    (c) Purchase vehicles, including boats;
    (d) Pay for the preparation of the grant application;
    (e) Pay expenses not directly related to the funded Project;
    (f) Fund political or lobbying activities;
    (g) Fund any activities considered unallowable by the applicable
grant cost principles, including 2 CFR part 200, subpart E and the
Federal Acquisition Regulation;
    (h) Fund architectural work for a specific physical facility;
    (i) Fund any direct expenses for the production of any commodity or
product to which value will be added, including seed, rootstock, labor
for harvesting the crop, and delivery of the commodity to a processing
facility;
    (j) Purchase land;
    (k) Duplicate current activities or activities paid for by another
Federal grant program;
    (l) Pay costs of the Project incurred prior to the date of award
approval;
    (m) Pay for assistance to any private business enterprise that does
not have at least 51 percent ownership by those who are either citizens
of the United States or reside in the United States after being legally
admitted for permanent residence;
    (n) Pay any judgment or debt owed to the United States; or
    (o) Pay for any goods or services from a person who has a Conflict
of Interest with the recipient.
    In addition, your application will not be considered for funding if
it does any of the following:
     Requests more than the maximum grant amount;
     Focuses assistance on only one agriculture producer; or
     Proposes ineligible costs that equal more than 10 percent
of total grant funds requested.
    We will consider your application for funding if it includes
ineligible costs of 10 percent or less of total grant funds requested,
if it is determined eligible otherwise. However, if your application is
successful, those ineligible costs must be removed and replaced with
eligible costs before the Agency will make the grant award or the
amount of the grant award will be reduced accordingly. If we cannot
determine the percentage of ineligible costs, your application will not
be considered for funding.
7. Other Submission Requirements
    (a) National Environmental Policy Act. This Notice has been
reviewed in accordance with 7 CFR part 1970, ``Environmental Policies
and Procedures.'' We have determined that an Environmental Impact
Statement is not required because the issuance of regulations and
instructions, as well as amendments to them, describing administrative
and financial procedures for processing, approving, and implementing
the Agency's financial programs is categorically excluded in the
Agency's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulation found at 7
CFR 1970.53(f). We have determined that this Notice does not constitute
a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human
environment.
    The Agency will review each grant application to determine its
compliance with 7 CFR part 1970. The applicant may be asked to provide
additional information or documentation to assist the Agency with this
determination.
    (b) Civil Rights Compliance Requirements. All grants made under
this Notice are subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as
required by the USDA (7 CFR part 15, subpart A) and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
[[Page 55280]]
E. Application Review Information
    We will review applications to determine if they are eligible for
assistance based on requirements in this Notice, and other applicable
Federal laws and regulations. If we determine that your application is
eligible for assistance, your application will be scored by a panel of
USDA employees based on the Scoring Criteria specified in this Notice.
The highest scoring application will be funded up to the maximum amount
available. Additional applications that cannot be fully funded may be
offered partial funding at the Agency's discretion.
1. Scoring Criteria
    All eligible and complete applications will be evaluated based on
the following criteria. Evaluators will base scores only on the
information provided in the application. This is a competitive program,
so you will receive scores based on the quality of the information
provided. Simply addressing the criteria will not guarantee higher
scores. The total points possible for the criteria are 80.
    (a) Ability to Deliver (maximum score of 15 points). The
application will be evaluated as to whether it evidences unique
abilities to deliver Producer Services so as to create sustainable
Value-Added ventures. Abilities that are transferable to a wide range
of agricultural Value-Added commodities are preferred over highly
specialized skills. Strong skills must be accompanied by a credible and
thoughtful plan.
    Points will be awarded as follows:
    (i) 0 points will be awarded if you do not substantively address
the criterion.
    (ii) 1-4 points will be awarded for unique abilities, that is,
abilities that are not available through other organizations in the
Center's service area.
    (iii) 1-4 points will be awarded for the expected sustainability of
the Value-Added ventures supported by the project. For example,
applications that propose to work with ventures where the expected
sustainability has been assessed will receive more points than
applications that do not address expected sustainability. By
sustainability, we mean that the venture assisted will generate wealth
(e.g. if the project adds retained earnings to the balance sheet, not
just an increase in cash flow).
