Conservation Partners Program – Coordinating Technical Assistance with Agricultural Retailers 2020 Request for Proposals

Full Proposal Due Date: Tuesday, August 11, 2020 by 11:59 PM ET
 

OVERVIEW

This funding opportunity seeks to support new conservation specialist positions deployed alongside agricultural retailers to build knowledge and capacity for accelerating implementation of on-farm conservation practices. Through a model that engages agricultural retailers in the delivery of technical assistance, funded projects will advance private-sector delivery of on-farm conservation stewardship that benefits farmers and addresses conservation priorities of U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs and field offices. Partners participating with NFWF on this effort include NRCS, Land O’Lakes, and three agricultural retailers, including Ceres Solutions, Cooperative Farmers Elevator, and Premier Co-op. Approximately $500,000 in competitive grant funding is expected to be available through this funding opportunity.
 

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

To be eligible, proposed projects must focus in one or more of the following states:

  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Ohio
     

PROGRAM PRIORITIES

The objectives of this funding opportunity are to:

  • Accelerate implementation of on-farm stewardship that provides benefits for water quality, soil health, carbon storage, and fish and wildlife populations.
  • Help farmers design and adopt conservation practices, develop conservation plans, and enroll in Farm Bill programs.
  • Deliver technical assistance to farmers with a model that engages agricultural retailers as trusted information providers. 
  • Promote practices that generate economic benefits, such as improved farm profitability, alongside positive environmental outcomes.

Funding will support projects that hire one or more Conservation Specialists who will work closely with farmers, agricultural retailers, NRCS field offices, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts. These positions will:

  • Serve as dedicated in-house conservation specialists, co-located with partnering agricultural retailers, to help train agronomists on how to include conservation practices in day-to-day services to farmers.
  • Provide farmer outreach and lead training sessions with farmers and landowners.
  • Connect local agricultural retailers and their customers with state and local conservation partners, including NRCS and local Soil and Water Conservation District offices.
  • Serve as experts on federal programs included in the Conservation Title of the Farm Bill.

Competitive proposals will provide a description of how hired positions will implement NRCS priority practices, including reference to position skills and knowledge related to the conservation practices as indicated in the NRCS Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG).
 

PROJECT METRICS 

To gauge progress of individual grants and ensure consistency and comparability of project data across multiple grants, the Easygrants application includes a list of recommended performance metrics. All applicants will be required to select metrics for tracking and monitoring the progress of projects throughout the duration of the grant. Full proposal narratives should include anticipated outcomes (if applicable) in terms of number of jobs created or sustained, number of conservation practice referrals, number and acres of conservation practices implemented, annual reductions in sediment, nitrogen, or phosphorus delivered to streams, and number of producers contacted. The table below summarizes the recommended metrics.

Recommended Metrics 
  • # jobs sustained 
  • # jobs created
  • # management/ conservation plans with BMPs 
  • # people (landowners) targeted
  • # people (landowners) reached
  • Acres with BMPs 
  • Acres under improved management 
  • Lbs of phosphorus inputs avoided annually
  • Lbs nitrogen avoided annually
  • Lbs sediment inputs avoided annually

 

ELIGIBILITY

Eligible and Ineligible Entities

  • Eligible applicants include: non-profit 501(c) organizations, farmer and commodity-led organizations, educational institutions, tribal governments, and state or local units of governments (e.g. state agricultural and/or conservation agencies, counties, townships, cities, conservation districts, utility districts, drainage districts, etc.).  
  • Ineligible applicants include: individuals, federal government agencies, and for-profit entities.

Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds 

  • NFWF funds and matching contributions may not be used to support political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
  • NFWF funds may not be used to support ongoing efforts to comply with legal requirements, including permit conditions, mitigation and settlement agreements. However, grant funds may be used to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts. 
     

FUNDING AVAILABILITY AND MATCH

This opportunity will award an estimated $500,000 in competitive grant funding. Typical grant awards will range from $50,000 to $200,000. Projects may be funded for up to three years from the completion of a grant agreement. A match of at least 1:1 non-federal cash or in-kind contribution is required, and will be considered in application review. 
 

EVALUATION CRITERIA

All proposals will be screened for relevance, accuracy, completeness and compliance with NFWF and funding source policies. Proposals will then be evaluated based on the extent to which they meet the following criteria. 

Program Goals and Priorities – Project contributes to the Program’s overall habitat and species conservation goals, and has specific, quantifiable performance metrics to evaluate project success. Project addresses one or more of the program priorities outlined in the Request for Proposal.

Technical Merit – Project is technically sound and feasible, and the proposal sets forth a clear, logical and achievable work plan and timeline. Project engages appropriate technical experts throughout project planning, design and implementation to ensure activities are technically-sound and feasible.

Cost-Effectiveness – Project includes a cost-effective budget that balances performance risk and efficient use of funds.  Cost-effectiveness evaluation may include, but is not limited to, an assessment of either or both direct and indirect costs in the proposed budget. The federal government has determined that a de minimis 10% indirect rate is an acceptable minimum for organizations without a NICRA, as such NFWF reserves the right to scrutinize ALL proposals with indirect rates above 10% for cost-effectiveness.  

Transferability – Project has potential and plan to transfer lessons learned to other communities.

