[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 227 (Monday, November 25, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 70260-70267]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-28175]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Rural Business-Cooperative Service


Inviting Applications for Value-Added Producer Grants

AGENCY: Rural Business-Cooperative Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).

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SUMMARY: USDA announces the availability of competitive grant funding 
through the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Approximately 
$10.5 million in carry over funding from fiscal year (FY) 2013 is 
available to help agricultural producers enter into value-added 
activities. This NOFA is being published prior to the Congressional 
enactment of a full-year appropriation for FY 2014. Should additional 
funding be made available during FY 2014 for this program RBS will 
continue to fund applications received under this announcement based 
upon the applications score. At this time, the exact amount of funding 
that will be made available to this program for FY 2014 is unknown. 
Anyone interested in submitting an application for funding under this 
program should consult the Rural Development Value Added Producer Grant 
Program Web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_VAPG.html 
periodically for updated information regarding any FY 2014 funding for 
the program.
    The program purpose is to help U.S. agricultural producers enter 
into value-added activities. Awards may be made for either economic 
planning or working capital activities related to the processing and/or 
marketing of valued-added agricultural products. The maximum grant 
amount for a planning grant is $75,000 and the maximum grant amount for 
a working capital grant is $200,000.
    There is a matching funds requirement of at least $1 for every $1 
in grant funds provided by the Agency (matching funds plus grant funds 
must equal proposed total project costs). Matching funds may be in the 
form of cash or eligible in-kind contributions and may be used only for 
eligible project purposes. Matching funds must be available at time of 
application and must be certified and verified as described in 7 CFR 
4284.931(b)(3) and (4).
    7 CFR 4284.925 and 7 U.S.C. 1632(a) provide for the reservation of 
ten percent of available funds for applications submitted by Beginning 
and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers, and an additional ten 
percent of available funds for applications from farmers or ranchers 
proposing development of Mid-Tier Value Chains. For this announcement, 
Reserved Funds were not obligated prior to June 30, 2013 as required by 
7 CFR 4284.925 and 7 U.S.C. 1632(a). Therefore, no reserves are 
available to fund these categories from FY 2013 carry over monies. 
However, 7 CFR 4284.925 and 7 U.S.C. 1632(a) allow the Secretary to 
repurpose and reuse these funds for the general VAPG competition. 
Beginning and Socially-Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers and applicants 
proposing Mid-Tier Value Chains can still compete and benefit by 
receiving priority through the award of Priority Points. Should FY 2014 
funds become available, 20 percent of those funds will be reserved for 
these categories.

DATES: You must submit your application by February 24, 2014 or it will 
not be considered for funding that may be announced in a subsequent 
Notice. Paper applications must be postmarked and mailed, shipped or 
sent overnight by this date. You may also hand carry your application 
to one of our field offices, but it must be received by close of 
business on the deadline date. Electronic applications are permitted 
via http://www.grants.gov only, and must be received before midnight 
Eastern Time on this date. Late applications are not eligible for grant 
funding under this Notice.

ADDRESSES: You should contact your USDA Rural Development State Office 
if you have questions about eligibility or submission requirements. You 
are encouraged to contact your State Office well in advance of the 
application deadline to discuss your project and to ask any questions 
about the application process. You may request technical assistance 
from your State Office up to 14 days prior to the application deadline. 
Application materials are

[[Page 70261]]

available at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_VAPG.html.
    If you want to submit an electronic application, follow the 
instructions for the VAPG funding announcement on http://www.grants.gov. Please review the Grants.gov Web site at http://grants.gov/applicants/organization_registration.jsp for instructions 
on the process of registering your organization as soon as possible to 
ensure you are able to meet the electronic application deadline. If you 
want to submit a paper application, send it to the State Office located 
in the State where your project will primarily take place. You can find 
State Office Contact information at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Grants Division, Cooperative Programs, 
Rural Business-Cooperative Service, United States Department of 
Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., MS-3250, Room 4016-South, 
Washington, DC 20250-3250, or call 202-720-8460.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

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 0570-0039.

I. Funding Opportunity Description

A. Authority

    The VAPG Program is authorized under section 231 of the Agriculture 
Risk Protection Act of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-224), as amended by section 
6202 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Pub. L. 110-
246) (see 7 U.S.C. 1632a). Applicants must adhere to the program 
requirements contained in the program regulation, 7 CFR 4284, subpart 
J, which is incorporated by reference in this Notice.

