[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 89 (Friday, May 8, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 26528-26534]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-10440]



[[Page 26528]]

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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.

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SUMMARY: This Notice announces that the Rural Business-Cooperative 
Service (Agency) is accepting fiscal year (FY) 2015 applications for 
the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. Approximately $30 
million in funding is available to help agricultural producers enter 
into value-added activities for FY 2015. Approximately $10.2 million 
has been appropriated through the Consolidated and Further Continuing 
Appropriations Act of 2015 and the remaining funds have been made 
available through either carry over funding from FY 2014 or through the 
Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill). The Agency is concurrently 
publishing a final rule that will revise the current VAPG regulation at 
7 CFR part 4284, subpart J in response to: The 2014 Farm Bill; comments 
received on the interim rule, which was published on February 23, 2011 
(76 FR 10122); a listening session, held on April 25, 2014, on the VAPG 
provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill; and to provide program 
clarifications. The Agency is encouraging applications that directs 
grants to projects based in or serving census tracts with poverty rates 
greater than or equal to 20 percent. This emphasis will support Rural 
Development's (RD) mission of improving the quality of life for rural 
Americans and commitment to directing resources to those who most need 
them.

DATES: You must submit your application by July 7, 2015 or it will not 
be considered for funding. 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 July 2, 2015. 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. Application materials are available at 
http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-producer-grants.
    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.html 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.rd.usda.gov/contact-us/state-offices.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Grants Division, Cooperative Programs, 
Rural Business-Cooperative Service, United States Department of 
Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., MS 3253, Room 4008-South, 
Washington, DC 20250-3253, or call 202-690-1374.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Overview

    Federal Agency Name: USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service.
    Funding Opportunity Title: Value-Added Producer Grant.
    Announcement Type: Initial funding request.
    Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number: 10.352.
    Dates: Application Deadline. You must submit your complete paper 
application by July 7, 2015, or it will not be considered for funding. 
Electronic applications must be received by http://www.grants.gov no 
later than midnight Eastern Time July 2, 2015, or it will not be 
considered for funding.

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.

A. Program Description

    The VAPG program is authorized under section 231 of the Agriculture 
Risk Protection Act of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-224), as amended by section 
6203 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Pub. L. 113-79) (see 7 U.S.C. 
1632a). Applicants must adhere to the requirements contained in the 
program regulation, 7 CFR 4284, subpart J, which is incorporated by 
reference in this Notice.
    The primary objective of this grant program is to assist 
Independent Producers, 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 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 of the 
program. All proposals must demonstrate economic viability and 
sustainability in order to compete for funding.
    Funding priority will be made available to Beginning Farmers and 
Ranchers, Veteran Farmers and Ranchers, Socially-Disadvantaged Farmers 
and Ranchers, Operators of Small and Medium-Sized Farms and Ranches 
structured as Family Farms or Ranches, Farmer or Rancher Cooperatives, 
and projects proposing to develop a Mid-Tier Value Chain. See 7 CFR 
4284.923 for Reserved Funds eligibility and 7 CFR 4284.924 for Priority 
Scoring eligibility.

Definitions

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

B. Federal Award Information

    Type of Instrument: Grant.
    Fiscal Year 2015 Funds: Approximately $10.2 million.
    Approximate Number of Awards: Approximately 300.
    Available Total Funding: Approximately $30 million.
    Maximum Award Amount: Planning--$75,000; Working Capital--$250,000.
    Project Period: Up to 36 months depending on the complexity of the 
project.
    Anticipated Award Date: September 30, 2015.
    Reservation of Funds: Ten percent of available funds for 
applications will be reserved 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. Reserved funds not 
obligated prior to June 30, 2015, will be used for the VAPG general 
competition. If this is the case, Beginning and

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Socially-Disadvantaged Farmers or Ranchers and applicants proposing 
Mid-Tier Value Chains will compete with other eligible VAPG 
applications.

C. Eligibility Information

    Applicants must meet all of the following eligibility requirements. 
Applications which fail to meet any of these requirements by the 
application deadline will be deemed ineligible and will not be 
evaluated further.

