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Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure

Overview

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has new grant programs launching in 2024. MDARD recently received over $10 million in funding from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service through the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure (RFSI) program. The purpose of the RFSI program is to build resilience in the middle of the food supply chain, to provide more and better markets to small farms and food businesses, to support the development of value-added products for consumers, fair prices, fair wages, and new and safe job opportunities. Funds will support expanded capacity for the aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling, and distribution of locally and regionally produced food products, including specialty crops, dairy, grains for human consumption, aquaculture, and other food products, excluding meat and poultry (which are eligible for funding elsewhere).

It is important to note, RFSI is intended for middle of the supply chain activities, which include processing, aggregation, and distribution of products meant for human consumption.

Infrastructure Projects

Infrastructure Grants must be used for the purpose of expanding middle-of-the-food supply-chain capacity for locally and regionally produced foods and offer more and better market opportunities and new streams of revenue to small and mid-sized agricultural producers, including those who may not have access to value-added opportunities or processing to meet market demand for premium or value-added products, such as underserved producers. USDA intends for RFSI program to focus funding Infrastructure Grant activities that:

  • Expand capacity for processing, aggregation, and distribution of agricultural products to create more and better markets for producers;
  • Modernize manufacturing, tracking, storage, and information technology systems;
  • Enhance worker safety through adoption of new technologies or investment in equipment or facility improvements;
  • Improve the capacity of entities to comply with federal, state, and local food safety requirements;
  • Improve operations through training opportunities;
  • Support construction of a new facility;
  • Modernize or expand an existing facility (including expansion and modifications to existing buildings and/or construction of new buildings at existing facilities);
  • Construction of wastewater management structures, etc.;
  • Modernize processing and manufacturing equipment; and,
  • Develop, customize, or install equipment that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, increases efficiency in water use, improves air and/or water quality, and/or meets one or more of USDA’s climate action goals.

The following documents are required for the Infrastructure Projects and must be uploaded within your application under the "Project Purpose" page:

Equipment Only Projects

MDARD will issue Equipment Only Projects. These projects offer a simplified application to fund smaller grants from $10,000 up to $100,000 for equipment purchases. The Equipment Only option is a Fixed Price Grant, meaning it will fund only equipment purchases (not associated facility upgrades, staffing, or other costs). The amount awarded will be equal to the cost of the equipment with a minimum of $10,000 up to $100,000. No match is required for this grant type. Using a USDA provided template, applicants are required to submit a project narrative that describes the overall scope of the project and how it aligns with the program goals and priorities. The narrative must include an estimated increase in production and who will benefit from the overall project. Applicants must attach documentation to substantiate the costs of each piece of equipment, which can include contracts, catalog pricing, or binding quotes provided by licensed commercial entities. When soliciting bids for equipment, please ensure that they will be honored at the time of the award, which will be late summer of 2024.

Allowable:

  • Purchases of special purpose equipment (such as, canners, hulling processors, reverse osmosis systems, egg packing machines, flotation tanks, roasters, or other processing equipment, packing and labeling equipment, or delivery vehicles) are allowable when approved in the agreement budget or with prior written approval.
  • All equipment purchases must meet the following criteria:
    • Equipment is necessary for the technical activities of the agreement and is not otherwise reasonably available and accessible.
    • Equipment is normally charged as a direct cost by the organization and is acquired in accordance with organizational practices.
    • Equipment must be used solely to meet the purpose of the program and objectives of the agreement.
    • Equipment is subject to the full range of acquisition, use, management, and disposition requirements under 2 CFR § 200.313 as applicable.

Unallowable:

  • Purchases of general-purpose equipment (e.g., general use motor vehicles, office furniture, office air conditioners, printers, and copiers) or lease agreements to own (i.e., lease-to-own or rent-to-own).

The following documents are required for the Equipment Only Projects and must be uploaded within your application under the "Project Purpose" page:

Grant Program Status

The 2024 Grant Cycle Request for Proposals will open on May 8, 2024, for the RFSI Program and will close on June 17, 2024, at 5 p.m. EDT. All applications must be submitted on the new MiAgGrants site under a Citizen or Business Account. Find support and learn more about the MiAgGrants and MiLogin partnership.

2024 RFSI Grant Applications

Citizen Account: An individual using State of Michigan online services for their own personal transaction. Learn how to create a MiLogin Citizen Account (PDF).

Business Account: An individual using State of Michigan online services on behalf of a business, organization, or corporation.