B. Purpose of the Program

    The primary objective of this grant program is to assist 
Independent Producers of agricultural commodities, Agricultural 
Producer Groups, Farmer and Rancher Cooperatives, and Majority-
Controlled Producer-Based Businesses in starting or expanding value-
added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-
based value-added agricultural products. Grants will be awarded 
competitively for either planning or working capital projects directly 
related to the processing and/or marketing of value-added products. 
Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing 
opportunities, and increasing producer income are the end goals. All 
proposals must demonstrate economic viability and sustainability in 
order to compete for funding.
    Funding priority will be available to Beginning Farmers and 
Ranchers, Socially-Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, Operators of 
Small and Medium-Sized Farms and Ranches structured as Family Farms, 
Farmer or Rancher Cooperatives, and projects proposing to develop a 
Mid-Tier Value Chain. See See 7 CFR 4284.922(c) for Reserved Funding 
(for available FY 2014 funds only) and 7 CFR 4284.922(d) for Priority 
Point categories and requirements.

C. Definition of Terms

    The terms you need to understand are defined in 7 CFR 4284.902.

II. Award Information

    Type of Instrument: Grant.
    Minimum Award Amount: Not restricted for planning or working 
capital. In FY 2012, 40 percent of awards were $50,000 or less.
    Maximum Award Amount: Planning--$75,000; Working Capital--$200,000.
    Anticipated Award Date: April 15, 2014.
    Grant Period Length: The maximum grant period is 3 years from date 
of award. Proposed grant periods should be scaled to the complexity of 
the objectives of the project, as described in the budget and work 
plan.

III. Eligibility Information

A. Eligible Applicants

1. Type of Applicant
    You must demonstrate that you meet all definition requirements at 7 
CFR 4284.902 for one of the following applicant types: Independent 
producer, agricultural producer group, farmer or rancher cooperative, 
or majority-controlled producer-based business venture.
     Note: If you are an unincorporated Steering Committee in 
the process of organizing one of the four applicant types that will 
operate a proposed value-added venture, it is the Agency's position 
that you may only apply as an Independent Producer applicant type and 
must be 100 percent comprised of Independent Producers at time of 
application submission. If selected for funding, the Steering Committee 
members must form a legally authorized organization that meets 
requirements for one of the four eligible applicant types and provide 
the necessary documentation before the grant agreement will be approved 
by the Agency.
     If you are a Harvester, it is the Agency's position that 
you may only apply as an Independent Producer applicant type because 
harvester operations do not meet Agency definition requirements for a 
Farm or Ranch. In addition, harvester applicants are not eligible to 
receive Reserved Funds or Priority Points for a Beginning Farmer or 
Rancher, a Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher, Operator of a 
Small or Medium-sized Farm or Ranch structured as a Family Farm, or a 
Farmer or Rancher Cooperative. However, Harvesters may request Reserved 
Funds and/or Priority Points for a qualifying Mid-Tier Value Chain 
project if eligibility is documented in the application. A Harvester is 
an individual or entity that can demonstrate a legal right to access 
and harvest a primary agricultural commodity. Individuals or entities 
that merely glean, gather or collect residual commodities that result 
from an initial harvesting or production of a primary agricultural 
commodity are not considered Harvesters and are not eligible for this 
program. Examples of Harvesters include, but are not limited to, a 
logger who has a legal right to access and harvest logs from the forest 
that are then converted into boards; a fisherman that has the legal 
right to access and harvest fish from the ocean or river that are then 
processed.
     Businesses that contract out the production of an 
agricultural commodity are not considered Independent Producers, and 
businesses that produce the agricultural commodity under contract for 
another business and do not own the raw commodity or value-added 
product produced are not considered Independent Producers.
     If the applicant is a federally-recognized Tribe or tribal 
entity, it must demonstrate that it meets the requirements for one of 
the four eligible applicant types. See the application toolkit and 
contact your Rural Development State Office for guidance via http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html.
2. Other Applicant Eligibility Requirements
    You must obtain a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering 
System (DUNS) number (see Section IV.B.) and register in the System for 
Awards Management (SAM) prior to submitting an application. (See 2 CFR 
25.200(b).) In addition, you must maintain your registration in SAM 
during the time your application is active.

[[Page 70262]]