    (iv) 1-4 points will be awarded for the transferability of the
abilities identified. Abilities that are transferable to a wide range
of commodities will receive more points.
    (v) 1-3 points will be awarded for plans to accomplish work that
are thoughtful and seem reasonable. For example, do the services the
Center will provide match the stated goals (from Section D.2.q). Are
the results measurable and attainable within the proposed project
period?
    (b) Successful Track Record (maximum score of 15 points). The
applicant organization's track record in achieving Value-Added
successes will be evaluated.
    Points will be awarded as follows:
    (i) 0 points will be awarded if you do not substantively address
the criterion.
    (ii) 1-3 points will be awarded if the applicant has more than
three years of experience in accomplishing Value-Added successes. More
points will be given for more years of experience, based on the
distribution of what all eligible applicants submit. No credit will be
given for activities that did not directly result in a Value-Added
success. Note that we consider a success to include working with an
organization and providing coaching to indicate that the proposed
venture is not feasible.
    (iii) 1-4 points will be awarded based on the number of Value-Added
successes. More points will be given for higher numbers, based on the
distribution of what eligible applicants submit.
    (iv) 1-4 points will be awarded based on the significance of Value-
Added successes. More points will be given for more significant
successes, based on the distribution of what eligible applicants
submit.
    (v) 1-4 points will be awarded based on the complexity of the role
that the applicant organization played in the Value-Added successes.
    (c) Work Plan/Budget (maximum of 15 points). We will review the
work plan for detailed actions and an accompanying timetable for
implementing the proposed work. We will review budgets for completeness
and the strength of non-Federal funding commitments. Note that there is
no additional information required for this criterion. We will use the
Work Plan and Budget Justification for our evaluation.
    Points will be awarded as follows:
    (i) 0 points will be awarded if you do not substantively address
this criterion.
    (ii) 1-6 points will be awarded for work plans that describe each
task, including objectives and potential outcomes, and how that task
connects to the goal of the project. More points will be awarded for
work plans that completely describe tasks and show measurable outcomes
as well as for work plans that show a cohesive plan for the achievement
of the goal(s) of the project.
    (iii) 1-3 points will be awarded for work plans that show a
reasonable and differentiated timetable for the proposed tasks. For
example, a work plan that shows a schedule for how a Center will begin
operation, then market its services, and then provide its services
would be awarded more points that a work plan that simply states all
Producer Services will be offered for 12 months. We will also consider
how you will identify customers. Applications with a specific
description of customer identification will receive more points.
    (iv) 1-3 points will be awarded for the budget justification. More
points will be awarded for justifications that completely describe all
categories of cost, including indirect costs. We consider that a
complete description includes identification of key personnel
(including any contractors) and the salaries and fringe benefits
associated with their time on the project as well as identification of
all travel events (including who will be traveling and what the purpose
of the trip is), individual contract amounts and purposes, and items
that are categorized, such as computers, printers, scanners, copiers,
and other office items.
    (v) 1-3 points will be awarded for higher quality matching funds.
We consider cash match to be of higher quality than in-kind. Thus, we
will award more points for applications that have a larger percentage
of matching funds coming from cash, based on the distribution of what
is submitted by applicants.
    (d) Qualifications of Key Personnel (maximum of 15 points).
Describe the qualifications of the key personnel for the project. Key
personnel may include employees of the Center or consultants/
contractors, but they do not include administrative or financial staff
whose purpose is to support the administrative requirements of the
award. Your description should include the number of years of
experience that a person has doing the type of work that will be
assigned during the project as well as metrics indicating the number of
times the person has provided the assistance and the outcomes of that
assistance. You must also include the total hours that will be
contributed to the project by each person. Points will be awarded as
follows:
    (i) 0 points will be awarded if you do not adequately address this
criterion.
    (ii) 1-5 points based on the percentage of work that will be
carried out by Center employees. We will calculate the percentage by
adding the
[[Page 55281]]
hours of the key personnel and dividing the number of hours from Center
employees by the total hours.
    a. 1 point for 10-20% of the work carried out by Center employees;
    b. 2 points for 21-40% of the work carried out by Center employees;
    c. 3 points for 41-60% of the work carried out by Center employees;
    d. 4 points for 61-80% of the work carried out by Center employees;
and
    e. 5 points for 81-100% of the work carried out by Center
employees.
