Applying for USDA Grants
Guest post by Samantha Egolf, Ph.D., Meat Technical Specialist
Applying for USDA grants can be a tedious task, especially if you have never applied before. This write-up is provided in an effort to assist you with the grant application process.
Unique Entity Identification Numbers
Every entity is required to have a unique identification number for the application process. Identification numbers can take a few days, or longer, to obtain, so it is important to apply for your number early so you have it when grant applications open. Currently, the federal government requires entities to have a Dun & Bradstreet identification (DUNS) number registered with the System for Award Management (SAM.gov), an official website of the U.S. government. Effect April 4, 2022, this process will change to allow the government to streamline the process to apply for your entity's identification number. Applications will apply for a Unique Entity Identifier (SAM) created in SAM.gov.
If you already have a DUNS number registered with SAM.gov, no action is needed by you. A SAM number has been automatically generated for you and will appear below your DUNS number in your profile. For more information regarding this change, visit https://bit.ly/3uunTFS.
Be clear and concise when you write your narrative, yet provide all the required information for each question. Tell the reviewers about your current plant – numbers of customers, animals processed within a specified time frame, and employees; the size of the facility; and finances. Your narrative should demonstrate why the grant funds are needed. State the problem(s) your plant experiences and how the funds will be used to solve the issues. For new plants, demonstrate the need for the plant in your community. No matter where you are in the planning process (expansion or startup), highlight the short and long-term impacts of the funds on the business and local economy. The narrative should outline goals and objectives appropriate for the proposed project.
Budget and Timeline
Carefully review your budget to ensure it is consistent with the size and scope of the proposed project. Every item needed for the project needs to be listed in your budget, along with a clear explanation of the necessity of the item. Every dollar needs to be budgeted (don't ask for $20 million and the budget outlines $19 million). Once your budget is complete, double-check to make sure your total falls within the scope of the funds to be awarded to each applicant.
Include a clear and concise timeline of the expected process in your application. No process is smooth, so note issues that may arise during the process and how you plan to address the issues.
Check all the requirements for the grant to make sure your company and/or project are eligible for the funds. USDA grants vary in eligibility requirements based upon location (rural or urban) or project type (equipment, labor, inspection costs, planning costs). The last thing you want to do is work on an application to a grant you are not eligible to receive.
Obtain letters of support from local ranchers and/or customers to demonstrate a problem and how the funds will help to solve the issue. Also, get letters from those planning to help you demonstrate their commitment to the project and expertise.
Attach blueprints, if possible, of the current plant layout and the proposed expansion (or of the new plant) as a visual for the reviewers.
Wait until the last minute to apply. Allow time for you or a second person to proofread your application before submitting it. You also want to allow time in case technological issues occur at any part of the process.
Leave any blanks in your application. If necessary, repeat previous information or simply enter “N/A.”
More information about specific grants can be found at usda.gov/meat. Multiple grants are slated to open this spring. Watch your AAMP Choice Cuts email and regularly check the AAMP website (www.aamp.com/grants) for when these grants become available. You can also contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be added to a list of people in which to contact regarding grant information. I am also available to help you apply for grants when applications become available.