    You must also meet all related applicant eligibility requirements 
for Citizenship, Legal Authority and Responsibility, Multiple Grants 
and Active Grants. Regarding multiple grants, applicants may not 
request additional planning or working capital grants for a project 
that has already received a planning or working capital grant. It is 
the position of the Agency that the program is intended to provide seed 
money to help producers launch value-added processing and marketing 
efforts and is not intended as a continuous source of capital.
    In addition, regarding restrictions related to separate entities 
with common ownership or affiliation in 7 CFR 4284.920(e), it is the 
Agency's position that an applicant submit only one application in 
response to a solicitation, and that the following types of ownership, 
management and affiliation scenarios constitute multiple applications 
that are not allowed: (1) Applications from separate entities with 
greater than 75 percent common ownership; (2) more than one application 
from a parent, subsidiary or affiliated organization (with 
``affiliation'' defined by Small Business Administration regulation 13 
CFR 121.103, or subsequent regulation). In cases where the Agency 
receives multiple grant requests as described above, ALL such 
applications will be deemed ineligible to compete for Federal funds.
    You must also meet Departmental requirements related to debarment, 
suspension and exclusion from participation in Federal assistance 
programs, as well as requirements related to outstanding Federal income 
taxes, judgments and delinquencies. See 7 CFR 4284.920 and 7 CFR 
4284.921 for all applicant eligibility requirements.
3. Special Emphasis
    (a) Food Hubs. Rural Development is encouraging applications that 
will support eligible activities related to the aggregation, storage, 
processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally 
produced food products through regional food hubs. All program 
requirements are applicable and must be properly and completely 
executed to be considered for funding.
    (b) Tribal Entities. Rural Development encourages applications from 
Federally Recognized Tribal Groups and corporations and subdivisions of 
Tribal Groups undertaking or planning to undertake eligible value-added 
projects. All program application requirements are applicable and must 
be properly and completely executed to be considered for funding. 
Tribal eligibility and documentation questions may be directed to your 
local Rural Development State Office via http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html.
    (c) Bio-based Products. Applications from eligible entities 
supporting value-added activities related to bio-based products are 
also encouraged. Bio-based products are defined as commercial or 
industrial products composed of biological products or renewable 
domestic agricultural materials or forestry materials, including 
construction materials, fibers, papers, compost, fertilizer, 
lubricants, plastics and paint (see http://www.biopreferred.gov/Biobased_Products.aspx for more information)

B. Project Eligibility

1. Product Eligibility
    You must meet requirements found at 7 CFR 4284.922(a), including:
    (a) The value-added product results from one of the five 
methodologies identified in the definition of value-added agricultural 
product at 7 CFR 4284.902.
    (b) Demonstrate that, as a result of the project, the customer base 
for the agricultural commodity or value-added product is expanded by 
including a baseline of current customers for the commodity, and an 
estimated target number of customers that will result from the project; 
and
    (c) Demonstrate that, as a result of the project, a greater portion 
of the revenue derived from the marketing or processing of the value-
added product is available to the applicant producer of the 
agricultural commodity by including a baseline of current revenues from 
the sale of the agricultural commodity and an estimated target number 
of increased revenues that will result from the project.
2. Purpose Eligibility
    Applicants for both planning and working capital grants must meet 
all requirements at 7 CFR 4284.22(b) regarding maximum grant amounts, 
certification and verification of matching funds, eligible and 
ineligible uses of grant and matching funds, a substantive work plan 
and budget, and identification of the number of jobs expected to be 
created or saved as a result of the project.
    (a) Planning Grants. A planning grant is used to fund development 
of a defined program of economic planning activities to determine the 
viability of a potential value-added venture, and specifically for the 
purpose of paying for a qualified consultant to conduct and develop a 
feasibility study, business plan, and/or marketing plan associated with 
the processing and/or marketing of a value-added agricultural product. 
Planning grant funds may not be used to fund working capital 
activities.
    (b) Working Capital Grants. This type of grant provides funds to 
operate a value-added project, specifically to pay the eligible project 
expenses related to the processing and/or marketing of the value-added 
product that are eligible uses of grant funds. Working capital funds 
may not be used for planning purposes.
    Applicants for working capital funds must document the quantity of 
the agricultural commodity that will be used for the value-added 
product, expressed in an appropriate unit of measure (acres, pounds, 
bushels, etc.) to demonstrate the scale of the applicant's project. 
This quantification must include an estimated total quantity of the 
agricultural commodity needed for the project, the quantity that will 
be provided (produced and owned) by the agricultural producers of the 
applicant organization, and the quantity that will be purchased or 
donated from third-party sources.
     Working capital requests of $50,000 or more require 
submission of an independent, third party feasibility study and a 
business plan. You must submit these documents with your application. 
You must also summarize relevant results of the feasibility study and 
business plan in response to the scoring criteria, as applicable, 
because reviewers will not receive copies of your feasibility study or 
business plan when scoring your application. Based on the information 
presented in the application, you must demonstrate that the project is 
financially feasible and can achieve the income, credit and cash flows 
to sustain the venture over the long term. Applications with inadequate 
information or projects deemed not financially feasible by the Agency 
will not be eligible to compete for grant funding. See 7 CFR 
4284.922(b)(6).
     Simplified Applications. If you are requesting less than 
$50,000 in working capital grant funds, you may submit a simplified 
application. See 7 CFR 4284.932. You are not required to provide an 
independent feasibility study or business plan. You are required to 
provide information to show the increases in customer base and revenues 
expected to be derived from the project that will benefit the producer 
applicants supplying the majority of the agricultural commodity for the 
project. Also see 7 CFR 4284.922(b)(6)(ii).
     Market Expansion Proposals. If you are an Independent 
Producer applicant

[[Page 70263]]

type applying for a working capital grant of $50,000 or more, and your 
project is for market expansion of an existing value-added product(s) 
that you have successfully produced and marketed for at least 2 years 
prior to the submission of the application, you must submit a business 
or marketing plan for the project, but are not required to submit a 
feasibility study. Your application must contain adequate information 
to demonstrate the increases in customer base and revenues expected to 
be derived from the project that will benefit the applicant producers 
supplying the majority of the agricultural commodity for the project. 
See 7 CFR 4284.922(b)(6)(i).

