[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 189 (Tuesday, September 30, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 58727-58728]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-23352]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

National Institute of Food and Agriculture


Solicitation of Input From Stakeholders Regarding Commodity 
Boards To Propose Projects and Contribute Funding Under the 
Agricultural and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant Programs, 
Implementation

AGENCY: National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of Web-based listening session and request for 
stakeholder input.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: As part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's 
(NIFA) strategy to successfully implement Section 7404 of Public Law 
113-79, the Agricultural Act of 2014, NIFA is soliciting stakeholder 
input on how it will establish procedures, including timelines, under 
which an entity established under a commodity promotion law (as such 
term is defined under section 7401(a) of the Agricultural Act of 2014) 
or a State commodity board (or other equivalent State entity) may 
submit proposals for Requests for Applications (RFA)to be competed as 
part of the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) 
competitive grant programs. If proposals are accepted for funding, the 
proposed RFA will be competed as part of the AFRI competitive grants 
program RFAs and entities eligible for AFRI awards will be able to 
compete for award. In addition, as a condition of funding the grant 
proposed by a commodity board, NIFA shall require a contribution of 
funds equal to the amount of the grant.
    NIFA will be holding Web-based listening sessions in order to 
solicit stakeholder input on this new challenge area. The focus of the 
Web-based listening sessions will be to gather stakeholder input that 
will be used in developing a process for soliciting, evaluating, and 
prioritizing AFRI Request for Applications (RFA) submissions from the 
previously stated commodity board entities or their equivalent.
    All comments must be received by close of business on October 16, 
2014, to be considered in the initial planning of the FY 2015 cycle.

DATES: The Web-based listening sessions will be held on Thursday, 
October 9, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time 
(ET), and Thursday, October 16, 2014, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., ET. 
All written comments must be received by 5:00 p.m., ET on Thursday, 
October 16, 2014.

ADDRESSES: The Web-based listening sessions will be hosted using Adobe 
Connect. On October 9th and October 16th, please access the following 
Web site, http://nifa-connect.nifa.usda.gov/cbsls/. In addition, audio 
conference call capabilities can be accessed at 1-888-844-9904, 
participant code 4896371#.
    You may submit comments, identified by NIFA-2014-004, by any of the 
following methods:
    Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the 
instructions for submitting comments.
    Email: vbest@nifa.usda.gov. Include NIFA-2014-004 in the subject 
line of the message.
    Fax: 202-690-0289.
    Mail: Paper, disk or CD-ROM submissions should be submitted to 
Commodity Boards; Office of the Administrator, National Institute of 
Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, STOP 2201, 1400 
Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-2201.
    Hand Delivery/Courier: Centers of Excellence--Office of the 
Administrator, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, Room 4248, Waterfront Centre, 800 9th Street 
SW., Washington, DC 20024.
    Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name 
and reference to NIFA-2014-004. All comments received will be posted to 
http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information 
provided.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Valeria Best, (202) 720-8540 
(phone), (202) 690-1260 (fax), or vbest@nifa.usda.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Comment Procedures

    Persons wishing to present oral comments during the Web-based 
listening session on either Thursday, October 9 or Thursday, October 
16, 2014 are requested to pre-register by contacting Ms. Valeria Best 
at (202) 720-8540, by fax at (202) 690-1260 or by email to 
vbest@nifa.usda.gov. Participants may reserve one 5-minute comment 
period. More time may be available, depending on the number of people 
wishing to make a presentation. Reservations will be confirmed on a

[[Page 58728]]

first-come, first-served basis. All other participants may provide 
comments during the Web-based listening session if time permits, or 
submit written comments. All written comments must be received by close 
of business October 16, 2014, to be considered. All comments and the 
official transcript of the Web-based listening session, when they 
become available, may be reviewed on the NIFA Web page, http://www.nifa.usda.gov, for six months.