Grant Documents and Resources

RFSI Program Grant Guidelines
MDARD Matching Funds Verification Letter
MDARD Critical Resources Letter
USDA Applicant Environmental Questionnaire
USDA Environmental Pre-Screening Worksheet
USDA Environmental Screening Worksheet
USDA Environmental Screening Worksheet Resource
USDA RFSI Frequently Asked Questions
USDA RFSI Program
USDA Program Scope and Requirements

Job Aids

 

Proposal

Release Request for Proposals

May 8, 2024

Informational Webinar Presentation
Informational Webinar Recording

May 15, 2024 at 1:30pm EDT

Technical Assistance Office Hours
Office Hour Registration
May 21, 2024 - June 13,2024

Proposals Due

June 17, 2024 at 5pm EDT

JEC

Evaluation Meeting

July 2024

Award

Announce Award Funding

August/September 2024

Questions

  • What is the definition of “Middle of the Supply Chain”?

    • Nonprofit organizations operating middle-of-the-supply-chain activities such as processing, aggregation, distribution of targeted agricultural products
    • For-profit entities operating middle-of-the-supply-chain activities such as processing, aggregation, or distribution of targeted agricultural products, whose activities are primarily focused for the benefit of local and regional producers, and that meet the eligibility requirements of the SBA small business size standards are eligible.
      • For-profit entities must meet the eligibility requirements of the SBA small business size standards matched to industries described in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). For more information on these size standards, please visit SBA’s Size Standards webpage. For a quick check on whether your business qualifies, please use the Size Standards Tool.

    Would food rescue be eligible for funding with this grant?
    The projects need to impact middle of the supply chain projects. If the food rescue items are being used to create a value-added product, they would be eligible.

    If a company has not begun sales, are they eligible to apply and how competitive would they be?
    Yes, but it is important that they have a strong business plan, established measures, and metrics, and can demonstrate strong outcomes on the proposed project. Historically our grant programs have been competitive with 20% of received applications being awarded.

    Can RFSI be utilized for equipment for packers / shippers that provide services to growers in the apple, potato, grain industry for equipment that will enhance marketing opportunities for Michigan agriculture?
    Yes, these items are eligible.

    Could RFSI be used for food hubs / aggregators for logistics infrastructure?
    Yes.

    Do I need a UEI number for this application?
    Before we submit the application to USDA for approval you must have a UEI number. You do not need to go through the full registration process with Sam.gov, you just need to register for a UEI number, which is a much shorter process.

    Can you go over allowable match. Do school service funds or other USDA grants funds qualify?
    Other federal funding sources cannot be used as match.

    The website mentioned letters of support. where should we submit these?
    These will be submitted as attachments with your application within the MiAgGrants system.

    Can you tell how you would define or explain what technical merit and alignment and intent means?
    More information on the scoring and review criteria can be found in the Program Guidelines document on our website under Grant Documents.

    What are the total funds available for this grant cycle?
    $8 million.

    I was not able to get anything to load until just now, is there a video I can watch?
    We are working to get the video loaded and posted to our website, in the meantime the PowerPoint presentation can be found on our website for review.

    I attended the webinar yesterday and if I understand correctly, any for-profit entity needs to qualify as a small business. Did I understand that correctly? If so, would we need to qualify at a plant level or would the requirement include the entire corporation?
    The focus is on small and medium size enterprises. Historically Underserved Farmers and Ranchers | Natural Resources Conservation Service (usda.gov)

    We are planning to do a renovation of our entire bulk food/entrée processing manufacturing line. Our current line is 30 years old and we are planning to modernize the line to increase capacity, safety, outputs etc. However, this line will produce entrees that have meat and poultry in them, along with entrees that exclude meat and poultry. The majority of entrees, given its lasagna, would include meat and poultry. As such, would this project not quality for the grant due the meat and poultry inclusion?
    This doesn’t sound as though it would qualify as the majority appears to be meat and poultry based. No meat or poultry products projects since they are funded through other programs.

    Company in the process of opening bone broth (beef, chicken) company from scratches, so how do I know if I'm eligible for equipment grants?
    Ineligible products include: meat and poultry, wild-caught seafood, exclusively animal feed and forage products, fiber, landscaping products, tobacco, or dietary supplements.

    Is there a limit to how much of the match can be in-kind?
    We have not set a limit on how much of the match value can be in-kind, however, match needs to be an allowable expense per the program scope and requirements, RFSI specific and AMS general terms and conditions, and 2 CFR 200 Uniform Guidance. 

    Proposed In-kind matching funds must be directly related to the grant project activities and will be required to provide support documentation of time with supervisor signature at the time of reporting.  In-kind contribution while allowed, may not score as well as cash match proposed.  You may want to consider how much time is proposed if using In-kind contributions.  As with all matching proposed, be realistic in what you enter, as all will be required reporting with supporting documentation. 

    Can funds not used by awarded grants be recaptured and reused?
    Yes.