3. Reserved Funds Eligibility

    Reserved Funds will be available only if Congress enacts a full 
year appropriation for FY 2014. To qualify for Reserved Funds as a 
Beginning Farmer or Rancher, a Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or 
Rancher, or if you propose to develop a Mid-Tier Value Chain, you must 
meet the requirements found at 7 CFR 4284.922(c). If your application 
is eligible, but does not receive Reserve Funding, it will 
automatically be considered for general funds in that same fiscal year, 
as funding levels permit and in accordance with project ranking.

4. Priority Points

    To qualify for priority points for projects that contribute to 
increasing opportunities for Beginning Farmers or Ranchers, Socially 
Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers, or if you are an Operator of a Small 
or Medium-sized farm or ranch structured as a Family Farm, propose a 
Mid-Tier Value Chain project, or are a Farmer or Rancher Cooperative, 
you must meet the eligibility requirements at 7 CFR 4284.922(d), 7 CFR 
4284.923 and 7 CFR 4284.924.

5. Other Eligibility Requirements

    (a) Grant Period Eligibility. Your project timeframe or grant 
period can be a maximum of 36 months in length from the date of award. 
Your proposed grant period should begin no earlier than the anticipated 
award announcement date herein, April 15, 2014, and should end no later 
than 36 months following that date. If you receive an award, your grant 
period will be revised to begin on the actual date of award--the date 
the grant agreement is executed by the Agency--and your grant period 
end date will be adjusted accordingly. Your project activities must 
begin within 90 days of that date of award. If you request funds for a 
time period beginning before April 15, 2014, and/or ending later than 
36 months from that date, your application will be ineligible. The 
length of your grant period should be based on your project's 
complexity, as indicated in your application work plan. For example, it 
is expected that most planning grants can be completed within 12 
months. If you cannot finish your project during the approved 
timeframe, you may request an extension of up to 1 year from your local 
Rural Development office. Extensions will be considered only if 
unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances prevent you from finishing your 
project. Extensions beyond 3 years from the actual date of award will 
not be considered.
    (b) Ineligible Expenses. Applications with ineligible expenses of 
more than 10 percent of total project costs will be ineligible to 
compete for funds. Eligible applications that are selected for award 
but contain ineligible expenses of 10 percent or less of total project 
costs must remove those ineligible expenses from the final project 
budget that is subject to approval by the Agency. See 7 CFR 4284.923 
for examples of eligible planning and working capital use of funds, and 
see 7 CFR 4284.924 for examples of ineligible use of funds.
    (c) Completeness. If your application is incomplete, it is 
ineligible to compete for funds. Information submitted after the 
application deadline will not be accepted.

IV. Application and Submission Information

A. Address To Request Applications

    The application toolkit, regulation, and official program 
notifications for this funding opportunity can be obtained online at 
http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_VAPG.html. Or, you can contact your 
USDA Rural Development State Office by visiting http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/recd_map.html. The toolkit contains an application 
checklist, templates, required grant forms, and instructions. Although 
the Agency highly recommends their use, use of the templates is not 
mandatory.

B. Form of Submission

    You may submit your application in paper form or electronically 
through Grants.gov. Your application must contain all required 
information.
    To submit an application electronically, you must follow the 
instructions for this funding announcement at http://www.grants.gov. 
Please note that we cannot accept emailed or faxed applications. 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 Web site, you will find information about submitting an 
application electronically through the site, as well as the hours of 
operation. To use Grants.gov, you must have a Dun and Bradstreet Data 
Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number, which can be obtained at no 
cost via a toll-free request line at (866) 705-5711. Before submitting 
an application, you must also be registered and maintain registration 
in SAM (formerly the CCR database). (See 2 CFR part 25.) You may 
register in SAM at https://www.sam.gov/portal/public/SAM/. We strongly 
recommend that you do not wait until the application deadline date to 
begin the application process through Grants.gov. You must submit all 
of your application documents electronically through Grants.gov. After 
electronically submitting an application through Grants.gov, you will 
receive an automatic acknowledgement from Grants.gov that contains a 
Grants.gov tracking number.
    If you want to submit a paper application, send it to the State 
Office located in the State where your project will primarily take 
place. You can find State Office Contact information at: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html. An optional-use Agency 
application template is available online at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_VAPG.html.

