The Developing a Cooperative Ecosystem activity under the American Rescue Plan Technical Investment Program will deliver technical assistance and other programs to ensure improved understanding of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services by tribal governments, communities and individuals. As part of a team of interrelated USDA cooperators, the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) will provide an array of technical assistance specialized services that includes outreach, technical assistance, cooperative development training and support, financial training, capacity building training and rural development to underserved farmers, ranchers and/or forest landowners.
This Request for Applications is soliciting proposals for a small grants program under the ARPA-funded project Developing a Cooperative Ecosystem, as outlined below. NCBA CLUSA expects to release this small grant program annually, under the ARPA-funded project, which expires in 2027. Organizations should propose activities that work directly with historically underserved producers, assisting with cooperative development training, financial literacy training, business planning and preparation and tax planning. The USDA defines historically underserved producers as groups that have not participated in or that in the past have received limited benefits from USDA programs. These are: Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, Limited Resource Farmers or Ranchers, Veteran Farmers and Ranchers and Socially Disadvantaged Producers.
The intended outcomes of the small grants program are to:
- Create online and in-person trainings to assist members in understanding basic accounting and business plan development.
- Create webinars to assist members in understanding basic accounting and business plan development.
- Provide cooperative development training and assistance to newly emerging and existing cooperatives, through board governance, marketing, and other business-related activities.
- Provide training for farmers to develop bank-ready business plans for their farms and ranches prior to submitting applications for capital funding.
Eligibility for this program is limited to not-for-profit institutions of higher education, nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) status with the IRS including Foundations and Community Development Financial Institutions, Native American Tribal organizations, and Cooperatives.
Any award made pursuant to this NFO will be made to a single entity. Applicants that apply as “partnerships” or other similar groupings must clearly describe the relationship between the applicant and the “partner” parties. In all but exceptional cases, it must be reflected in the award as an awardee/sub-awardee relationship. Duplicate or multiple submissions are not allowed. Only one submission is allowed per eligible entity.
NCBA CLUSA will also accept project applications that extend or expand existing projects that are distinct and complementary to existing programs.
Questions and comments related to this RFA must be in writing only and submitted electronically no later than September 20, 2022, by 5:00 pm EST to ARPA@ncba.coop. No questions will be accepted after the date. Questions and their responses are now available for all to access.
Available Funding and Award Type
NCBA CLUSA plans to award grants (e.g., simplified, in-kind and fixed amount). The type of grant instrument will depend on the proposed activity. The maximum amount that can be awarded to an eligible organization is $20,000. An application under this RFA does not guarantee an award. NCBA CLUSA reserves the right to make multiple or no awards associated with this RFA.
Applicants must submit their applications by 11:59 pm EST on October 14, 2022. NCBA CLUSA anticipates making selections by December 2022.
Considerations for a Successful Project
The ultimate beneficiaries of grants funded through this opportunity are underserved farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners who are members of cooperatives or interested in forming cooperatives lack access to the land, capital, and markets needed to support resiliency in their agricultural operations and strengthen their agricultural communities.
This program is seeking applications for funding that will focus on the provision of training and the proper tools for cooperative development and their ability to access USDA services. When delivering programs meant to develop and strengthen cooperatives, capital access or market access, technical assistance is quite often embedded in the program design and approach.
For the purposes of this program, technical assistance is defined as targeted services and support collectively designed to improve understanding of and equitable participation in the full range of USDA programs and services among underserved farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners and operators through a range of activities, including but not limited to: strategies to identify unique needs and gaps in access, knowledge, and services; specialized consultation; training; coaching; capacity building; and mentoring focused on relevant topics that will improve cooperatives and their performance.
NCBA CLUSA will work cooperatively with successful awardees to develop and implement projects during the proposed project period. Interested parties that meet the eligibility requirements need to submit a three (3) page concept paper outlining the project they wish to implement.
The main body of the concept note must not exceed three (3) pages single-spaced and must use 12-point Times New Roman font and one-inch margins on the electronic equivalent of 8.5 x 11-inch paper, with page numbers in the footer. The concept note can be written in English or Spanish. Any concept notes that do not follow the instructions will be disqualified and not be reviewed. The concept note must be submitted to ARPA@ncba.coop with a copy to Teia Evans (email@example.com) by no later than 11:59 pm EST on October 14, 2022. Applications submitted after the deadline will not be reviewed.