    Can other USDA funding be considered or used as match for RFSI? What about other federal funding?
    Per the FAQ and Uniform Guidance (2CFR 200) Other Federal funds cannot be used as match (see 2 CFR section 200.1 and 200.306).

    Do applicants need to provide attachments for indirect costs to the application and if so, what?
    No documentation is needed to support indirect costs unless they have a NICRA that they will be using.

    Are restaurants, which sell pre-packaged food, eligible to apply for RFSI funding?
    Restaurants are end of the supply chain businesses and sell directly to the consumer, therefore does not meet the purpose of RFSI, which is middle-of-the-supply chain.

    On the environmental questionnaire question #17 asks about increased utilities, how does this apply to equipment only applicants?
    Power, gas and water may be impacted by new equipment and therefore could apply to question #17.

    Is the processing of resultant organic material eligible for RFSI funding?
    No.

    Is compost or composting eligible?
    No, it does not meet middle of the supply chain activities and is not meant for human consumption.

    What is the grant agreement timeframe for the Equipment Only and Infrastructure grants?
    MDARD will confirm the grant agreement timeframe at the time of the award. We recommend planning Equipment Only projects to be completed within one year, and for Infrastructure projects to be completed by December 2026 at the latest.

    Is it possible to apply for a grant if my project costs exceed the maximum award amounts?
    You may apply and request the maximum amount of the grant. The remaining amount must be covered by applicant.

    In MiAgGrants, how does the Authorized Official/Company representative add someone to the application, such as a consultant supporting application completion?
    On the application page, click the Tools option on the left-hand menu. Then click Add/Edit People. Click the Plus icon and search by name. The person being added should already have a MiAgGrants account. They will receive the invite in the Message page of their account. 

  • Are the application questions available for review prior to submitting an application?
    No, the application questions are not readily available. Details regarding the application may be found in the grant program's guidelines.

    Can the equipment only application be used for equipment that was recently purchased or must it be equipment we have not yet procured?
    Yes, it will be allowed for recently purchased equipment up to 90 days prior to grant award and for not yet procured or purchased pieces of equipment.

    Can quote be from a website or is it required to be a written quote? Are three quotes required?
    One is required for each piece. Applicants must submit documentation to substantiate the costs of each piece of equipment, which can include contracts, catalog pricing, or binding quotes provided by license commercial entities.

    Can an applicant apply for simplified equipment-only funding to purchase a piece of equipment that costs less than $5,000?
    Per 2 CFR 200.313(b), USDA defers to each State to define equipment, including the minimum cost, in accordance with the State policies and procedures. All applications must meet the minimum award threshold of $10,000 and not exceed $100,000.

    Is fencing considered equipment?
    No, funds cannot be used for agricultural production activities/costs including farm equipment, tools, supplies, gardening, or production related labor/training.

    Would a new hot water heater be considered equipment? What about large storage vats for sap?
    A hot water heater would not be considered “special purpose equipment” such as canners, hulling processors, reverse osmosis systems, egg packing machines, flotation tanks, roasters, or other processing equipment, packing and labeling equipment? The equipment threshold per item is $5,000 or more.  Items less than $5,000 are considered “Supplies” and are not allowed under the equipment only awards.

    Do storage vats for sap qualify as equipment?
    This item could be considered equipment as long as the price is $5,000 or more per item.

    Under Outcome 3: Increase economic viability of local/regional producers and processors, specifically relating to 3.5 “Number of new market-outlets established” what does this refer to?
    It refers to any new markets you would reach with the purchase of the equipment/project you are applying for.  Example could be school systems. 

  • Are the application questions available for review prior to submitting an application?
    No, the application questions are not readily available. Details regarding the application may be found in the grant program's guidelines.

    For the infrastructure application, what are the NEPA requirements typically for an existing building remodel/update?
    We have provided the appropriate environmental review questionnaire and pre-screening checklist on our website from USDA to help with determining the type of review that may be required.

    We would like to use the infrastructure grant to connect to the SE Regional Force Main to directly pump our Wastewater to MCRRC. Is this possible?
    Yes, this is eligible, but the grant term only goes through 2027 and the project would need to be completed by then.

    Related to the infrastructure grant, are there stipulations on the waste water criteria? Can it be connecting to a municipality?
    Yes, this is eligible, but the grant term only goes through 2027 and the project would need to be completed by then.

    What if the infrastructure proposed in the application would be constructed on property not yet closed on?
    If the project can be or is completed by 2027.

    An entity would like to construct a building for a CSA. The funds would be used for construction of the building. Would this be considered eligible for infrastructure?
    Funds may be used for new construction of buildings or structural changes to an existing building/ facility resulting in a square foot expansion or requiring changes to the building’s floor, foundation, and exterior or load bearing walls.

For more information about this funding opportunity, please contact the Grants Program.