C. Application Contents

    Your application must contain all of the required forms and 
proposal elements described in 7 CFR 4284.931, unless otherwise 
clarified in this notice. You are encouraged, but not required to 
utilize the Application Toolkits found at https://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_VAPG.html. Basic application contents are outlined below:
1. Required Forms
    (a) Standard Form (SF) 424, ``Application for Federal Assistance, 
'' to include your DUNS number and SAM (CAGE) code and expiration date. 
Because there are no specific fields for a CAGE code and expiration 
date, you may identify them anywhere you want to on the form. If you do 
not include the CAGE code and expiration date and the DUNS number in 
your application, it will not be considered for funding.
    (b) Form AD-3030, ``Representations Regarding Felony Conviction and 
Tax

[[Page 70264]]

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, or the various 
territories of the United States including American Samoa, Federated 
States of Micronesia, Guam, Midway Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, 
Puerto Rico, Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, or 
the U.S. Virgin Islands. Corporations include both for profit and non-
profit entities.
2. Executive Summary and Abstract
    A one-page Executive Summary containing the following information: 
legal name of applicant entity, application type (planning or working 
capital), applicant type, amount of grant request, a summary of your 
project, and whether you are submitting a simplified application, and 
whether you are requesting Reserved Funds. Also include an abstract of 
up to 100 words briefly describing your project.
3. Certification of Judgments
    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. To satisfy this 
certification requirement, you should include this statement in your 
application: ``[INSERT NAME OF APPLICANT] certifies that the United 
States has not obtained an unsatisfied judgment against its property 
and will not use grant funds to pay any judgments obtained by the 
United States.'' A separate signature is not required.
4. Project Proposal
a. Eligibility Discussion
b. Budget and work plan
c. Evaluation Criteria
     Performance evaluation criteria
     Proposal evaluation criteria
5. Certification and Verification of Matching Funds
6. Reserved Fund and Priority Point Documentation (as Applicable)
7. Appendices

D. Funding Limitations

    Funding limitations and reservations found in the program 
regulation will apply. See 7 CFR 4284.925.
    1. Use of Funds. Grant funds may be used to pay up to 50 percent of 
the total eligible project costs, subject to the limitations 
established for maximum total grant amount. Grant and matching funds 
may only be used for eligible purposes. (see examples of eligible and 
ineligible uses in 7 CFR 4284 sections 923 and 924, respectively).
    Note that applicant-supplied inventory of the raw agricultural 
commodity that will be transformed into the value-added product must be 
verified as an applicant in-kind matching contribution, and not as an 
applicant cash matching contribution, regardless of applicant transfer 
arrangements with related parties (cooperatives, subsidiaries, etc.). 
Proposed applicant cash match for ``purchase or buy-back'' of their own 
raw agricultural commodity from related parties (cooperatives, 
subsidiaries, etc.) is not eligible.
    2. If Program Income is earned during the grant period as a result 
of the project activities, it is subject to the requirements in 7 CFR 
3019.24, and must be managed and reported accordingly.
    3. Majority Controlled Producer-Based Business. The aggregate 
amount of awards to Majority Controlled Producer-Based Businesses in 
response to this announcement shall not exceed 10 percent of the total 
funds obligated for the program during the fiscal year.
    4. Reserved Funds. Should FY 2014 funds become available, ten 
percent of total FY 2014 funding available will be used to fund 
projects that benefit Beginning Farmers or Ranchers, or Socially-
Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers. In addition, 10 percent of total 
funding available will be used to fund projects that propose 
development of Mid-Tier Value Chains as part of a Local or Regional 
Supply Chain Network. See related definitions in 7 CFR 4284.902.
    5. Disposition of Reserved Funds Not Obligated. For this 
announcement, any Reserved FY 2014 Funds that have not been obligated 
by June 30, 2014, will be available to the Secretary to make VAPG 
grants from the fund categories addressed at 7 CFR 4284.922 (c).

E. Intergovernmental Review

    Executive Order (EO) 12372, ``Intergovernmental Review of Federal 
Programs,'' applies to this program. This EO requires that Federal 
agencies provide opportunities for consultation on proposed assistance 
with State and local governments that have chosen to participate in 
that process. Those states have established a Single Point of Contact 
(SPOC) to facilitate this consultation. For a list of states that 
maintain an SPOC, please see the White House Web site: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/grants_spoc. If your state has an SPOC, you 
must submit a copy of the application directly for review. Any comments 
obtained through the SPOC must be provided to your State Office for 
consideration as part of your application.

V. Application Review Information

    Applications will be reviewed and processed as described at 7 CFR 
4284.940.

A. Application Eligibility and Notifications

    The Agency will review your application to determine if it is 
complete and eligible. If at any time, the Agency determines that your 
application is ineligible, you will be notified in writing as to the 
reasons it was determined ineligible and you will be informed of appeal 
rights.
    If, at any time after you have submitted your application, you 
decide that you no longer want to request grant funding, you must 
notify the Agency in writing. Upon receipt of your notification, the 
Agency will rescind the award or withdraw the application, as 
applicable.

