Updated 1-30-2023 to include: Eligibility; Use of Funds; Focus of Fundable Projects; Application Procedures and Timelines; Funding and Budget Questions; What Happens After the Grant is Funded; Key Contacts.
Applications must be received by midnight February 28, 2023.
Who is eligible to apply for this grant?
Applicants must operate (or endeavor to operate) a dairy farm or dairy processing plant in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and/or Washington and propose a project that meets at least one one of the nine goals.
What projects are ELIGIBLE or INELIGIBLE for funding?
ELIGIBLE projects that modernize, specialize, expand, investigate and/or market the use of regionally produced milk to higher-value products, including projects to improve or add value chain and commodity innovation and/or facility process updates for dairy processors and to improve or add dairy product development, packaging, and marketing.
Examples: (a) value chain and commodity innovation and facility process updates for dairy processors or (b) dairy product development, packaging, and marketing. A complete list of eligible expenditures is available via USDA AMS.
Examples of INELIGIBLE projects are: Real estate purchases; repayment of loans or mortgages; rent or contract payments for time periods extending beyond the 12-month period allowed for eligible projects; legal fees; or lobbying, fundraising, or other political activities. A complete list of ineligible expenditures is available at USDA AMS.
We are a business that provides free marketing and sales support for cheesemakers, but we are not ourselves a dairy or processor. Are we eligible to apply to support some of our initiatives?
YES, because of your broader impact that affects more than one company.
Use of Funds
What are some examples of how funds may be used?
- Hiring an independent consultant to develop planning documents for the dairy business such as a feasibility study, business plan or marketing plan that will be useful in determining the likelihood of success or to develop a new distribution channel.
- Training needed to develop or market dairy products (e.g., ice cream making short courses, cheese industry conference, Dairy 101: Introduction to Dairy Processing and Management short courses, etc.). Funds may include registration fees, transportation (the lower business class airfare or mileage at the IRS standard mileage rate), and lodging (at current rates in the continental United States “CONUS Rates”).
- Equipment for dairy processing and packaging, such as pasteurizers, cheese presses and labelers.
- Product development assistance and services in recipe development, sensory evaluation, packaging considerations or shelf-life studies from private and public sources including but not limited to PCC DBII collaborators such as the dairy/business innovation programs at Fresno State, Oregon State University, Washington State University,
Chico State, Chapman University, Cal Poly-Humboldt, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, UC Davis, and the California Dairy Innovation Center.
Focus of Fundable Projects
What goals must a project meet for funding?
Projects must meet AT LEAST ONE of the following goals; see pg. 8 of the online application:
- Developing new dairy value-added products
- Adapting current dairy products and creating new value-added
- Creating new product lines and expanding the dairy product portfolio
- Expanding milk usage beyond food and drink
- Adding value to milk by increasing its intrinsic value
- Adopting alternative processing technologies
- Building future opportunities for value-added ingredients
- Developing sustainability leadership through innovation
- Extending awareness and consumption of higher value dairy processing products
Is there any advantage to addressing more than one priority goal?
No. Applications are screened to ensure that they address as least one priority goal. The review committee(s) will not rank one proposal higher than another nor lower than another because it addresses more or fewer priority goals; instead, they will be looking at the degree of potential impact for you/your company and how the proposed additional funding will make a difference.
Within the priority goals, what is the scope of “innovation?”
Innovation can refer to a) what is innovative (new, unique) to you and your business as well as b) what might be innovative (completely new and unique) for the dairy industry as a whole. What is innovative, new, unique for your business may or may not be for other businesses or the dairy industry. Remember, the majority of the available funding $3.5 million is for pandemic
recovery and sustainability while $650k is specifically targeting innovation and economic sustainability.
Are you choosing only certain priorities to focus on for this grant round?
Of the nine priorities, one is not more important than the other.
Note: We have $650K for innovation, $3.5 million relating to the CARES act, so if your proposal addresses both innovation and pandemic related challenges, please make sure to incorporate that language into your application because it opens up opportunities within the full $4.1 million available.
Does our application need to identify if we are applying for pandemic recovery funds versus innovation and economic sustainability funds?
