The USDA Regional Food Business Centers will support a more resilient, diverse, and competitive food system. These Regional Food Centers will support producers by providing localized assistance to access local and regional supply chains, including linking producers to wholesalers and distributors. They will provide technical assistance needed to access new markets, access to federal, state, and local resources, and will assist small- and mid-sized producers in overcoming barriers to market access, with a focus on underserved farmers, ranchers, and food businesses.
1. Question: When will finalists be announced?
Answer: As of May 3, 2023, Secretary Vilsack announced 12 USDA Regional Food Business Centers finalists. View the Press Release.
2. Question: When will final awards be announced?
Answer: USDA is currently working with finalists to finalize agreements, budgets, and workplans. Correspondence with the finalists will be ongoing through the next few months as Center details are confirmed.
The applications went through an administrative review process that included a review of 51 different applications. Applications that met all eligibility requirements and proposed activities that fulfill the purpose of Regional Food Business Centers were reviewed by a diverse external review panel.
3. Question: How many applications were received?
Answer: 51 applications were received for a total of $1.8 billion in funding. Through a competitive review process, 12 finalists were identified. Other lead applicant organizations and partners may be collaborating with these finalists to ensure national coverage and engagement with underserved communities.
4. Question: Will there be another round of applications for Regional Food Business Centers?
Answer: There will not be another round of applications at the time.
1. Question: How do I get in touch with USDA staff involved with the Centers?
Answer: To contact USDA staff involved with the Regional Food Business Centers, email RegionalFoodCenters@usda.gov
2. How do I get involved with a Regional Food Business Center near me?
Answer: Once the agreements are final, we will be working with the Finalists to develop a process for communication.
1. Question: How do I make an appeal?
Answer: For information regarding applications received after the due date and the appeals policy, please review the AMS’ Late Applications, Denials and/or Appeal Procedures (pdf).
1. Question: How many Centers are there?
Answer: 12 USDA Regional Food Business Centers were selected as Finalists.
2. Question: Where are the geographic areas that these Centers cover?
Answer: The USDA Regional Food Business Centers can be found across the U.S. and Territories in the following 12 regions identified on the map below.
3. Question: What will the Centers be doing?
Answer: The Regional Food Centers will have three main responsibilities:
- Coordination - The Regional Food Centers will act as regional hubs coordinating across geographic areas, with USDA, other federal, state, and tribal agencies with relevant resources, regional commissions, and the other Regional Food Centers. They will conduct outreach to underserved communities and businesses.
- Technical Assistance - The Regional Food Centers will provide direct business technical assistance to small- and mid-sized food and farm businesses (producers, processors, distributors, and other businesses within the food supply chain) and food value and supply chain coordination. Each Regional Food Center will identify priority areas for technical assistance (e.g., aggregation/distribution, specialty crop processing for institutions) for the region it plans to serve.
- Capacity Building - The Regional Food Centers will provide financial assistance through business builder subawards up to $100,000 to support projects focused on emerging regional needs and businesses that are working towards expansion and other investment. These subawards may support staff time, business planning activities, software implementation, the purchase of equipment, such as food safety, processing and packaging equipment, value chain and supply chain coordination and innovation, product development, marketing, and other expenses as outlined in the RFA.
Funding Priorities | Partnerships | Eligibility | Matching Funds | Allowable Costs | Application/Submission | Prior Awards | Grants.gov Info | SAM Registration | Geography and Regions | Subawards | Miscellaneous | Indirect Costs
1. Question: Are there priority considerations for the USDA Regional Food Business Centers program?
Answer: Yes, USDA intends to select at least one Regional Food Business Center that serves each of the following: Colonias (counties on the US/Mexico border); High need/limited resources areas of the Delta and the Southeast; and high need areas of Appalachia. AMS will also fund one national Tribal Food Business Center. See section 1.4 of the RFA for more on regions.
Question added 9/29/2022
2. Question: Do the funding priorities outlined in the RFA mean that four business centers are already assigned to specific areas? Has USDA determined the regions the Regional Business Centers will serve?