B. Application Scoring

    The Agency will only score applications in which the applicant and 
project are eligible, which are complete and sufficiently responsive to 
program requirements, and in which the Agency agrees on the likelihood 
of financial feasibility for working capital requests. We will score 
your application according to the procedures and criteria specified in 
7 CFR 4284.942, and with tiered scoring thresholds as specified below.
    For each criterion, you must show how the project has merit and why 
it is likely to be successful. If you do not address all parts of the 
criterion, or do not sufficiently communicate relevant project 
information, you will receive lower scores. VAPG is a competitive 
program, so you will receive scores based on the quality of your 
responses. Simply addressing the criteria will not guarantee higher 
scores. The maximum number of points that can be awarded to your 
application is 100. For this announcement, the minimum score 
requirement for funding is 50 points.
    The Agency application toolkit provides additional instruction to 
help you to respond to the criteria below.
1. Nature of the Proposed Venture (Graduated Score 0-30 Points)
    For both planning and working capital grants, you should discuss 
the technological feasibility of the project, as well as the 
operational efficiency, profitability, and overall economic 
sustainability resulting from the project. In addition, demonstrate the 
potential

[[Page 70265]]

for expanding the customer base for the agricultural commodity or 
value-added product, and the expected increase in revenue returns to 
the producer-owners providing the majority of the raw agricultural 
commodity to the project. You should reference third-party information 
that specifically supports your value-added project; discuss the value-
added process you are proposing; potential markets and distribution 
channels; the value to be added to the raw commodity through the value-
added process; cost and availability of inputs, your experience in 
marketing the proposed or similar product; business financial 
statements; and any other relevant information that supports the 
viability of your project. Working capital applicants should 
demonstrate these concepts that will result from the project. Planning 
grant applicants should describe the expected results, and the reasons 
supporting those expectations.
    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 if you do not address each of the 
following: Technological feasibility, operational efficiency, 
profitability, and overall economic sustainability.
    (iii) 6-13 points will be awarded if you address technological 
feasibility, operational efficiency, profitability, and overall 
economic sustainability, but do not reference third-party information 
that supports the success of your project.
    (iv) 14-22 points will be awarded if you address technological 
feasibility, operational efficiency, profitability, and overall 
economic sustainability, supported by third party information 
demonstrating a reasonable likelihood of success.
    (v) 23-30 points will be awarded if all criterion components are 
well addressed, supported by third-party information, and demonstrate a 
high likelihood of success.
2. Qualifications of Project Personnel (Graduated Score 0-20 Points)
    You must identify all individuals who will be responsible for 
completing the proposed tasks in the work plan, including the roles and 
activities that owners, staff, contractors, consultants or new hires 
may perform; and show that these individuals have the necessary 
qualifications and expertise, including those hired to do market or 
feasibility analyses, or to develop a business operations plan for the 
value-added venture. You must include the qualifications of those 
individuals responsible to lead or manage the total project (applicant 
owners or project managers), as well as those individuals responsible 
for actually conducting the various individual tasks in the work plan 
(such as consultants, contractors, staff or new hires). You must 
discuss the commitment and the availability of any consultants or other 
professionals to be hired for the project. If staff or consultants have 
not been selected at the time of application, you must provide specific 
descriptions of the qualifications required for the positions to be 
filled. Applications that demonstrate the strong credentials, 
education, capabilities, experience and availability of project 
personnel that will contribute to a high likelihood of project success 
will receive more points than those that demonstrate less potential for 
success in these areas.
    (i) 0 points will be awarded if you do not substantively address 
the criterion.
    (ii) 1-4 points will be awarded if qualifications and experience of 
all staff is not addressed and/or if necessary qualifications of 
unfilled positions are not provided.
    (iii) 5-9 points will be awarded if all project personnel are 
identified but do not demonstrate qualifications or experience relevant 
to the project.
    (iv) 10-14 will be awarded if most key personnel demonstrate strong 
credentials and/or experience, and availability indicating a reasonable 
likelihood of success.
    (v) 15-20 points will be awarded if all personnel demonstrate 
strong, relevant credentials or experience, and availability indicating 
a high likelihood of project success.
3. Commitments and Support (Graduated Score 0-10 Points)
    Producer commitments to the project will be evaluated based on the 
number of independent producers currently involved in the project; and 
the nature, level and quality of their contributions. End-user 
commitments will be evaluated on the basis of potential or identified 
markets and the potential amount of output to be purchased, as 
indicated by letters of intent or contracts from potential buyers 
referenced within the application. Other Third-Party commitments to the 
project will be evaluated based on the critical and tangible nature of 
their contribution to the project, such as technical assistance, 
storage, processing, marketing, or distribution arrangements that are 
necessary for the project to proceed; and the level and quality of 
these contributions. All cash or in-kind contributions from producers, 
end users, or other contributors should be discussed. End-user 
commitments may include contracts or letters of intent or interest in 
purchasing the value-added product. Letters of commitment by producers, 
end-users, and third-parties should be summarized as part of your 
response to this criterion, and the letters should be included in 
Appendix B. Applications that demonstrate the project has strong direct 
financial, technical and logistical support to successfully complete 
the project will receive more points than those that demonstrate less 
potential for success in these areas. 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 you show real, direct support 
from at least one producer, end-user, or other third-party contributor.
    (iii) 4-6 points will be awarded if you show real, high-quality, 
direct support or participation from at least one additional producer; 
AND measurable commitment or interest in purchasing the value-added 
product from at least one end-user; AND commitment or tangible support 
from at least one other third-party contributor.
    (iv) 7-10 points will be awarded if you show real, high quality 
direct support or participation from multiple producers, AND measurable 
commitment or interest from multiple end-users, AND commitment or 
tangible support from multiple third-party contributors.
4. Work Plan and Budget (Graduated Score 0-20 Points)
    You must submit a comprehensive work plan and budget (for full 
details, see 7 CFR 4284.922(b)(5)). Your work plan must provide 
specific and detailed descriptions of the tasks and the key project 
personnel that will accomplish the project's goals. The budget must 
present a detailed breakdown of all estimated costs of project 
activities and allocate those costs among the listed tasks. You must 
show the source and use of both grant and matching funds for all tasks. 
Matching funds must be spent at a rate equal to, or in advance of, 
grant funds. An eligible start and end date for the project and for 
individual project tasks must be clearly shown and may not exceed 
Agency specified timeframes for the grant period. Working Capital 
applications must include an estimate of Program Income expected to be 
earned during the grant period (see 7 CFR 3019.24).
    (i) 0 points will be awarded if you do not substantively address 
the criterion.
    (ii) 1-7 points will be awarded if the work plan and budget do not 
account