1. Eligible Applicants

    You must demonstrate that you meet all the applicant eligibility 
requirements of 7 CFR 4284.920 and 4284.921 (Ineligible applicants). 
This includes meeting the 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 and also meeting the Emerging 
Market, Citizenship, Legal Authority and Responsibility, Multiple 
Grants and Active Grants requirements of the section. Required 
documentation to support eligibility is contained at 7 CFR 4284.931.
    Federally-recognized Tribes and tribal entities must demonstrate 
that they meet all definition requirements for one of the four eligible 
applicant types. Rural Development State Offices and posted application 
toolkits will provide additional information on Tribal eligibility.
    Per 4284.921, an applicant is ineligible if they have been debarred 
or suspended or otherwise excluded from or ineligible for participation 
in Federal assistance programs under Executive Order 12549, ``Debarment 
and Suspension.'' In addition, an applicant will be considered 
ineligible for a grant due to an outstanding judgment obtained by the 
U.S. in a Federal Court (other than U.S. Tax Court), is delinquent on 
the payment of Federal income taxes, or is delinquent on Federal debt.

2. Cost-Sharing or Matching

    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). Note that matching funds must also be discussed 
as part of the scoring criterion Commitments and Support as described 
in section E.1. (c).

3. Project Eligibility

    You must demonstrate that you meet all the project eligibility 
requirements of 7 CFR 4284.922.
    (a) Product eligibility. Applicants for both planning and working 
capital grants must meet all requirements at 7 CFR 4284.922(a), 
including that your value-added product must result from one of the 
five methodologies identified in the definition of Value-Added 
Agricultural Product at 7 CFR 4284.902. In addition, you must 
demonstrate that, as a result of the project, the customer base for the 
agricultural commodity or value-added product will be 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 that, a greater portion of the revenue derived from the marketing 
or processing of the value-added product is available to the applicant 
producer(s) of the agricultural commodity, by including a baseline of 
current revenues from the sale of the agricultural commodity and an 
estimate of increased revenues that will result from the project.
    (b) Purpose eligibility. Applicants for both planning and working 
capital grants must meet all requirements at 7 CFR 4284.922(b) 
regarding maximum grant amounts, verification of matching funds, 
eligible and ineligible uses of grant and matching funds, a substantive 
work plan and budget.
    (i) 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.
    (ii) 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.
    (c) Reserved Funds Eligibility. To qualify for Reserved Funds as a 
Beginning or 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 4284.923. If your application is eligible, but is not awarded 
under the Reserved Funds, it will automatically be considered for 
general funds in that same fiscal year, as funding levels permit.
    (d) 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, a Veteran Farmer or Rancher, propose a Mid-Tier Value 
Chain project, or are a Farmer or Rancher Cooperative, you must meet 
the applicable eligibility requirements at 7 CFR 4284.923 and 4284.924 
and must address the relevant proposal evaluation criterion.

4. Eligible Uses of Grant and Matching Funds

    Eligible uses of grant and matching funds are discussed, along with 
examples, in 7 CFR 4284.923. In general, grant and cost-share matching 
funds have the same use restrictions and must be used to fund only the 
costs for eligible purposes as defined at 7 CFR 4284.923(a) and (b).

5. Ineligible Uses of Grant and Matching Funds

    A list (not all inclusive) of ineligible uses of grant and matching 
fund is found in 7 CFR 4284.926. An Applicant may submit only one 
application in response to a solicitation, and must explicitly direct 
that it compete in either the general funds competition or in one of 
the named reserved funds competitions. Multiple applications from 
separate entities with identical or greater than 75 percent common 
ownership, or from a parent, subsidiary or affiliated organization 
(with ``affiliation'' defined by Small Business Administration 
regulation 13 CFR 121.103, or successor regulation) are not permitted. 
Further, Applicants who have already received a Planning Grant for the 
proposed project cannot receive another Planning Grant for the same 
project. Applicants who have already received a Working Capital Grant 
for the proposed project cannot receive any additional grants for that 
project.

D. Application and Submission Information

1. Address To Request Applications

    The application toolkit, regulation, and official program 
notification for this funding opportunity can be obtained online at 
http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-

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producer-grants. Or, you can contact your USDA Rural Development State 
Office by visiting http://www.rd.usda.gov/contact-us/state-offices. You 
may also obtain a copy by calling 202-690-1374. The toolkit contains an 
application checklist, templates, required grant forms, and 
instructions. Although the Agency highly recommends their use, use of 
the templates in the toolkit is not mandatory.