Background and Purpose

    NIFA is moving forward to implement Section 7404 of the 
Agricultural Act of 2014. Beginning in October of 2014, this section 
requires that the NIFA ``establish procedures, including timelines, 
under which an entity established under a commodity promotion law (as 
such term is defined under section 501(a) of the Federal Agriculture 
Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 7401(a))) or a State 
commodity board (or other equivalent State entity) may directly submit 
to the Secretary for consideration proposals for requests for 
applications'' as part of the AFRI competitive grants program.
    These proposals for RFAs must address particular issues related to 
the AFRI priority areas. A program synopsis of the AFRI programs, 
including program priorities, can be viewed at the following URL: 
http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/afri/afri_synopsis.html.
    Language in 7 U.S.C. 7401(a) defines an entity established under a 
commodity promotion law as a program regarding an agricultural 
commodity that includes a combination of promotion, research, industry 
information, or consumer information activities, is funded by mandatory 
assessments on producers or processors, and is designed to maintain or 
expand markets and uses for the commodity (as determined by the 
Secretary). As of this writing, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service 
has informed NIFA that 22 organizations are federally recognized that 
meet the definition of this organization: Hass Avocado Board, Mushroom 
Council, Beef Board, Paper and Paper-Based Packaging, Blueberry 
Council, Peanut Board, Christmas Tree Board, Popcorn Board, Cotton 
Board, Pork Board, Dairy Board, Potato Board, Egg Board, Processed 
Raspberry Council, Fluid Milk Board, Softwood Lumber Board, Honey 
Board, Sorghum Board, Lamb Board, Soybean Board, Mango Board, 
Watermelon Board. However, the agency is interested in stakeholder 
views regarding the best methods of identification and outreach to 
``other equivalent State'' entities that are established under state 
commodity promotion laws, include a combination of promotion, research, 
industry information, or consumer information activities, are funded by 
state-mandated assessments on producers or processors, and are designed 
to maintain or expand markets and uses for the commodity.
    It is important to note that grants funded under this authority 
will require the commodity boards who submitted proposals for AFRI RFAs 
to match the awarded AFRI grants with an equal contribution of funds.
    As the Agricultural Act of 2014 provides a fairly broad authority 
for NIFA to solicit and evaluate proposals for RFAs that address 
particular areas of interest to commodity boards, it will be important 
that NIFA hear from the community about how NIFA should do the 
following: Attempt to guide the priority development of AFRI RFAs that 
the commodity boards or their equivalent may submit; develop evaluation 
criteria for selecting RFAs submitted by commodity boards; incorporate 
selected RFAs into the larger framework of the AFRI program; set upper 
and lower limits on commodity board proposals; and determine the 
appropriate mix of RFAs selected from proposals submitted by national 
and state commodity boards.
    NIFA is considering using a process where the agency would issue a 
request for applications from commodity boards or their equivalent 
entities that is carefully timed to fit into the existing AFRI RFA 
development and application review process. The proposals for RFAs 
would be subject to internal NIFA review and evaluation prior to 
selection. Successful commodity board or their equivalent entity RFAs 
would be released as part of the standard AFRI RFAs. Applications 
submitted in response to commodity board RFAs would be reviewed 
alongside the other applications within the same AFRI program area 
through the current competitive peer review process.
    During the commodity board mechanism's initial year, NIFA may 
conduct a pilot program that would limit RFA proposals to program areas 
within the AFRI Foundational program. This limitation would not itself 
limit either the number of RFAs approved, or the number of awards 
ultimately granted, as a result of this new authority in the pilot 
year. More than one award could conceivably be issued per Commodity 
Board RFA. However, it is important to note that AFRI Foundational 
awards are typically limited to $500,000 each. Furthermore, NIFA may 
institute additional restrictions in the pilot year.

Implementation Plans

    NIFA plans to consider stakeholder input received from the Web-
based listening sessions as well as other written comments in 
developing a process to implement the Commodity Board provision in FY 
2015.

    Done at Washington, DC this 24th day of September, 2014.
Sonny Ramaswamy,
Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
[FR Doc. 2014-23352 Filed 9-29-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-22-P