USDA Agricultural Marketing Service is Accepting Applications for the Regional Food Systems Partnership Grant Program - Due May 26, 2020

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) opened the application period for the new Regional Food Systems Partnership (RFSP) grant program. The purpose of the RFSP grant is to connect public and private resources to plan and develop local or regional food systems. The RFSP focuses on building and strengthening local or regional food economy viability and resilience by alleviating unnecessary administrative and technical barriers for participating partners with Planning and Design project funding levels up to $250,000 and Implementation and Expansion project funding levels up to $1 million as detailed below.

Who is eligible for this grant program? AMS is soliciting applications from eligible partnerships, which include at least one eligible entity and at least one eligible partner. 

Eligible entities include:

  • Producers
  • Farmer or Rancher Cooperative
  • Producer Network
  • Producer Association
  • Majority-Controlled Producer-Based Business Venture
  • Food Council
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Network or Association
  • Local Governments
  • Nonprofit Corporations
  • Public Benefit Corporations
  • Economic Development Corporations
  • Regional Farmers Market Authorities
  • Tribal Governments

Eligible partners include:

  • State Agencies or Regional Authorities
  • Philanthropic Organizations
  • Private Corporations
  • Institutions of Higher Education
  • Commercial, Federal or Farm Credit System Lending Institutions.

What projects are eligible? There are two eligible project types:

1) Planning and Design projects support partnerships in the early stages of convening, envisioning, and planning process for developing local or regional food systems. Through these processes, partnerships can determine the goals, outreach, objectives and eligible activities to be carried out in the regional food system, including defining the region’s parameters (economic, geographic, etc.). Specifically, these projects support a food system’s capacity to develop and build community connections (public and private) that allow a region to engage in activities that drive the discovery and promotion of collaboration opportunities within the food system. Emphasis is placed on inclusively seeking public and private collaborators that connect and cultivate regional food economies and diverse non-Federal financial and technical resources. Examples of eligible project activities for these partnerships include but are not limited to:

  • Convening established and potential partners, such as current or past Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program or Value-Added Producer Grant grantees, to define the regional food system scope and structure, share opportunities and challenges, and develop an approach that is inclusive of any potential members of a regional food system;
  • Creating and conducting feasibility studies, implementation plans, and assessments, including studies analyzing capital needs and gaps;
  • Conducting research on specific market, mid-tier value chain, or infrastructure investments or policy analysis to prioritize next steps at the local, regional, state, and tribal government level;
  • Connecting food value chain entities with partners and funders to engage in activities that strengthen the regional food system, such as providing technical assistance to food system enterprises seeking capital investments or initiating and monitoring projects associated with other Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) programs;
  • Researching possible metrics to measure and evaluate the partnership’s early development work and identify ways to use and improve them to establish time-defined performance benchmarks for achieving partnership goals.

2) Implementation and Expansion projects support partnerships building on prior or ongoing efforts within a local or regional food system. Partnerships funded in this track will have already completed most or all the activities discussed above for Planning and Design projects. Applicants should describe how the goals, objectives, and activities in their proposal build on and/or align with previous efforts, clearly engage entities with a shared commitment to the regional food system and maintain a diverse public-private network that enhances food system development. Examples of eligible project activities for these partnerships include but are not limited to:

  • Prioritizing strategies to fill food systems gaps, meet stakeholder needs, and facilitate market opportunities and food access solutions;
  • Institutionalizing processes for ongoing community and business engagement to ensure sustainable approaches that meet regional needs and provide a forum for ideas, concerns, and updates;
  • Conducting research on specific market, mid-tier value chain, or infrastructure investments or policy analysis to prioritize next steps at the local, regional, state, and tribal government level;
  • Supporting food system efforts to analyze capital needs and gaps;
  • Connecting eligible entities and partners to meet identified needs in transporting local agricultural products to market;
  • Creating innovative value chains in which producers, manufacturers, buyers, and other related actors form collaborative, transparent partnerships with a commitment to shared operational values and social mission goals;
  • Increasing stakeholder awareness of regulatory considerations and market channel requirements that may impede the ability of food value chains to access certain channels and assisting producers in navigating such systems;
  • Identifying resources for food system enterprises, providing technical assistance for partnership activities such as fiscal sponsorship, and applying for programs and resources that align with regional food system efforts, including other LAMP programs or those seeking capital investments;
  • Evaluating the partnership’s expansion work and establishing time-defined performance measures for achieving partnership goals.

What are the funding levels? Planning and Design project awards range from $100,000 to $250,000. Implementation and Expansion project awards range from $250,000 - $1,000,000. A total of approximately $10 million will be available to fund applications.

What is the match requirement? A 25 percent cost-share cash match is required. In-kind contributions do not count toward the fulfillment of this requirement.

What is the project duration? Planning and Design projects must be completed within 24 months (September 30, 2020 – September 29, 2022). Implementation and Expansion projects must be completed within 36 months (September 30, 2020 – September 29, 2023). AMS encourages applicants to take the full grant period to allow ample time to complete projects.

The full Request for Applications for the RFSP grant program 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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