2. Content and Form of Application 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 already have a DUNS number and you must 
also be registered and maintain registration in 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.rd.usda.gov/contact-us/state-offices. An optional-use Agency 
application template is available online at http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-producer-grants.
    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 http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-producer-grants. Basic application 
contents are outlined below:
     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.
     SF-424A, ``Budget Information-Non-Construction Programs.'' 
This form must be completed and submitted as part of the application 
package.
     SF-424B, ``Assurances--Non-Construction Programs.'' This 
form must be completed, signed, and submitted as part of the 
application package.
     Form AD-3030, ``Representations Regarding Felony 
Conviction and Tax 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, the 
Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic 
of the Marshall Islands, or the various territories of the United 
States including American Samoa, Guam, Midway Islands, the Commonwealth 
of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin 
Islands. Corporations include both for profit and non-profit entities.
     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 
the 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.
     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 a separate abstract of up to 100 words 
briefly describing your project.
     Eligibility discussion.
     Work plan and budget.
     Performance evaluation criteria.
     Proposal evaluation criteria.
     Certification and verification of matching funds.
     Reserved Funds and Priority Point documentation (as 
applicable).
     Appendices containing required supporting documentation.

3. Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) and System 
for Awards Management (SAM)

    In order to be eligible (unless you are excepted under 2 CFR 
25.110(b), (c) or (d), you are required to:
    (a) Provide a valid DUNS number in your application, which can be 
obtained at no cost via a toll-free request line at (866) 705-5711;
    (b) Register in SAM before submitting your application. You may 
register in SAM at no cost at https://www.sam.gov/portal/public/SAM/; 
and
    (c) Continue to maintain an active SAM registration with current 
information at all times during which you have an active Federal award 
or an application or plan under consideration by a Federal awarding 
agency.
    The Agency may not make a Federal award to you until you have 
complied with all applicable DUNS and SAM requirements. If you have not 
fully complied with the requirements, the Agency may determine that the 
applicant is not qualified to receive a Federal award and the Agency 
may use that determination as a basis for making an award to another 
applicant. Please refer to Section F. 2. for additional submission 
requirements that apply to grantees selected for this program.

4. Submission Dates and Times

    Application Deadline Date: July 7, 2015.
    Explanation of Deadlines: Paper applications must be postmarked and 
mailed, shipped, or sent overnight by July 2, 2015. The Agency will 
determine whether your application is late based on the date shown on 
the postmark or shipping invoice. 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. If the due date falls on a 
Saturday, Sunday, or Federal holiday, the application is due the next 
business day. Late applications will automatically be considered 
ineligible and will not be evaluated further.
    Electronic applications must be received at http://www.grants.gov 
no later than midnight Eastern time July 2, 2015, to be eligible for FY 
2015 grant funding. Please review the Grants.gov Web site at http://grants.gov/applicants/organization_registration.jsp for instructions on 
the process of registering

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your organization as soon as possible to ensure you are able to meet 
the electronic application deadline. Grants.gov will not accept 
applications submitted after the deadline.

5. 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. Many States have established a Single 
Point of Contact (SPOC) to facilitate this consultation. A list of 
States that maintain a SPOC may be obtained at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/grants_spoc. If your State has a SPOC, you must 
submit your application directly for review. Any comments obtained 
through the SPOC must be provided to RD for consideration as part of 
your application. If your State has not established a SPOC or you do 
not want to submit your application to the SPOC, RD will submit your 
application to the SPOC or other appropriate agency or agencies.

6. Funding Restrictions

    Funding limitations and reservations found in the program 
regulation at 7 CFR 4284.927 will apply, including:
    (a) 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 funds may not be used 
to pay any costs of the project incurred prior to the date of grant 
approval. Grant and matching funds may only be used for eligible 
purposes. (see examples of eligible and ineligible uses in 7 CFR 
4284.923 and 4284.924, respectively).
    (b) Grant Term (project period). 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 in this notice, September 30, 2015, 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. 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.
    (c) Program Income. If Program Income is earned during the grant 
period as a result of the project activities, it is subject to the 
requirements in 2 CFR 200.80, and must be managed and reported 
accordingly.
    (d) 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.
    (e) Reserved Funds. Ten percent of all funds available for FY 2015 
will be reserved 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.
    (f) Disposition of Reserved Funds Not Obligated. For this 
announcement, any reserved FY 2015 funds that have not been obligated 
by June 30, 2015, will be available to the Secretary to make VAPG 
grants in accordance with 7 CFR 4284.927(d).