Answer: No, the Regional Food Business Centers have not been chosen or assigned yet and regions have not been determined. USDA has identified four High Priority Areas (Colonias; High need/limited resources areas of the Delta and the Southeast; high need areas of Appalachia; and a National Tribal Center), but organizations/partnerships that will serve those areas have not been selected. All applications will be reviewed and selected after the application deadline of December 15, 2022. We intend to select a minimum of six Regional Food Business Centers. See section 1.4 of the RFA for more on regions.
Questions added 10/6/2022
3. Question: Under the Capacity Building section, it states that $100,000 may be used to support regional needs and /or Businesses. Is this $100,00 annually or total over the life of the project?
Answer: This program is to operate a Regional Food Business Center through a cooperative agreement with USDA. The Regional Food Centers will coordinate, offer technical assistance, and provide capacity building grants to businesses in the region. The capacity building grants can be up to $100,000 and we anticipate that the Regional Food Centers will make multiple awards throughout the five-year cooperative agreement. An award to an individual organization can be a maximum of $100,000 over 5 years.
4. Question: What is the minimum and maximum amount of the award?
Answer: The minimum award is $15 million, and the maximum award is $50 million.
1. Question: What is the preferred structure of the Partnership? (this question was updated 11/16/22)
Answer: Partnerships must meet the criteria outlined below, however outside of these criteria there is not a “preferred structure” for how a partnership is established or what type of eligible entities make up a partnership.
The Partnership is composed of the Lead Applicant and the Key Partners applying to operate a Regional Food Business Center. The members of the Partnership must include at least three organizations, all of which must be eligible entities (as outlined in RFA section 3.1), and the Partnership must include organizations from at least two different categories of eligible entity. The Key Partners work closely with the Lead Applicant to form the Partnership and they share planning, implementation and reporting responsibilities. Lead Applicants and their Key Partners must sign Memorandums of Understanding within 45 days of the signing of a Cooperative Agreement. All Key Partners must provide letters of commitment.
Applications should include engagement from multiple sectors such as local, state, tribal, or regional governments, tribal-serving organizations, food policy councils, producers and/or producer organizations, universities, urban and rural food system stakeholders, philanthropy, and entities across the food value chain and supply chain, such as distributors, processors, food hubs, retailers, and underserved communities and agricultural businesses. See RFA Section 3.1 for more on eligible entities.
2. Question: Does “Applicant” refer to every entity and partner included in the application or just the lead organization who applies on behalf of the partnership? (this question was updated 11/16/22)
Answer: Applicant in this Request for Applications refers to the Lead Applicant and Key Partners submitting the application. Together these organizations must include representatives of at least two of the eligible entity types. The Lead Applicant is the lead eligible entity of the partnership applying to operate the Regional Food Business Center. The Lead Applicant must have demonstrated capacity and experience managing a high value and quantity of federal funds. The Lead Applicant has the ultimate responsibility for the financial management, overall planning, organizational management, and implementation of the Center. The Lead Applicant must be located within and have a history of providing services necessary to regional food system development in the region the Center will serve. Key Partners are the other eligible entities that with the Lead Applicant compose the partnership (Applicant) applying to operate the Regional Food Business Center. Key Partners must be located in and have a history of providing services necessary to the development of regional food systems in the region the Center will serve. The Lead Applicant Key Partners must provide Letters of Commitment with the application to operate a Regional Food Center. Key Partners must each also provide Budget Forms as attachments to the Narrative Form. For more information on these definitions, see section 1.3.5 of the RFA.
Question added 9/29/2022
3. Question: How can I get in touch with staff at AMS to talk about applying for a Regional Food Business Center cooperative agreement?
Answer: Please email RegionalFoodCenters@usda.gov and a member of our team will respond to your email within 2 business days. AMS is also hosting Office Hours to take questions about the Regional Food Business Centers. Visit the Overview Page for Details
Question Added 11/16/2022
4. Question: Who is included in the partnership?
Answer: The Partnership is composed of the Lead Applicant and the Key Partners applying to operate a Regional Food Business Center. The members of the Partnership must include at least three organizations, all of which must be eligible entities, and the Partnership must include organizations from at least two different categories of eligible entity. The Key Partners work closely with the Lead Applicant to form the Partnership and they share planning, implementation and reporting responsibilities. Lead Applicants and their Key Partners must sign Memorandums of Understanding within 45 days of the signing of a Cooperative Agreement.
