New Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program Released in California

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), will conduct a competitive solicitation to award $30 million in Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure (RFSI) funds to projects that maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency. Project proposals requesting up to $3 million in grant funding are due February 26, 2024.

What is the purpose of RFSI? The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has awarded CDFA a RFSI cooperative agreement. The overall goal of RFSI is to create more and better processing options for local and regional producers across the specialty crops, dairy, grain (for food), and other sectors by targeting gaps and opportunities in the pandemic assistance, Food Systems Transformation programs, and existing USDA grant programs that support the agricultural supply chain. RFSI will build resilience in the middle of the food supply chain; provide more and better markets to small farms and food businesses; support the development of value-added products for consumers, fair prices, and fair wages; and create new and safe job opportunities.

Projects should support infrastructure in the middle-of-the-supply-chain for California food and farm businesses and other eligible entities. The food supply chain involves the following stages: 1. Production, 2. Processing, 3. Aggregation and Distribution, and 4. Markets and Consumers. RFSI proposals must support the middle of the supply chain, which refers to stages 2. Processing and 3. Aggregation and Distribution. This program supports food system crops and products meant for human consumption (excluding meat and poultry products, which are funded through other USDA programs).

Who is eligible to apply? Entities eligible for RFSI Grants are listed below:

  • Agricultural producers or processors, or groups of agricultural producers and processors.
  • Nonprofit organizations operating middle-of-the-supply-chain activities.
  • Local government entities operating middle-of-the-supply-chain activities.
  • Tribal governments operating middle-of-the-supply-chain activities.
  • Institutions such as schools, universities, or hospitals bringing producers together to establish cooperative or shared infrastructure or to invest in equipment that will benefit multiple producers’ middle-of-the-supply-chain activities.

All applicant businesses and organizations must be domestically owned, and applicants' facilities must be physically located within the State of California.

What types of activities are eligible for this program?

Middle-of-the-supply-chain activities refers to activities in the Processing and/or Aggregation and Distribution stages. Examples of activities are listed below. This is not a complete or exhaustive list; rather, the list below is meant to provide clarity on the meaning of “middle-of-the-supply-chain” activities:

  • Packaging, including grading, sorting, and labeling;
  • Processing, canning, preserving, or pasteurizing crops;
  • Extraction of juice, oil, nut meat, etc. from crops;
  • Processing crops, such as chopping, washing, peeling, drying, hulling, milling, shelling, etc.;
  • Creating value-added products via cooking, baking, juicing, fermenting, distilling, processing, etc.;
  • Processes or activities involving tracking, storage, cold storage, warehouse, and/or distribution of crops and/or products;
  • Enhancing worker safety and/or education in the above or similar activities;
  • Modernizing, developing, or expanding equipment or facilities used for the above or similar activities.

What are the RFSI Project Types, Funding Amounts, and Match Requirements?

The RFSI is comprised of two tracks composed of different project types: Infrastructure Grants and Simplified Equipment-Only Grants.

Track 1: Infrastructure Grants will fund projects that expand capacity and infrastructure for the aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling, or distribution of targeted agricultural products.

  • Approximately $22.5 million will be available for Infrastructure Grants.
  • The minimum award amount for the Infrastructure Grants is $100,000 and the maximum award amount is $3,000,000.
  • Infrastructure Grant recipients are required to contribute 50 percent of the total proposed project cost as a match to federal funding. This applies to all applicants except those who qualify for the reduced match described below. For historically underserved farmers and ranchers, or for other businesses that qualify under U.S. Small Business Administration categories of disadvantaged small business, women-owned small business, or veteran-owned small business, the required match funding contribution or cost share is reduced to 25 percent of the project cost. Applicants must self-certify in their Infrastructure Grant applications as being eligible for this reduced match.

Track 2: The Simplified Equipment-Only option is a Fixed Price Grant, meaning it will fund only equipment purchases (and not associated facility upgrades, staffing, or other costs), and the amount awarded will be equal to the cost of the equipment up to $100,000. No match is required for this grant type. Approximately $7.5 million will be available for the Simplified Equipment-Only option.

Eligible entities must select one funding track and may submit one application, total.

What are the program priorities?

CDFA has identified the following priorities to meet the current needs of California's agricultural supply chain and address areas that can lead to a more resilient food system:

Funding Priorities:

  • Projects submitted directly by growers, producers, processors, shippers, etc. that support middle-of-the-supply-chain activities.
  • Projects that benefit
    • Historically underserved farmers as defined by USDA;
    • Socially disadvantaged farmers as defined by AB 1348, the Farmer Equity Act of 2017; and/or
    • Agricultural operations that qualify as small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned businesses, or veteran-owned businesses as defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
  • Projects that enhance worker safety or facilitate compliance with the Produce Safety Rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
  • Projects that enhance traceability capacity to comply with the Food Traceability Rule.
  • Construction and infrastructure projects that demonstrate feasibility that the projects can reasonably be completed within the grant duration.
  • Projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase water savings.
  • Projects that facilitate training opportunities, including trainings related to food safety, process modernization, and use of equipment or enhanced facilities funded through RFSI.

What is the timeline for this grant opportunity? Applications are due on February 26, 2024 by 5pm ET. Projects can begin on October 1, 2024, and must end by February 26, 2027.

The full Request for Proposals (RFP) can be found here.

For more information on this grant or how to apply with Morrison’s assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at grants@morrisonco.net or call us at 530-893-4764.

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