Grant Applications

$1.5 million available to Dairy Processors in August 2024​

Applications open August 1 – September 30, 2024

Open to applicants in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.

First time applicants are strongly encouraged.

Categories 6-10 Awards Anticipated in Total
Up to $50,000  
Up to $100,000  
Up to $250,000  
Up to $5,000 Internships
TBD Technical Assistance

Support Documents

Applicants should upload these support files into their Google Form application.

Round 5 Q24 Workplan Template (MS Word download)

Round 5 Q25 Project Budget Template (MS Word download)

If you experience problems uploading the forms, email them directly to Susan Pheasant at

Additional Funding Opportunity

THE PACIFIC COAST COALITION DAIRY BUSINESS INITIATIVE is funded through the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and hosted by California State University, Fresno in collaboration with Cal Poly Humboldt, Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo, Chapman University, Oregon State University, UC Davis, Washington State University, New Mexico State University, and the California Dairy Innovation Center.

For more information:

FAQs for Grant Applications

Round 5, Grant Funding

Application Applications must be received by midnight September 30, 2024.


Who is eligible to apply for this grant subaward?

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 of the nine PCC-DBII goals.

Note: new applicants are strongly encouraged to apply for funding in Round 5.

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. DAIRY BUSINESS INNOVATION INITIATIVES PROGRAM-SPECIFIC TERMS AND CONDITIONS (PDF

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.


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.
  • Entering into or expanding co-packing capabilities to help other small businesses grow their production capabilities. Note: there is a supplemental application form for co-packers that needs to be submitted along with your primary application, workplan, and budget.

Focus of Fundable Projects

What goals must a project meet for funding?

Projects must meet AT LEAST ONE of the following nine goals:

  • Developing new dairy value-added products
  • Adapting current dairy products and creating new value-added products
  • 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 (approximately $3.5 million) is for pandemic recovery and sustainability while approximately $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 approximately $650K for innovation and approximately $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 4. 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 ( 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 only in an effort to increase returns relative to value added products. Note: New milk products are encouraged. The PCC-DBII is not funding any proposals for the milk production side of the business.

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?

Online applications and directions are here.

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 to enlist their expertise.

Ongoing Opportunities:

  • Internships
  • Technical Assistance
  • The PCC-DBII has separate funding budgets for the above two areas. These funds are on a first come, first serve basis.  Directions for application are included on the website under those respective funding opportunities drop down menus.

Who are the grant reviewers?

The PCC-DBII strives 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. You will also be expected to start spending within 60 days of the contract start date.

If my projects cost more than the maximum grant categories in Round 5, can I combine funding from other sources with the PCC DBII grant subaward 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 from another source and your grant subaward 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 during 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.”

The merchandising materials are to be specific to the product(s) you are addressing in your grant application and not “generic” to your entire business.

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).

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 you to approve any budgetary tweaks to ensure alignment with USDA requirements. Note: Providing more detailed descriptions of expenses and justifying why they are necessary for the grant (i.e., 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 AND any equipment purchases are installed and operational.

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 2-3 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. Additionally, please be aware that employee wages are a low funding priority for PCC-DBII at this time due to the complexity of tracking hours specifically worked on the proposed project. The PCC-DBII does encourage employee training to be funded in an effort to upskill workers, managers, owners.

Some examples:

  • 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 purchases after the official start date of your contract with the Fresno State Foundation.

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 12-month 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. You must start spending funds within 60 days of the contract start date.

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 subaward 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 four rounds of grant winners were shared on the PCC-DBII 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, Fresno State Foundation, 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 and Fresno State Foundation, along with the subaward review committee, endeavor to otherwise maintain confidentiality.

Key Contact

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)