    (iii) 1-10 points based on the qualifications of the key personnel.
More points will be awarded in cases where the key personnel are
assigned to specific tasks that match their experience and skills.
    (e) Local support (maximum of 4 points). You must show that the
Center has local support from and coordination with other developmental
organizations in the proposed service area and with tribal, state, and
local institutions. Support documentation should include recognition of
rural values that balance employment opportunities with environmental
stewardship and other rural amenities.
    Points will be awarded as follows:
    (i) 0 points are awarded if you do not adequately address this
criterion or if you do not provide at least three letters of support.
    (ii) 1 point will be awarded for a support letter from a
developmental organization in the proposed service area that shows
coordination with your project.
    (iii) 1 point will be awarded for a support letter from a state or
tribal institution.
    (iv) 1 point will be awarded for a support letter from a local
institution.
    (v) 1 point will be awarded for support that includes recognition
of rural values that balance employment opportunities with
environmental stewardship and other rural amenities.
    You may submit a maximum of 3 letters of support for this criterion
(or you may reference other letters submitted with the application).
When awarding points for this criterion, we will only consider support
letters from developmental organizations in the proposed service area,
and state and local institutions. Additionally, identical form letters
signed by multiple organizations will not be included in the count of
support letters received. Support letters must be included as an
attachment to the application.
    (f) Future support (maximum of 15 points). Describe the vision for
funding Center operations for future years, including diversification
of funding sources and building in-house technical assistance capacity.
    Points will be awarded as follows:
    (i) 0 points will be awarded if you do not substantively address
the criterion.
    (ii) 1-5 points will be awarded for applications that describe a
specific plan for obtaining future funding for the Center. More points
will be awarded for plans that show concrete actions for at least 3
years into the future.
    (iii) 1-5 points will be awarded for applications that show a
diversification of funding sources. Possible funding sources include
Federal awards, tribal, state and local awards, private donations, and
pay-for-service plans. More points will be awarded for plans that
include multiple, committed funding sources. You may summarize the
funding sources/support in a chart or narrative and you must include
the following information for each source: name of the organization,
the amount of funds committed, the expected time period for commitment,
and the purpose for which the funds can be used.
    (iv) 1-5 points will be awarded for applications that show how in-
house capacity for providing technical assistance will be improved.
More points will be awarded for Centers that have a specific plan for
training and hiring in-house technical assistance experts.
2. Review and Selection Process
    We will review applications to determine if they are eligible for
assistance based on requirements in this Notice, and other applicable
Federal laws and regulations. If we determine that your application
meets the requirements, it will be scored by a panel of USDA employees
in accordance with the Scoring Criteria and point allocation specified
in this Notice. The review panel will convene to reach a consensus on
the scores for each of the eligible applications. Applications will be
ranked solely based on the points awarded, and they will be funded in
rank order until available funds are expended. If an application cannot
be fully funded, we will offer partial funding to the extent funds are
available. If the applicant offered partial funding does not accept, we
will offer the funding to the next highest-ranked applicant until we
find an applicant that accepts the funding or no additional eligible
applicants exist.
    If your application is ranked and not funded, it will not be
carried forward into the next competition.
F. Federal Award Administration Information
1. Federal Award Notices
    If you are selected for funding, you will receive a signed Letter
of Conditions containing instructions on requirements necessary to
proceed with execution and performance of the award. If you are able to
meet the conditions of the award within the specified time frame
(typically up to 90 calendar days), we will proceed with approving an
award. If you are not able to meet the conditions of the award, we may
terminate consideration of your application at our discretion and
choose to award the funds to the next highest-ranked applicant.
    If you are not selected for funding, you will be notified in
writing and informed of any review and appeal rights. Funding of
successfully appealed applications will be limited to available FY 2019
funding.
2. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
    Additional requirements that apply to grantees selected for this
program can be found in 2 CFR parts 200, 215, 400, 415, 417, 418, and
421. All recipients of Federal financial assistance are required to
report information about first-tier subawards and executive
compensation (See 2 CFR part 170). You will be required to have the
necessary processes and systems in place to comply with the Federal
Funding Accountability and Transparency Act reporting requirements (See
2 CFR 170.200(b), unless you are exempt under 2 CFR 170.110(b)). These
regulations may be obtained at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/index.html.
    The following additional requirements apply to grantees selected
for this program:
     Agency approved Grant Agreement.
     Letter of Conditions.
     Form RD 1940-1, ``Request for Obligation of Funds.''
     Form RD 1942-46, ``Letter of Intent to Meet Conditions.''
     Form AD-1047, ``Certification Regarding Debarment,
Suspension, and Other Responsibility Matters-Primary Covered
Transactions.''
     Form AD-1048, ``Certification Regarding Debarment,
Suspension, Ineligibility and Voluntary Exclusion-Lower Tier Covered
Transactions.''
     Form AD-1049, ``Certification Regarding a Drug-Free
Workplace Requirement (Grants).''
     Form AD-3031, ``Assurance Regarding Felony Conviction or
Tax Delinquent Status for Corporate Applicants.'' Must be signed by
[[Page 55282]]
corporate applicants who receive an award under this Notice.
     Form RD 400-4, ``Assurance Agreement.'' By signing Form
400-4, Assurance Agreement recipients affirm that they will operate the
program free from discrimination. The recipient will maintain the race
and ethnic data on the board members and beneficiaries of the program.
The Recipient will provide alternative forms of communication to
persons with limited English proficiency. The Agency will conduct Civil
Rights Compliance Reviews on recipients to identify the collection of
racial and ethnic data on Program beneficiaries. In addition, the
Compliance review will ensure that equal access to the Program benefits
and activities are provided for persons with disabilities and language
barriers.
     SF LLL, ``Disclosure of Lobbying Activities,'' if
applicable.
     Certification of Lobbying. Your authorized representative
must sign a certification which contains the entire statement from 2
CFR part 418, Appendix A.
3. Reporting
    After award approval, you will be required to provide the
following:
    a. A SF-425, ``Federal Financial Report,'' and a project
performance report will be required on a quarterly basis (due 30
calendar days after end of each quarter) for the first year of the
project to ensure that all recipients are able to complete start-up
activities and begin providing technical assistance. Recipients may
submit financial and performance reports on a semi-annual basis for the
second year of the project, provided they are on schedule for project
completion. For the purposes of this program, quarters end on March 31,
June 30, September 30, and December 31. The project performance reports
shall include a comparison of actual accomplishments to the objectives
established for that period;
    b. Reasons why established objectives were not met, if applicable;
    c. Reasons for any problems, delays, or adverse conditions, if any,
which have affected or will affect attainment of overall project
objectives, prevent meeting time schedules or objectives, or preclude
the attainment of particular objectives during established time
periods. This disclosure shall be accompanied by a statement of the
action taken or planned to resolve the situation; and
    d. Objectives and timetable established for the next reporting
period.
    e. Provide a final project and financial status report within 90
calendar days after the expiration or termination of the award.
    f. Provide outcome project performance reports and final
deliverables.
G. Agency Contacts
    For general questions about this announcement and for program
Technical Assistance, please contact National Office staff: Gail
Thuner, Management and Program Analyst, [email protected], or call
202-690-1376.
H. Other Information
Non-Discrimination Statement
    In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its
Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or
administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on
race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including
gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital
status, family/parental status, income derived from a public assistance
program, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil
rights activity, in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA
(not all bases apply to all programs). Remedies and complaint filing
deadlines vary by program or incident.
    Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of
communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print,
audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the responsible
Agency or USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or
contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.
Additionally, program information may be made available in languages
other than English.
    To file a program discrimination complaint, complete the USDA
Program Discrimination Complaint Form, AD-3027, found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html and at any USDA office or
write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the
information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint
form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA
by:
    (1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant
Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC
20250-9410;
    fax: (202) 690-7442; or
    email: [email protected].
Bette B. Brand,
Administrator, Rural Business-Cooperative Service.
[FR Doc. 2019-22551 Filed 10-15-19; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-XY-P