7. Other Submission Requirements

(a) National Environmental Policy Act
    This notice has been reviewed in accordance with 7 CFR part 1940, 
subpart G, ``Environmental Program.'' We have determined that an 
Environmental Impact Statement is not required because the issuance of 
regulations and instructions, as well as amendments to them, describing 
administrative and financial procedures for processing, approving, and 
implementing the Agency's financial programs is categorically excluded 
in the Agency's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulation 
found at 7 CFR 1940.310(e)(3) of subpart G, ``Environmental Program.'' 
We have determined that this Notice does not constitute a major Federal 
action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. 
Individual awards under this Notice are hereby classified as 
Categorical Exclusions according to 7 CFR 1940.310(e), which do not 
require any additional documentation.
(b) Civil Rights Compliance Requirements
    All grants made under this Notice are subject to Title VI of the 
Civil Rights Act of 1964 as required by the USDA (7 CFR part 15, 
subpart A) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

E. Application Review Information

    Applications will be reviewed and processed as described at 7 CFR 
4284.940. 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 your 
review and appeal rights. Funding of successfully appealed applications 
will be limited to available FY 2015 funds.
    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.

1. Scoring Criteria

    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.
    (a) 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 operational 
efficiency, profitability, and overall economic sustainability 
resulting from the project. In addition, demonstrate the potential 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 data and 
other 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

[[Page 26532]]

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 that these outcomes 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.
    (b) 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 for leading or managing 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.
    Points will be awarded as follows:
    (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.
    (c) 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 end-user or third-party contributor.
    (iii) 4-6 points will be awarded if you, as the applicant, show 
strong financial commitment to the project 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, as the applicant, show 
strong financial commitment to the project, AND participation from 
additional producers, AND measurable commitment or interest from 
multiple end-users, AND commitment or tangible support from multiple 
third-party contributors.
    (d) 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 2 CFR 200.307).
    Points will be awarded as follows:
    (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 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.
    (iv) 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.

[[Page 26533]]

    (e) Priority Points up to 10 points (lump sum 0 or 5 points plus, 
graduated score 0-5 points).
    It is recommended that you use the Agency application package when 
applying for priority points and refer to the requirements specified in 
7 CFR 4284.924. Priority points may be awarded in both the general 
funds and Reserved Funds competitions.
    (i) 5 points will be awarded if you meet the requirements for one 
of the following categories and provide the documentation described in 
7 CFR 4284.923 and 4284.924 as applicable: Beginning Farmer or Rancher, 
Socially-Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher, Veteran Farmer or Rancher, 
Operator of a Small or Medium-sized Farm or Ranch that is structured as 
a Family Farm, Farmer or Rancher Cooperative, or a Mid-Tier Value Chain 
project.
    (ii) Up to 5 additional priority points will be awarded if you are 
an Agricultural Producer Group, Farmer or Rancher Cooperative, or 
Majority-Controlled Producer-Based Business Venture (referred to below 
as ``applicant group'') whose project ``best contributes to creating or 
increasing marketing opportunities'' for Operators of Small- and 
Medium-sized Farms and Ranches that are structured as Family Farms, 
Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, Socially-Disadvantaged Farmers and 
Ranchers, and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers (referred to below as 
``priority groups'').
    (A) 2 priority points will be awarded if the existing membership of 
the applicant group is comprised of either more than 75 percent of any 
one of the four priority groups or more than 75 percent of any 
combination of the four priority groups.
    (B) 1 priority point will be awarded if the existing membership of 
the applicant group is comprised of two or more of the priority groups. 
One point is awarded regardless of whether a group's membership is 
comprised of two, three, or all four of the priority groups.
    (C) 2 priority points will be awarded if the applicant's proposed 
project will increase the number of priority groups that comprise the 
applicant membership by one or more priority groups. However, if an 
applicant group's membership is already comprised of all four priority 
groups, such an applicant would not be eligible for points under this 
criterion because there is no opportunity to increase the number of 
priority groups. Note also that this criterion does not consider either 
the percentage of the existing membership that is comprised of the four 
priority groups or the number of priority groups currently comprising 
the applicant group's membership.
    (f) Priority Categories (graduated score 0-10 points).
    The Administrator of the Agency may choose to award up to 10 points 
to an application to improve the geographic diversity of awardees in a 
fiscal year.

2. Review and Selection Process

    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 E.1. of this Notice. One of these reviewers will 
be an experienced RD employee from your servicing State Office and at 
least one additional reviewer will be a non-Federal, independent 
reviewer, who must meet the following qualifications. Independent 
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; and 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 (a) through (d) and the totals for each reviewer will be added 
together and averaged. The RD State Office reviewer will also assign 
priority points based on criterion (e) in section E.1. of this Notice. 
These will be added to the average score. The sum of these scores will 
be ranked highest to lowest and this will comprise the initial ranking.
    The Administrator of the Agency may choose to award up to 10 
Administrator priority points based on criterion (f) in section E.1. 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 (a) through (e). A minimum score of 50 points is 
required. Applications for Reserved Funds will be funded in rank order 
until funds are depleted. Unfunded reserve applications will be 
returned to the general funds where applications will be funded in rank 
order until the funds are expended. Funding for Majority Controlled 
Producer-Based Business Ventures is limited to 10 percent of total 
grant funds expected to be obligated as a result of this Notice. These 
applications will be funded in rank order until the funding limitation 
has been reached. Grants to these 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.