1. Question: Who is considered eligible to apply for the USDA Regional Food Business Centers Program?
Answer: Please see section 3.1 for more information on eligible entities.
2. Question: If I have never administered a federal grant before, am I eligible to apply?
Answer: Section 1.3.5 of the RFA states that the applicant must have demonstrated capacity and experience managing a high value and quantity of federal funds. If you have never administered federal funds, you might be better suited to serve as a partner, rather than the applicant and manager of funds.
3. Question: Can we apply for a USDA Regional Food Business Centers Program cooperative agreement if our non-profit (501)(c)(3) status is still pending with the IRS?
Answer: Yes. If an award is offered, the applicant would need to verify their (501)(c)(3) status to receive the USDA Regional Food Business Centers award.
4. Question: Is it correct that the direct recipient of the grant needs to be US domestic, but that the partner(s) don’t necessarily have to be?
Answer: Per section 3.1 of the RFA, all applicants and the eligible entities that make up the partnership must have a physical presence within, and have a history of serving, the region for which they are applying to serve as a Regional Food Business Center, and must be domestic entities owned and operated within the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or Indian tribal lands in the geographic regions of the United States.
5. Question: Does an applicant or identified partner need to have existed for a minimum amount of time to qualify?
Answer: No. However, partnerships should consider the financial management and reporting requirements for a federal award when deciding which entity should be the primary/lead applicant for a USDA Regional Food Business Centers award.
6. Question: Does the Tribal Center lead applicant need to be a national, Tribal/Native run organization?
Answer: As described in section 1.4 of the RFA, the Tribal Food Business Center must include an eligible applicant that is a tribal or Native run organization that primarily serves Native American and tribal communities, and that has a documented history of successfully working with tribal communities in this space, and it must demonstrate a collaboration across a nation-wide network of partners.
7. Question: Can partners appear on multiple Regional Food Business Centers applications if the lead applicant is different?
Answer: Yes. A partner under one partnership agreement may be included on multiple applications, and potentially receive funding from more than one award. However, such a member cannot be paid from both awards for the same work.
8. Question: If an applicant, partner, or sub-awardee performs lobbying as part of its mission and programs, would this prevent them from being able to participate in a partnership?
Answer: They can participate in the project, as long as no funds would be used for lobbying and the entity’s normal lobbying efforts aren’t related to the proposed project. Project funds cannot be used for lobbying activities, and project activities related to lobbying are not allowed.
Questions added 9/29/2022
9. Question: My organization does not have experience managing a program with 100+ subawards, are we ineligible?
Answer: No, however your organization should be able to demonstrate the capacity to manage a large number of subawards. If you have never managed multiple subawards, you might be better suited to serve as partner, rather than as a lead applicant. Refer to the Accounting System Financial Capability Questionnaire as well as RFA section 5.1 (Fiscal Plan and Financial Controls) for more information.
10. Question: Can an organization submit more than one application?
Answer: No, an organization can only be the lead applicant on one application. However, an organization can appear on multiple Regional Food Business Center applications as partner as long as they are not paid from both agreements for the same work.
Questions added 10/6/2022
11. Question: If a Native American entity is a partner on an application, but not the lead applicant, is this Center qualified to serve as the National Tribal Center?
Answer: To serve as the National Tribal Center, the lead applicant should have a strong history of working in Indian Country. This entity does not have to necessarily be a recognized tribal government, but they do need to have a strong history with tribal work. Tribal-serving organization are not restricted to only being included in applications for the National Tribal Center and USDA is open to tribal-serving organizations being included on other regional center applications.
12. Question: Can AMS staff help connect partnerships within specific regions?
Answer: While AMS staff cannot help to establish regional partnerships directly, you can reference this list to find the contact information of those who are interested in participating in an application for a Regional Food Business Center cooperative agreement. If you would like to be included on the public contact list, send an email to RegionalFoodCenters@usda.gov. Include your name, your organization’s name, your city or region, state, and contact email.