No. There is no such question in the application, nor do you need to include this in your narrative. The total amount of available funds is from multiple grants being run through Fresno State on behalf of the Pacific Coast Coalition – Dairy Business Innovation Initiative. It will be the responsibility of PCC-DBII staff to allocate which application is appropriate for which grant source. Note: Most existing dairy businesses will qualify for pandemic recovery funding which is the greatest source of funding in Round 2. If your project addresses something uniquely innovative, then additional funding sources may apply.
With the pandemic recovery funding, USDA AMS has specifically asked that funds will benefit smaller dairy farm businesses, underserved dairy businesses, veteran dairy producers, underserved communities, and those proposing to partner and/or collaborate with Minority Serving [higher education] Institutions. If your dairy business involves one or more of those attributes, be sure to address such in your application.
What are the guidelines as to what are smaller dairy farm businesses, underserved dairy businesses, veteran dairy producers, and/or underserved communities?
Basic definitions can be found at this link:
Additional resources are available at the following links.
- eCFR :: 13 CFR 124.104 — Who is economically disadvantaged?
- USDA ERS – County-level Data Sets
- Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Program (census.gov)
- SAIPE State and County Estimates for 2021
What would qualify as a new process for my operation?
Examples are adding alternative sizes of products or adding additional product types to the line of products you currently sell; for instance, adding a separator or in-line pasteurizer to your facility, or HTST or UHT instead of vat pasteurization, would also qualify.
What if we are vertically integrated and want/need to address changes in both the milk production side as well as the dairy processing side of our businesses?
The PCC-DBII emphasis is to address the dairy processing side in an effort to increase returns relative to value added products. Note: New milk products are encouraged.
Will our application be helped if we mention other successful grants we’ve received? Or include letters of support from our partners?
It is not a requirement, but can be included in the optional section about sharing other information with the reviewers.
Is there a benefit for working with an academic partner?
Adding a logical partner can enhance your application.
How can I improve the chances for my application to be recommended for funding?
Have a person outside of your team to read the proposal and give you feedback. Does the proposal make sense? Is it compelling? Does the math add up? Does the workplan demonstrate a thorough understanding of how to get from start to finish of the proposed project?
Be sure to address at least one of the nine priority goals.
Remember that you are the expert on what your business does and can do.
While the reviewers will be familiar with at least some of the core aspects of dairy processing businesses (e.g., food science, food safety, finance, marketing, human resources), they will not know your specific business. The more clearly you explain your situation and needs, the better they can grasp the significance of how your proposed investment will make a difference for
you and your business.
Share your vision and your passion as you tell the story of your business.
It is the desire of the PCC-DBII to fund as many quality applications as possible. Present your situation and plan in a manner that makes it easy for the reviewers to say “yes, this proposal should be funded.”
Application Procedures and Timelines
How do I access the application?
Can I apply if I do not have a computer or access to the internet?
Unfortunately, this grant program is not able to accept paper applications, reports or invoices. Please consider reaching out to a business viability organization in your state to learn about resources for application assistance.
Can we submit our application ahead of the deadline for feedback from reviewers?
No, unfortunately this grant program does not allow reviewers to assess applications prematurely; however, you may contact our partner universities within the coalition for expertise.
What is the timeline for this application, Round 2 funding?
- January 2, 2023 — Request for applications disseminated.
- February 28, 2023 — Applications due to PCC-DBII no later than 5:00 p.m. PST
- March 30, 2023 — Preliminary review of applications expected to be complete.
- Funding recommendations for the categories of <$50k, <$100k, and <$250k will be made to PCC-DBII as to which projects to fund.
- Full proposal (presentation, interview) recommendations for the categories of <$500k and <$1 million will be made to PCC-DBII.
- April 28, 2023 – Next steps for awardees
- Anticipated start date for <$50k, <$100k, and <$250k projects. (i.e. Awardees can start making approved expenditures.)
- Presentations/Interviews for <$500k and <$1 million invited projects will be completed.
- May 31, 2023 — Anticipated start date for <$500k and <$1 million projects (i.e., Awardees can start making approved expenditures.)