F. Federal Award Administration Information

1. Federal Award Notices

    If you are selected for funding, you will receive a signed notice 
of Federal award by postal mail, containing instructions on 
requirements necessary to proceed with execution and performance of the 
award.
    If you are not selected for funding, you will be notified in 
writing via postal mail and informed of any review and appeal rights. 
Funding of successfully appealed applications will be limited to 
available FY 2015 funding.

2. Administrative and National Policy Requirements

    Additional requirements that apply to grantees selected for this 
program can be found in 7 CFR part 4284, subpart J; the Grants and 
Agreements regulations of the Department of Agriculture codified in 2 
CFR parts 180, 400, 415, 417, 418, 421; 2 CFR parts 25 and 170; and 48 
CFR 31.2, and successor regulations to these parts.
    In addition, 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 
Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Pub. L. 
109-282) reporting requirements (see 2 CFR 170.200(b), unless you are 
exempt under 2 CFR 170.110(b)). More information on these requirements 
can be found at http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-producer-grants.
    The following additional requirements apply to grantees selected 
for this program:
    (a) Agency approved Grant Agreement.
    (b) Letter of Conditions.
    (c) Form RD 1940-1, ``Request for Obligation of Funds.''
    (d) Form RD 1942-46, ``Letter of Intent to Meet Conditions.''
    (e) Form AD-1047, ``Certification Regarding Debarment, Suspension, 
and Other Responsibility Matters-Primary Covered Transactions.''
    (f) Form AD-1048, ``Certification Regarding Debarment, Suspension,

[[Page 26534]]

Ineligibility and Voluntary Exclusion-Lower Tier Covered 
Transactions.''
    (g) Form AD-1049, ``Certification Regarding a Drug-Free Workplace 
Requirement (Grants).''
    (h) Form AD-3031, ``Assurance Regarding Felony Conviction or Tax 
Delinquent Status for Corporate Applicants.'' Must be signed by 
corporate applicants who receive an award under this Notice.
    (i) Form RD 400-4, ``Assurance Agreement.''
    (j) SF LLL, ``Disclosure of Lobbying Activities,'' if applicable.
    (k) Use Form SF 270, ``Request for Advance or Reimbursement.''

3. Reporting

    After grant approval and through grant completion, you will be 
required to provide the following, as indicated in the Grant Agreement:
    (a) A SF-425, ``Federal Financial Report,'' and a project 
performance report will be required on a semiannual basis (due 45 
working days after end of the semiannual period). For the purposes of 
this grant, semiannual periods end on March 31st and September 30th. 
The project performance reports shall include the elements prescribed 
in the grant agreement.
    (b) A final project and financial status report within 90 days 
after the expiration or termination of the grant.
    (c) Provide outcome project performance reports and final 
deliverables.

G. 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 site 
address is: http://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/value-added-producer-grants. You may also contact National Office staff: Tracey 
Kennedy, VAPG Program Lead, tracey.kennedy@wdc.usda.gov, or Shantelle 
Gordon, shantelle.gordon@wdc.usda.gov, or call the main line at 202-
690-1374.

H. 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.)
    If you wish to file an employment complaint, you must contact your 
agency's EEO Counselor (PDF) within 45 days of the date of the alleged 
discriminatory act, event, or in the case of a personnel action. 
Additional information can be found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_file.html.
    If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of 
discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form 
(PDF), found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632-
9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of 
the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint 
form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, 
Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., 
Washington, DC 20250-9410, by fax (202) 690-7442 or email at 
program.intake@usda.gov.
    Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech 
disabilities and you wish to file either an EEO or program complaint 
please contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339 
or (800) 845-6136 (in Spanish).
    Persons with disabilities, who wish to file a program complaint, 
please see information above on how to contact us by mail directly or 
by email. If you require alternative means of communication for program 
information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) please 
contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).

    Dated: April 29, 2015.
Lillian Salerno,
Administrator, Rural Business-Cooperative Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-10440 Filed 5-7-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-XY-P