Questions added 10/13/2022
13. Question: Are for-profit businesses eligible entities to lead a Regional Food Business Center?
Answer: No, as the RFA states, only Non-Federal Entities (NFE) as defined by 2 CFR 200.1 are eligible entities. NFE means a State, local government, Indian tribe, Institution of Higher Education (IHE), or nonprofit organization that carries out a Federal award as a recipient or subrecipient. The entities in the partnership may subaward or contract with private or public, for-profit or nonprofit entities to support the coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building services of the center.
14. Question : Are cooperatives and established networks eligible to apply as lead applicants?
Answer: If the cooperative or network fits under one of the eligible entity types listed in section 3.1 of the RFA they are eligible to apply. Eligible entities for the partnership are Non-Federal Entities, which are defined in 2 CFR 200.1 as State, local governments, Indian tribes, Institutions of Higher Education (IHE), and nonprofit organizations. Only coops that do not distribute profits to their members are considered ‘non-profit’. 2 CFR 200.1 defines a nonprofit as “…any corporation, trust, association, cooperative, or other organization, not including IHEs, that: (1) Is operated primarily for scientific, educational, service, charitable, or similar purposes in the public interest; (2) Is not organized primarily for profit; and (3) Uses net proceeds to maintain, improve, or expand the operations of the organization.”
15. Question: Can we establish a Regional Center that works on only one food sector (I.e., produce, seafood, dairy, etc.)?
Answer: The vision of this program is to support a variety of small and mid-sized food businesses and therefore, an application that only supports one food sector would not be allowable.
Questions Added 10/21/22
16. Question: Can a group of three non-profits apply?
Answer: Yes, as long as they represent at least two different eligible entity types outlined in section 3.1 of the RFA.
1. Question: Are matching funds required for the USDA Regional Food Business Centers Program?
Answer: No, matching funds are not a requirement for the Regional Food Business Centers Program.
1. Question: Can USDA Regional Food Business Centers funds be used to purchase land or buildings?
Answer: No. It is unallowable to use grant funds for the acquisition of buildings, facilities, or land or to make additions, improvements, modifications, replacements, rearrangements, reinstallations, renovations or alterations to an existing building or facility (including site grading and improvement, and architecture fees). Funds may be used to rent a building or facility for project-specific purposes, during the project’s period of performance.
Note: AMS offers architectural design technical assistance at no cost. For more information, visit our facility design webpage.
2. Question: Can funds be used for construction?
Answer: No, Regional Food Business Center funds may not be used for construction and property acquisition, per uniform guidance on federal financial assistance. All AMS awards are subject to the terms and conditions, cost principles, and other considerations described in the Program Specific (pdf) and AMS General Terms and Conditions (pdf).
Note: AMS offers architectural design technical assistance at no cost. For more information, visit our facility design webpage.
3. Question: Could you provide additional information on what qualifies as “special purchase equipment?”
Answer: Section 4.6.1 of the RFA outlines the allowable costs related to special equipment.
4. Question: What are the requirements and reporting timelines for administering a USDA Regional Food Business Centers cooperative agreement?
Answer: The grantee’s administrative duties for the USDA Regional Food Business Centers Program (including reporting requirements) are explained in more detail in the AMS General Terms and Conditions (pdf)
5. Question: Are administrative fees allowable under Regional Food Business Centers?
Answer: The USDA Regional Food Business Centers Program allows for the inclusion of indirect costs (also known as Facility & Administration Fees) as part of the project budget. More information can be found in the Section 4.6.3 of the RFA.
6. Question: Are the maximum award amounts inclusive of indirect/administrative costs?
7. Question: Can USDA Regional Food Business Centers funds be used for micro-loans or be re-granted?
Answer: Yes. The purpose of the capacity building piece of this agreement is that the recipient will provide financial assistance up to $100,000. Section 1.3 of the RFA provides more information on capacity building and subawards.
8. Question: Can funds be used to purchase vehicles?
Answer: Section 4.6.1 of the RFA outlines the allowable costs related to special equipment. Vehicles such as delivery vans are considered special equipment. See Program Specific Terms and Conditions (pdf) for more information on equipment.
9. Question: How will purchased equipment be monitored?
Answer: Purchased equipment will be monitored by AMS as required by 2 CFR § 200.313
Questions added 9/29/2022
10. Question: Can operational and financial support staff be written into the budget as direct costs?
Answer: Yes, administrative and clerical staff are normally treated as indirect costs, however, these costs can be direct costs if the conditions outlined in 2 CFR 200.413(c) are met.