- October 31, 2023 — Anticipated due date for first progress report. (Note: reporting timelines may be adjusted to compliment your project timeline. If your project is complete within the first six months, this report will also serve as your final report.)
- April 30, 2024 — Anticipated due date for final project report. (Note: reporting timelines may be adjusted to compliment your project timeline.)
- April 30, 2025 — Anticipated due date for project impact report. (Note: reporting timelines may be adjusted to complement your project timeline.)
- Application Round 3 (funding levels and anticipated number of awards will align with Round 2 parameters) will start with the request for applications sent out January 2, 2024.
- Application Round 4 will commence January 2, 2025.
- Application Round 5 will commence January 2, 2026.
Note: Both Rounds 4 and 5 will have reduced funding levels and reduced number of awards in contrast to Rounds 2 and 3.
Who are the grant reviewers?
We strive to include representation from all six states, including those in the dairy industry and academia.
Funding and Budget Questions
Will I be required to match a certain amount of the funds given to me?
No, nor will preference be given to applications that identify matching funds.
Note: This a cost reimbursement grant so you will need to pay for the equipment/services up front and then submit receipts/documentation for reimbursement.
If my projects cost more than the maximum grant categories in Round 2, can I combine funding from other sources with the PCC DBII grant funding?
Yes. For example, if you wish to purchase a $75,000 piece of equipment to extend your product offerings, it is possible for you to provide $25,000 of the funding and your grant to provide $50,000 for a total of $75,000.
Note: please be sure to explain the proposed funding sources in your application.
May I still apply if my project is less than the funding category (e.g. I have a $20k project)?
Yes, the funding is up to each category. Dairy businesses can apply for less than the maximum in each category.
Should the workplan and the budget show all of the same line items?
The math for the budget and workplan should be aligned. It is quite possible that your workplan will contain more detail/lines than the budget (i.e. more tasks per budget item).The more cohesive the application is, the more convincing it is for the reviewers.
Must we identify specific vendors and/or include quotes in our application?
No, it is not a requirement; however, we do encourage you to reach out to vendors so that your proposed budget is as accurate as possible. We are also aware that vendor quotes may change in the time between submitting your application and receiving official approval to spend. Be sure to incorporate a moderate “cushion” to cover potential price increases and supply chain
accessibility issues. There are no grant funds held in reserve to be able to assist with price increases during the life of your project.
Is the purchase of merchandising materials an allowable expense?
Per USDA AMS guidelines, “the following activities may be funded using the
Dairy Business Initiatives grant program, if the subaward applicant provides
justification to the Initiative for how the requested equipment meets the
purpose of the DBI program:
- Diversifying dairy product markets to reduce risk and develop higher value
uses for dairy products;
- Promoting business development that diversifies farmer income through
processing and marketing innovation;
- Encouraging the use of regional milk production.”
From a reviewer perspective, we will be looking for linkages between the use of merchandising and changes in market scope, increased sales, etc. (e.g. you predict a 15% increase in sales by implementing a sample tasting program on weekends at the local farmers markets).
Note: The portion of wages/salary of the employee conducting and attributable to the new sample tasting program would be an allowable expense during the life of the grant)
If I accidentally put a non-eligible expense, will my application be disqualified?
No. If your application is positively reviewed by our reviewers and recommended for funding, we will reach out to make any tweaks to ensure alignment with USDA requirements. Note: Providing more detailed descriptions of expenses and justifying why they are necessary for the grant (in the Budget Narrative section of the application) will increase the competitiveness of your grant and enhance reviewers’ understanding.
How will funds be given?
Recipients will be reimbursed in full following a receipt of a paid invoice and approval by the PCC-DBII and the California State University, Fresno Foundation. Final reimbursements will not be made until the progress and final reports are submitted.
What is the timeline for reimbursement?
At present, the turnaround time between when dairy businesses have submitted their receipts for approved purchases and when the check is cut and sent out for mailing has been 2 weeks. You may submit receipts for reimbursement as often as monthly.
Is paying an employee an allowable expense?
Yes but only if it is related to the proposed project.
- You have a half time employee who will become a full time employee for market expansion into direct marketing. The additional half time wages/salary are an allowable expense.
