Farmers for Soil Health 2023 Request for Proposals
Farmers for Soil Health: General Applicant Webinar [View Recording]: Tuesday, December 13, 2022, from 12:00 – 2:00 PM Eastern Time
Farmers for Soil Health: Technical Resources Webinar [View Recording]: Tuesday, January 10, 2023, from 1:00 – 3:00 PM Eastern Time
Full Proposal Due Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2023 by 11:59 PM Eastern Time
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is releasing this Request for Proposals in anticipation of an agreement with USDA for our tentatively selected proposal, “Farmers for Soil Health Climate Smart Commodities Partnership.” The Farmers for Soil Health Climate Smart Commodities agreement with USDA is still pending.
This RFP represents one time-sensitive element of a broader project. Any grants related to this RFP will not be awarded unless or until a USDA agreement is finalized. Additional grantee terms, conditions, or requirements beyond what is included in this RFP may apply after finalization of a USDA agreement.
In partnership with the Farmers for Soil Health collaboration and with pending support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) anticipates awarding competitive grants to accelerate the voluntary adoption of cover crops on corn and soybean farms in 20 states.
Farmers for Soil Health is a collaboration of National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board, the National Pork Board, and other partners, with a goal of encouraging farmers to expand their adoption of cover crops to 30 million acres nationwide by 2030.
NFWF is serving as the fiscal administrator of the tentatively selected Farmers for Soil Health Climate Smart Commodities Partnership (FSH). FSH would accelerate long-term cover crop adoption by creating a platform to incentivize farmers through a marketplace that efficiently quantifies, verifies, and facilitates the sale of ecosystem benefits. FSH would create a new transition program that would build cover crop capacity nationwide.
With a national and state approach, FSH’s proposed strategy is four-pronged:
- FSH will support and expand technical assistance (TA), enrollment, and education programs in its targeted states through grants associated with this current request for proposals.
- FSH will establish a new financial assistance (FA) program to incentivize cover crop adoption on over 1.3 million acres of crop fields in corn and soybean production. Participating farmers will plant cover crops for three years and receive Transition Incentive Payments totaling $50 per new acre of cover crops planted ($25/acre year 1, $15/acre year 2, $10/acre year 3). Signing Incentive Payments of $2 per acre are available for up to 600,000 acres of existing cover crops. NFWF will make the annual FA payments to participating farmers with other funding separate from the grant funding available through this request for proposals.
- FSH will create and launch an enrollment platform as well as a nationwide cover crop Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system.
- Lastly, FSH will create a public marketplace platform to connect farmers to buyers of climate-smart commodities and opportunities for premiums and incentives.
For this request for proposals, funding is focused on the first strategy – creating or expanding Technical Assistance (TA) programs in targeted states. Successful TA proposals will collaborate with other FSH partners to advance the other three strategies. To learn more about the overall FSH partnership, please visit this website.
For this request for proposals, grant recipients will develop state-level or multi-state FSH programs in one or more of the 20 eligible states. Grantees are limited to state corn, soy, or pork commodity affiliate organizations or their designated partners.
Grants will provide technical assistance to interested farmers, help farmers enroll in the Farmers for Soil Health incentive payments, provide farmers technical support for implementing cover cropping systems, assist farmers with the MRV and marketplace platforms, and support farmers sharing their experiences and lessons learned. This work enhances soil health, water quantity, and carbon sequestration while providing important social and economic benefits to agricultural producers. Approximately $15 million in grant funding is available under this funding opportunity.
This funding opportunity is limited to the 20 states prioritized in the Farmers for Soil Health Partnership:
Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The Farmers for Soil Health Partnership will fund projects that provide “on-the-ground” technical assistance delivery. Successful proposals will strategically address gaps and needs for supporting cover crop adoption in one or more of the 20 states. Eligible grant recipients are limited to state corn, soy, and pork commodity affiliate organizations and their designated partners.
Grant recipients can hire or support field conservation professionals, such as conservation agronomists, who will help producers implement cover crops and other soil health practices. Grants will also provide support for increasing outreach and communications capacity, facilitating farmer enrollment for Farmers for Soil Health incentive payments, equipping farmers with information and data management capabilities to access ecosystem service markets, and addressing other barriers to cover crop adoption. Grants are expected to promote economically sound approaches that achieve positive environmental outcomes.
The Farmers for Soil Health Partnership is prioritizing 20% of the partnership’s financial assistance ($13.65 million for 273,000 acres) for Historically Underserved and small producers. Competitive proposals will work collaboratively with diverse partners to incorporate local input and meaningfully engage with underserved and small producers.
To be competitive for this Farmers for Soil Health opportunity, proposals must:
- Direct staff resources to help corn and soybean farmers adopt cover crops on new acres.
- Support farmer enrollment in the Farmers for Soil Health Signing Incentive Payment (SIP) for farmers with existing cover crops. One-time enrollments will be offered in 2023, 2024, and 2025. Enrollment available on up to 600,000 acres total across the 20 states, up to 200 acres per farm.