11. Question: Will advance payments be available?
Answer: Yes, advance payments will be negotiated in accordance with the AMS General Terms and Conditions 2023 (pdf).
Question Added 10/21/2022
12. Question: Where should the contractual costs distributed by the Key Partners be outlined in the budget. (this question was updated 11/16/22)
Answer: The Key Partner's contractual costs will be listed in the Contractual section of the Key Partner Budget Form. A Key Partners Budget Form for each Key Partner must be included as an attachment to the Project Narrative.
Questions added 11/16/22
13. Question: Are advisory committees/panels an allowable cost? Where should they be included in the budget?
Answer: Yes, according to the Regional Food Business Centers Program-Specific Terms and Conditions, costs associated with steering councils and committees are allowable. Please include these costs within the “Other” budget category.
14. Question: Can a given company get more than $100,000 in business builder awards if it were to apply for $50,000 in Year 1, $50,000 in Year 2 and another $50,000 in Year 3?
Answer: No, a company can only receive a total of $100,000 over the course of the 5-year program.
15. Question: Is tuition remission for graduate students who will work on the project an allowable cost? Where in the budget would this cost go?
Answer: Tuition remission for graduate students is an allowable cost. If the grad student isn’t being included under the personnel section, that tuition expense would go under the “other” section in the budget. Please make sure the expense is in line with § 200.466 Scholarships and Student Aid costs.
Questions added 12/9/22
16. Question: Are universities considered nonprofit institutions and if so, what indirect cost rate should they use?
Answer: Yes. USDA is required to accept the Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA) from those entities that have one. Any non-Federal entity that does not have a current negotiated (including provisional) indirect cost rate, except State and Local Government and Indian Tribe Indirect Cost Proposals, may elect to charge a de minimis rate of 10 percent of modified total direct costs (MTDC). See section 4.6.3 of the RFA for more details on indirect costs.
1. Question: Does the Project Narrative page limit exclude required documents such as key staff resumes?
Answer: Yes. The page limit only applies to content entered on the Project Narrative template itself. Other required documents such as commitment letters and key staff resumes do not count towards this limit.
2. Question: Can AMS staff review a draft of my application prior to submission?
Answer: AMS cannot review draft applications before they are submitted through Grants.gov. However, if you have specific questions about allowable costs and activities, you are welcome to reach out to us via email at RegionalFoodCenters@usda.gov.
3. Question: Can I submit my application by fax, email, postal mail, or hand delivery?
Answer: No. AMS will not accept applications submitted by fax, paper, email, postal mail, or hand delivery. All applications must be submitted electronically through Grants.gov.
4. Question: Would only the applicant staff go under Personnel, and all other Project Team partners go under Contractual?
Answer: Yes. The applicant would list all personnel and fringe benefit costs for its project staff under those budget sections, and partner costs would go under Contractual.
5. Question: Should application attachments be uploaded using the add attachment function in grants.gov or do some forms need to be attached in the Narrative itself?
Answer: The Regional Food Business Centers Project Narrative form must be submitted as a PDF and attached to the Grants.gov application package using the “Project Narrative Attachment Form” on the application package. Other attachments must be attached to the Grants.gov application package using the “Add Attachments” button under Form SF-424 item #15.
6. Question: For whom do we need to provide resumes and CVs for within the application? (this question was updated 11/16/22)
Answer: Resumes of the members of the Project Team should be included with the Narrative Form as an attachment. The Project Team is the key staff from the Lead Applicant and Key Partner organizations who will collectively manage the financial and operational decisions of the Regional Food Business Center’s work.
Question added 10/6/2022
7. Question: Is there an application template to use when submitting the application?
Answer: Yes, there is a narrative form and guide under How to Apply. The link to the narrative form is: RFBCNarrativeForm.docx (live.com) and the PDF of the narrative guide can be found by visiting USDA Regional Food Business Centers Narrative Guide.
Question Added 11/16/2022
8. Question: Does the Project Narrative page limit exclude required documents such as key staff resumes and Key Partner budget forms?