[[Page 70266]]

for all project goals, tasks, costs, timelines, and responsible 
personnel.
    (iii) 8-14 points will be awarded if you provide a clear, 
comprehensive work plan detailing all project goals, tasks, timelines, 
costs, and responsible personnel in a logical and realistic manner that 
demonstrates a reasonable likelihood of success.
    (v) 15-20 points will be awarded if you provide a clear, 
comprehensive work plan detailing all project goals, tasks, timelines, 
costs, and responsible personnel in a logical and realistic manner that 
demonstrates a high likelihood of success.
5. Priority Points (Lump Sum Score 0 or 10 Points)
    Priority Points may be awarded in both the general funds and 
Reserved funds competition. You may request priority points if you meet 
the requirements for one of the following categories and provide the 
documentation described in 7 CFR 4284.922(d), as applicable: Beginning 
Farmer or Rancher, or Socially-Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher, or 
Operator of a Small or Medium-sized farm or ranch that is structured as 
a Family Farm, or Farmer or Rancher Cooperative, or Mid-Tier Value 
Chain project.
    It is recommended that you use the Agency application package when 
applying for priority points and refer to the documentation 
requirements specified in 7 CFR 4284.922(d). Harvester operations are 
not considered a Farm or Ranch and are not eligible for priority points 
for a Beginning Farmer or Rancher, a Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or 
Rancher, an Operator of a Small or Medium-sized farm or ranch that is 
structured as a Family Farm, or a Farmer or Rancher Cooperative; 
however, Harvester operations may request priority points for a 
qualifying Mid-Tier Value Chain project, as applicable. All qualifying 
applicants will receive 10 points. If you do not provide sufficient 
documentation you will receive 0 points.
6. Administrator Priority Categories (Graduated Score 0-10 Points)
    The Administrator of USDA Rural Development Business-Cooperative 
Service (RBS) may choose to award up to 10 points to an application to 
improve the geographic diversity of awardees in a fiscal year.

C. Selection of Applications

    The Agency will select applications for award under this Notice in 
accordance with the provisions specified in 7 CFR 4284.950(a).
    If your application is eligible and complete, it will be 
qualitatively scored by at least two reviewers based on criteria 
specified in section V.B. of this Notice. One of these reviewers will 
be a Rural Development employee from your servicing State Office and at 
least one additional reviewer will be a non-Federal, independent 
reviewer. The State Office may enlist the support of technical experts, 
qualified as described below and approved by the State Director, to 
assist the State Office scoring process. All reviewers must meet the 
following qualifications. All reviewers must have at least bachelor's 
degree in one or more of the following fields: Agri-business, 
agricultural economics, agriculture, animal science, business, 
marketing, economics or finance. All reviewers must also have a minimum 
of 8 years of experience in an agriculture-related field (e.g. farming, 
marketing, consulting, or research; or as university faculty, trade 
association official or non-Federal government official in an 
agriculturally-related field). Each reviewer will score evaluation 
criteria 1 through 4 and the totals for each reviewer will be added 
together and averaged. The Rural Development State Office reviewer will 
also assign priority points based on criterion 5 in section V.B. of 
this Notice. These will be added to the average score. The sum of these 
scores will be ranked high to low and this will comprise the initial 
ranking.
    The Administrator of RBS may choose to award up to 10 Administrator 
priority points based on criterion 6 in section V.B. of this Notice. 
These points will be added to the cumulative score for a total possible 
score of 100.
    A final ranking will be obtained based solely on the scores 
received for criteria 1 through 6. Applications for reserved funding 
will be funded in rank order until funds are depleted. Unfunded reserve 
category applications will be returned to the general funds category 
where applications will be funded in rank order until the funds are 
expended. Funding for Majority Controlled Producer-Based Business 
Ventures (MAJ) is limited to 10 percent of total grant funds expected 
to be obligated as a result of this Notice. MAJ applications will be 
funded in rank order until the funding limitation has been reached. 
Grants to MAJ applicants from reserved funds will count against this 
funding limitation. In the event of tied scores, the Administrator 
shall have discretion in breaking ties.
    If your application is ranked, but not funded, it will not be 
carried forward into the next competition. We will notify you in 
writing if your application is not selected for funding and inform you 
of any appeal rights. You may submit an updated application for 
consideration during the next round of funding.