- You will be hiring a person specifically to be trained on the use and maintenance of a new piece of equipment you are purchasing and that individual’s entire job responsibilities fall within the scope of your proposed project. That individual’s training expenses and salary are allowable expenses.
- You have an existing employee who will now be trained to use and maintain a new piece of equipment you are purchasing. That individual’s training expenses and the portion of time allocated to use/maintenance of the new equipment is an allowable expense.
Remember that grant funds are for a maximum time period of 12 months so your narrative should address how the employee will be funded beyond the life of the grant.
What if we have more work than hours in the day and need to hire another employee?
Sustainability of the operations is an allowable expense but it is not the main emphasis within priority goals. Please keep in mind that the PCC-DBII expects the application situation to be highly competitive. It is possible to make a case in your application that you will use the grant to “seed fund” the new employee and then the increased productivity for the business will pay for the employee’s wages/salary beyond the life of the grant.
Can I apply for something I have already purchased?
No. You will only be reimbursed for approved items or services purchased after your application’s approval.
As a reimbursement grant, are we allowed to request loan fees or interest if we need to have a bridge loan?
Yes. Per the regulations, the interest charges associated with the bridge loan are reimbursable.
May I lease or rent special purpose equipment, land, and/or building space?
Yes. However, agreements involving lease-to-own or rent-to-own are not allowed. Additionally, the lease or rental agreement must terminate at the end of the project period.
What if I need to move a wall or reconfigure electrical wiring in order to install my new equipment?
Per USDA AMS, building renovations are not an allowable expense even if they are for equipment installation.
What if I apply for an in-person event that cannot happen because of COVID-19 or some other disruption?
If you receive funding for an activity that needs to be altered significantly, you are expected to communicate early and often with your grant manager to come up with an alternative plan and get approval to make those changes. If it is not feasible to alter your project, you may be required to return some or all of the grant funding. The activity could be one that you are hosting and/or attending.
How long do I have to use the funds requested, after I receive the grant?
You will have a maximum of 12 months to successfully implement your project.
What Happens After the Grant is Funded?
When are my progress reports due?
- Mid-Year Report: 6 months after the start date of your project.
- Note: if your project ends on or before six months after your project start date, then your mid-year report will also serve as your final report. You will still be expected to submit a one year impact report 12 months after completion of your project.
- Final Report: 12 months after start date of your project
- Project Impact Report: 12 months after end date of your project
What information should be included in my progress report?
We will create a fillable form for you to provide a description of the project intent, summary of the project accomplishments and outcomes and how your investment made a difference in your business, region, and the dairy industry. Insights on project execution and grant management are encouraged.
As appropriate to your project focus, reports should include information about outcomes of feasibility studies, market analyses, business plans, etc.
Note: The PCC-DBII reserves the right to modify reporting requirements during the course of the project.
Is my application information confidential?
- Please see how the first round of grant winners were shared on our website; basically, we will have a quick blurb and link to your website.
- Applications submitted for funding and reports are subject to disclosure to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- The PCC-DBII and California State University, Fresno reserve the right to post funded proposal summaries, survey findings, and report summaries in media reports and on websites including the websites of collaborators; however no proprietary information is disclosed.
- The PCC-DBII and California State University, Fresno, along with the grand review committee, endeavor to otherwise maintain confidentiality.
Key Contacts for the Grant Program
Dr. Carmen Licon, Principal Investigator and Director Pacific Coast Coalition – Dairy Business Innovation Initiative
Director, Milkulture Institute
Associate Director, Institute for Food and Agriculture
Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition
California State University, Fresno
(559) 278-6137 (o)
Dr. Susan M. Pheasant, “A N2ew COW Keeper”
Pacific Coast Coalition – Dairy Business Innovation Initiative
Director, Institute for Food and Agriculture
California State University, Fresno
(509) 421-0358 (m)
Dr. Nancy Van Leuven, Director of Communication and Engagement
Pacific Coast Coalition – Dairy Business Innovation Initiative
Associate Professor, Department of Media Communications and Journalism
California State University, Fresno
(206) 919-8694 (m)