Answer: Yes. The page limit only applies to content entered on the Project Narrative template itself. Other required documents such as commitment letters, key staff resumes, and Key Partner Budget forms do not count towards this limit and can be added as attachments.
Questions added 12/9/22
9. Question: What type of attachments can be submitted with the application?
Answer: In terms of the attachments, we kindly ask that applicants only include the attachments that were directly asked to be included within the application package (resumes, letters of commitment, letters of support, key partner budgets, negotiated indirect cost rate agreements, and the accounting system and financial capability form). Any additional attachments included in the application are not disqualifying but may not be read by reviewers.
10. Question: If we already submitted a Regional Food Business Center application can we resubmit seeing that the guidelines for indirect cost rates has changed?
Answer: Yes, you can resubmit your application on Grants.gov to reflect the new indirect cost rate information. When reviewing applications, reviewers will look at the most recently submitted application.
Questions added 12/23/2022
11. Question: We have spent several months attempting to register with SAM.gov but technical problems with the site and lengthy process mean that we may not be able to submit through the system before the January 6, 2023 deadline. Is there another way that we can submit our Regional Food Business Center application?
Answer: AMS' - Policy on Late and/or Non-Responsive Applications (posted on our website) provides 2 weeks (14 calendar days) from the application deadline for applicants to request that AMS consider grant applications that were not submitted by the deadline on a case-by-case basis, only if the applicant has documented evidence of extenuating circumstances that have prevented the timely submission of an application.
In cases where SAM.gov/UEI was an issue, AMS will consider applications from those who attempted to register or renew their SAM.gov registration at least 10 days before the deadline, according to documentation they can provide to the Agency.
If delays in the SAM.gov system that are beyond your control prevent you from using SAM.gov you may email your application and required forms to RegionalFoodCenter@usda.gov. Please ensure that you have included all the necessary documents, explained on the Regional Food Business Center How to Apply webpage. If using this option, you must also submit emails, screenshots or other documentation of your efforts and status in SAM.gov. You will be expected to continue working with SAM.gov, in communication with AMS staff, and if your application is selected, will need to complete the SAM.gov registration before an award can be issued.
12. Question: I am unable to add the CDFA number to our forms when submitting an application. Do you know how I can fix this issue?
Answer: USDA has recently switched from using CDFA numbers to using Assistance Listing numbers. The CDFA number that is listed on Grants.gov (10.186) is actually the assistance listing number for this opportunity. The system will not prevent you from submitting an application if you are unable to add this number to a form. After you submit an application you should receive a confirmation email letting you know of your successful submission, please make sure that you receive this confirmation email and save it for your records. If you have a concern about whether your application was submitted successfully, reach out to RegionalFoodCenter@usda.gov and ask that we check the system to confirm on your behalf. Please make this request at least 24 hours prior to the deadline so we can provide assistance. We will not be able to re-open the opportunity after the deadline has passed.
1. Question: May organizations with existing AMS grants participate in an application?
Answer: Yes, organizations with current AMS grants may participate in an application as long as the work they propose to do with the Region Food Business Center is different than their grant project or builds on or continues but is not the same as their currently funded work.
1. Question: What does AOR stand for?
Answer: AOR is the Authorized Organization Representative, which is the person who has the authority to sign and submit grant applications on behalf of the company, organization, institution, or government. AOR's are authorized by their EBiz POC (E-Business Point of Contact) so they can submit applications on behalf of their organization.
2. Question: How do you become or register to be an AOR?
Answer: You would first register as an applicant on Grants.gov. Once you have a DUNS/UEI and your organization has an active SAM account, your EBiz POC will receive an email notifying them that you have registered and need to be authorized.
3. Question: What is EIN?
Answer: The EIN is the Employer Identification Number. This number is assigned by the IRS.
4. Question: How do I know if my application was submitted on time?
Answer: After you submit your application to Grants.gov, you (the AOR) will receive an automatic notification of receipt from the system that contains a Grants.gov tracking number and official date/time stamp of application submission. This notification ONLY indicates receipt by Grants.gov and does not indicate receipt by AMS. Grants.gov may also send you an error message if your application was not submitted correctly. If application submission passes Grants.gov validation, AOR will receive a second electronic acknowledgment of receipt. Once USDA-AMS has retrieved application from Grants.gov, AOR will receive a third email notification. Lastly, if AMS assigns its own agency tracking number/notes a fourth email is sent to AOR.