Communication – Project includes a detailed plan to communicate information about the project to appropriate audiences.

Funding Need – Project establishes a clear need for the funds being requested, and demonstrates that activities would not move forward absent funding.

Conservation Plan and Context – The project advances an existing conservation plan or strategy. 

Monitoring – Project includes a plan for monitoring progress during and after the proposed project period to track project success and adaptively address new challenges and opportunities as they arise. 

Long-term Sustainability – Project will be maintained to ensure benefits are achieved and sustained over time. This should include how future funding will be secured to implement necessary long-term monitoring and maintenance activities.

Past Success – Applicant has a proven track record of success in implementing conservation practices with specific, measurable results.

Partnership – An appropriate partnership exists to implement the project and the project is supported by a strong local partnership that leverages additional funds and will sustain it after the life of the grant. Identify proposed partners, if known (including potential or contemplated subawards to third party subrecipients of the applicant), the roles they will play in implementing the project, and how this project will build new or enhance existing partnerships.  (Note: a project partner is any local community, non-profit organization, tribe, and/or local, state, and federal government agency that contributes to the project in a substantial way and is closely involved in the completion of the project.)
 

OTHER  

Budget – Costs are allowable, reasonable and budgeted in accordance with NFWF’s Budget Instructions cost categories.  Federally-funded projects must be in compliance with OMB Uniform Guidance as applicable (OMB Uniform Guidance). Proposals that minimize the amount requested to cover indirect costs will be more competitive.

Matching Contributions – Matching Contributions consist of cash, contributed goods and services, volunteer hours, and/or property raised and spent for the project during the Period of Performance. Larger match ratios and matching fund contributions from a diversity of partners are encouraged and will be more competitive during application review.

Procurement – If the applicant chooses to specifically identify proposed Contractor(s) for Services, an award by NFWF to the applicant does not constitute NFWF’s express written authorization for the applicant to procure such specific services noncompetitively.  When procuring goods and services, NFWF recipients must follow documented procurement procedures which reflect applicable laws and regulations.  

Publicity and Acknowledgement of Support – Award recipients will be required to grant NFWF the right and authority to publicize the project and NFWF’s financial support for the grant in press releases, publications and other public communications.  Recipients may also be asked by NFWF to provide high-resolution (minimum 300 dpi) photographs depicting the project.

Receiving Award Funds – Award payments are primarily reimbursable.  Projects may request funds for reimbursement at any time after completing a signed agreement with NFWF.  A request of an advance of funds must be due to an imminent need of expenditure and must detail how the funds will be used and provide justification and a timeline for expected disbursement of these funds.

Compliance Requirements – Projects selected may be subject to requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act (state and federal), and National Historic Preservation Act.  Documentation of compliance with these regulations must be approved prior to initiating activities that disturb or alter habitat or other features of the project site(s).  Applicants should budget time and resources to obtain the needed approvals.  As may be applicable, successful applicants may be required to comply with additional Federal, state or local requirements and obtain all necessary permits and clearances.

Permits – Successful applicants will be required to provide sufficient documentation that the project expects to receive or has received all necessary permits and clearances to comply with any Federal, state or local requirements.  Where projects involve work in the waters of the United States, NFWF strongly encourages applicants to conduct a permit pre-application meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers prior to submitting their proposal.  In some cases, if a permit pre-application meeting has not been completed, NFWF may require successful applicants to complete such a meeting prior to grant award.

Federal Funding – Federally-funded projects must operate in compliance with the OMB Uniform Guidance as applicable to the applicant. The availability of federal funds estimated in this solicitation is contingent upon the federal appropriations process. Funding decisions will be made based on level of funding and timing of when it is received by NFWF.
 

TIMELINE

Dates of activities are subject to change.  Please check the Program page of the NFWF website for the most current dates and information at Conservation Partners.

  Full Proposal Due Date August 11th, 11:59 PM, Eastern Time
  Review Period August 12th  –  mid September
  Awards Announced  Late September


HOW TO APPLY

All application materials must be submitted online through National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Easygrants system.

  1. Go to easygrants.nfwf.org to register in our Easygrants online system.  New users to the system will be prompted to register before starting the application (if you already are a registered user, use your existing login).  Enter your applicant information. Please disable the pop-up blocker on your internet browser prior to beginning the application process. 
  2. Once on your homepage, click the “Apply for Funding” button and select this RFP’s “Funding Opportunity” from the list of options.
  3. Follow the instructions in Easygrants to complete your application.  Once an application has been started, it may be saved and returned to at a later time for completion and submission.
     

APPLICATION ASSISTANCE 

A PDF version of this RFP can be downloaded here.

A Tip Sheet is available for quick reference while you are working through your application. This document can be downloaded here.

Additional information to support the application process can be accessed on the NFWF website’s Applicant Information page. 

For more information or questions about this RFP, please contact: 
Eric Forward
Eric.Forward@nfwf.org
612-564-7285

For issues or assistance with our online Easygrants system, please contact:
Easygrants Helpdesk
Email:  Easygrants@nfwf.org
Voicemail:  202-595-2497
Hours:  9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET, Monday-Friday. 
Include:  your name, proposal ID #, e-mail address, phone number, program you are applying to, and a description of the issue.