VI. Award Administrative Information

A. Award Notices

    If your application is successful, you will receive notification 
regarding funding from the State Office where your application is 
submitted or where the project will primarily take place if you submit 
your application via Grants.gov. You must comply with all applicable 
statutes, regulations, and notice requirements before the grant award 
will be approved. See 7 CFR 4284.951. If your application is not 
successful, you will receive notification, including appeal rights, by 
mail. See 7 CFR part 11.

B. Administrative and National Policy Requirements

    1. Review or appeal rights. A person may seek a review of an Agency 
decision or appeal to the National Appeals Division in accordance with 
7 CFR part 11.
    2. Transparency Act Requirements. All recipients of Federal 
financial assistance are required to report information about first-
tier sub-awards 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 Transparency Act reporting requirements (see 2 CFR 
170.200(b), unless you are exempt under 2 CFR 170.110(b)).
    3. Corporate applicants who receive an award under this Notice must 
sign Form AD-3031, ``Assurance Regarding Felony Conviction or Tax 
Delinquent Status for Corporate Applicants;''
    4. Compliance with other laws and regulations. The provisions of 7 
CFR 4284.905 applies to this Notice, which includes requiring 
applicants to be in compliance with other applicable Federal laws.
    5. Monitoring and reporting program performance. The provisions of 
7 CFR 4284.960 applies to this Notice.
    6. Grant servicing. All grants awarded under this Notice shall be 
serviced in accordance with 7 CFR part 1951, subparts E and O as 
applicable, and the Departmental Regulations (7 CFR parts 3000-3099), 
with the exception that delegation of the post-award servicing of the 
program does not require the prior approval of the Administrator.
    7. Transfer of obligations. Any transfer of funds obligated under 
this Notice from an applicant to a different applicant must comply with 
the

[[Page 70267]]

requirements specified in 7 CFR 4284.962.
    8. Grant close-out and related activities. The provisions of 7 CFR 
4284.963 applies to this Notice.
    9. Exception authority. The provisions of 7 CFR 4284.904 apply to 
this Notice.
    10. Departmental regulations. Unless specifically stated otherwise 
in this Notice or in 7 CFR part 4284, subpart J, this Notice 
incorporates by reference the regulations of the Department of 
Agriculture's Office of Chief Financial Officer (or successor office) 
as codified in 7 CFR parts 3000 through 3099, including, but not 
necessarily limited to, 7 CFR parts 3015 through 3019, 7 CFR part 3021, 
7 CFR part 3052, and 2 CFR parts 25, 170 and 417; and successor 
regulations to these parts.
    11. Cost principles. This Notice incorporates by reference the cost 
principles found in 2 CFR part 230 and in 48 CFR part 31.2.

C. Environmental Review

    All recipients under this Notice are subject to the requirements of 
7 CFR part 1940, subpart G and any successor regulations. However, 7 
CFR 1940.333, 7 CFR 1940.310(c)(1) and 7 CFR 1940.317(g)(2) generally 
exclude applications for both planning and working capital grants.

VII. Agency Contacts

    If you have questions about this Notice, please contact the State 
Office as identified in the ADDRESSES section of this Notice. You are 
also encouraged to visit the application Web site for application 
tools, including an application guide and templates. The web address 
is: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_VAPG.html.

VIII. Nondiscrimination Statement

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination 
against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the 
bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender 
identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, 
marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all 
or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance 
program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any 
program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all 
prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment 
activities.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means 
for communication of program information (Braille, large print, 
audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 
(voice and TDD).
    To file a complaint of discrimination write to USDA, Director, 
Office of Adjudication and Compliance, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., 
Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-
6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and 
lender.

     Dated: November 19, 2013.
Lillian Salerno,
Administrator, Rural Business--Cooperative Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-28175 Filed 11-22-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-XY-P