5. Question: How are attachments uploaded in Grants.gov?
Answer: The project narrative template must be attached to the “Project Narrative Attachment Form” on the application package. All other attachments must be attached to the Grants.gov application package using the “Add Attachments” button under Form SF-424 item #15. When uploading attachments, click the “Add Attachments” button (do NOT use the “paperclip” icon in Adobe Reader). If you use the “paperclip” icon in Adobe Reader, the attachments will not be received with the application package.
6. Question: Can we apply before having the Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) and SAM.gov registration?
Answer: No, you must first have your UEI number to register in SAM.gov. In order to apply as an organization, you must have an active SAM account.
7. Question: Do I have to register before I can see the requirements of the grant application?
Answer: No, you do not have to register in Grant.gov to view the opportunity and download it. However, you must be registered to apply.
8. Question: Is the EBiz POC someone in my organization or a federal employee?
Answer: The EBiz POC is a member of your organization and is often the person that oversees the business operations. The EBiz POC is the one that registers the organization in SAM. EBiz POC is responsible for affiliating and assigning roles to all applicants registered in Grants.gov on behalf of the organization.
9. Question: Can the EBiz POC and AOR be the same person?
Answer: Yes. In that case, you would still need two accounts/log-ins. One to serve in each capacity.
10. Question: Can an organization have multiple EBiz POC’s?
Answer: No, you can only have one EBiz POC but may have multiple AOR’s.
11. Question: How do I contact Grants.gov if there is an issue with my registration?
Answer: You may contact the Customer Contact center by either e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1-800-518-4726. You can also use the Self Help link to find answers to common questions.
1. Question: If we already have a UEI, can we go straight to SAM.gov?
Answer: Yes. SAM registration can take up to 2 weeks, and often longer, to complete so register early. Check the SAM.gov website for additional login procedures.
2. Question: If I have already had a SAM.gov account, do I have to do anything else?
Answer: Yes, you must be sure that your SAM.gov account is up to date. If the account expired, you must renew your account before applying.
3. Question: Do I have to pay to activate a SAM.gov account?
Answer: No, registering and renewing a SAM.gov account is completely free. If you received notification on having to pay to renew your account beware that it is likely a SCAM and should be reported to the appropriated authorities.
4. Question: How will duplicate submissions be handled?
Answer: When an applicant submits duplicate applications before the application due date, AMS will accept the last validated application that is electronically submitted through Grants.gov as the final submission.
Geography and Regions
1. Question: Is the service area of a Regional Food Business Center limited only to contiguous areas?
Answer: No, as RFA section 1.4 states, regions do not have to be geographically contiguous. Section 1.4 of the RFA states, “applicants must include details describing why this region would benefit from a USDA Regional Food Center…Applicants must define priority areas that they will serve within their proposed region that would classify as high need, underserved communities that were particularly affected by the pandemic.” Applications from both contiguous and non-contiguous regions must provide justification for their region, which may include commonalities regarding demographics, growing regions, climate, etc. If there are multiple applications that cover the same area and could collectively serve a large and contiguous area, USDA may suggest that applicants collaborate to develop a more geographically comprehensive center.
2. Question: Is it required that technical assistance providers have a physical presence in the Regional Food Business Center region?
Answer: Yes, USDA's goal is to invest in building permanent development capacity in regions so the applicant must include Technical Assistance partners who have a history of serving the region and will maintain a physical presence in the region to which they are providing services. The Centers will also have the ability to contract with other organizations without a physical presence in the region for specific services including presenting at meetings or conducting specific trainings that have been tailored to regionally specific needs.
Questions added 10/21/22
3. Question: For application purposes is Washington D.C. considered a state count or an identifiable region?
Answer: Yes, Washington D.C. is considered a state count for the purpose of this application.
4. Question: Can an entity participate in multiple regional center applications? If so, is there USDA guidance as to defining geographical areas so that regions do not overlap?
Answer: No, there is not USDA guidance on overlapping regions. An entity under one partnership agreement may be included on multiple applications, and potentially receive funding from more than one award. However, such a member cannot be paid from both awards for the same work. If the entity is one of the core partner organizations, they must be physically based in the region that they are applying to serve (excluding the tribal center, which has nationwide reach). In cases where more than one application proposes to serve the same, similar, or overlapping geographic regions, USDA may ask finalists to partner with other eligible entities in their region and resubmit an expanded partnership proposal for reconsideration.
Business Builder Subawards
Question 1: Where do Business Builder Subawards go within the budget form?
Answer: Business Builder Subawards can go in the “Other” category.
1. Question: What is the difference between a grant and a cooperative agreement?
Answer: Regional Food Business Centers will operate through a cooperative agreement with USDA. In a cooperative agreement, as defined by 2 CFR 200.24, the awarding agency is substantially involved in the development and progress of project activities. This is in comparison to a grant, as defined by 2 CFR 200.24, where the awarding agency provides oversight and monitoring, but is not directly involved in project development or implementation. AMS anticipates being actively engaged in supporting the work of the Regional Food Business Centers.
2. Question: Is the lead applicant responsible for managing the business builder subawards?
Answer: USDA has not prescribed one way for the applicant to manage the business builder subawards. The applicant is responsible for the financial integrity of the system and will work with USDA to develop a process for funding decisions and how the subawards will be monitored. USDA will work with successful applicants on a system that ensures that region-specific needs are met while providing adequate federal oversight.
Questions added 10/13/2022
3. Question: When does the performance period for the Regional Food Business Centers begin?
Answer: The period of performance will be determined once the cooperative agreements are formed as there is no official start date at this time. These are cooperative agreements and not grants, so they do not operate on a fixed schedule.
4. Question: Is this going to be a reimbursable-only cooperative agreement or is advance payment a possibility?
Answer: To create the most equitable program possible, the current cooperative agreement model allows for advance payments and pre-award cost flexibility. 2 CFR 200.305 states, “The non-Federal entity must be paid in advance, provided it maintains or demonstrates the willingness to maintain both written procedures that minimize the time elapsing between the transfer of funds and disbursement by the non-Federal entity, and financial management systems that meet the standards for fund control and accountability as established in this part. Advance payments to a non-Federal entity must be limited to the minimum amounts needed and be timed to be in accordance with the actual, immediate cash requirements of the non-Federal entity in carrying out the purpose of the approved program or project....” More information can be found in Section 4.6.4 of the RFA and in 2 CFR 200.305.
1. Question: Can a Federal agency or pass-through entity allow a non-Federal entity with a negotiated indirect cost rate to voluntarily charge less than or waive their indirect rate to an award?
Answer: The non-Federal entity should consult with the Federal agency or pass-through entity. If a non-Federal entity receiving a Federal award or subaward voluntarily chooses to waive indirect costs or charge less than the negotiated indirect cost rate, Federal awarding agencies and pass-through entities may allow this. The decision must be made solely by the non-Federal entity that is eligible for indirect cost rate reimbursement, and must not be encouraged or coerced in any way by the Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity.
2. Question: Does the Lead Applicant’s indirect cost rate flow down to Key Partners?
Answer: If a Lead Applicant has a Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA), that NICRA applies only to the Lead Applicant’s portion of the budget. If a Key Partner has a NICRA, their NICRA is applied to the Key Partner’s budget. The Lead Applicant’s NICRA does NOT flow down to Key Partners. If a Key Partner or other subawardee does not have their own NICRA, they may use the 10% of modified total direct cost de minimus rate.
3. Question: I am a Key Partner, what indirect cost rate should I use?
Answer: If a Key Partner has a Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA), USDA is required to accept that. Any non-Federal entity that does not have a current negotiated (including provisional) indirect cost rate, except State and Local Government and Indian Tribe Indirect Cost Proposals, may elect to charge a de minimis rate of 10 percent of modified total direct costs (MTDC). See section 4.6.3 of the RFA for more details on indirect costs. The NICRA should be included as an attachment to the proposal.
4. Question: Will the indirect cost rate used in the application affect the scoring and evaluation of proposals?
Answer: The indirect cost rate used in an application will not impact the scoring or evaluation of applications.