- Support farmer enrollment in the Farmers for Soil Health Transition Incentive Payment (TIP) for farmers planning cover crops on new acres. Enrollment will happen in at least two cohorts (2023 signup and 2024 signup); if enough funding remains, signup for a third cohort may be offered in 2025. Each cohort will commit to planting cover crops for three years (such as 2023–2025 or 2024–2026). Enrollment available on up to 1.365 million acres total across the 20 states, up to 500 acres per farm. See “Funding Availability and Matching Contributions” section below for enrollment goals by state.
- Coordinate with expected FSH contractor Data Transmission Network (DTN) to conduct targeted digital outreach and marketing to potential farmer participants.
- Increase SIP and TIP enrollment among farmers in the Historically Underserved categories. Coordinate with DTN to use targeted marketing lists of Historically Underserved farmers and with National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) on targeted Historically Underserved farmer outreach and communications. Distribute NCAT-produced content to farmers, participate in an NCAT educational webinar for state partners.
- Participate in cover crop training and technical assistance opportunities through the FSH lead education organizations (Soil Health Institute and MU Center for Regenerative Agriculture), and distribute FSH cover crop educational materials to producers. Help participating farmers plan cover cropping systems in accordance with the relevant state NRCS standard for conservation practice code 340 (Cover Crop).
- Support farmers during: eligibility determination; enrollment; data entry; and measurement, reporting, and verification tasks using the Farmers for Soil Health online platform. Participate in training sessions with DTN before enrolling farmers through the platform. Assist farmers in reporting their farm and tract numbers and self-certifying their Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation compliance status in the online platform. Execute contracts with farmers.
- Provide farmers cover crop technical assistance as needed over the life of the 3-year Transition Incentive Payment agreement. TA is broadly defined as activities that increase farmer understanding of the agronomics and economics of cover crops leading to practice adoption. The Soil Health Institute and the University of Missouri Center for Regenerative Agriculture will provide grantees with access to educational resources including videos, fact sheets and training for staff.
- Provide additional technical assistance requested by farmers to enhance soil health, carbon sequestration, water quality, wildlife habitat, climate resilience, or operational efficiency.
Additional requirements beyond the nine activities listed above may apply after finalization of a USDA agreement.
Competitive projects will improve water quality and maximize soil carbon by increasing adoption of cover crops on new acreage and enrolling those acres in the Farmers for Soil Health Climate Smart Commodities Partnership. Additional technical assistance for wildlife habitat, reduced tillage, diversified crop rotations, perennial cropping systems, nutrient and pesticide management plans, precision agriculture, and other soil health practices is allowed. Grantees may also educate farmers about other financial assistance opportunities available, including other Climate Smart Commodities projects. However, grantee promotional and enrollment support activities must be solely focused on the Farmers for Soil Health Climate Smart Commodities Partnership.
Grantee eligibility is limited to state commodity organizations (including research and promotion programs, also called “checkoff programs”) and their designated partners. Designated partners may include 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, tribal governments and organizations, or educational institutions partnering with a commodity organization. Outreach efforts must be focused on corn and soybean growers in one or more of the following 20 states: Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin.
NOTE: Any applicant that is not a commodity organization must include a letter of support from a state or national corn, pork, or soybean commodity organization partner. Letters of support must describe how the applicant and commodity organization will coordinate on promotion, technical assistance, enrollment, and other activities.
NOTE: Applicants are strongly encouraged to coordinate to avoid duplication of effort across proposals within a state. Duplicative proposals will not be funded. Multiple proposals within a state will only be funded if they are distinct from one another in project activities or geographic focus. Relevant commodity organizations within a state are encouraged to work together on a state-level proposal and can cooperate on a joint proposal with one or more additional states.
To better gauge progress on individual grants and to ensure consistency of project data across numerous grants, the Farmers for Soil Health application includes a list of standard metric options for describing project impacts and reporting outcomes (Table 1). Applicants should select the metrics most relevant to their proposed projects, and all applicants are required to include the following metrics:
- # of people reached (this is the number of farmers receiving technical assistance)
- # participants receiving gov't agency cost share or financial assistance (this is the number of farmers enrolled in FSH)
- Acres covered by government agency cost share or financial assistance (this is the number of acres enrolled in FSH)
- Acres with cover crops (this is the number of cropland acres with cover crops implemented as a result of grant technical assistance, enrolled in FSH or not)
- Acreage of project footprint (this is the total number of acres impacted by one or more project conservation activities)
- # jobs created (this is the of individuals hired (non-volunteers) to directly work on the project) and/or # jobs sustained (this is the number paid jobs that are partially or fully sustained through this grant. Sustained jobs should have existed prior to the grant)
The Farmers for Soil Health partnership encourages projects that engage organizations and producers in one or more of the Historically Underserved categories. The Farmers for Soil Health Partnership is prioritizing 20% of the partnership’s financial assistance for Historically Underserved and small producers. Applicants are encouraged to use the metrics notes fields to indicate the extent that the overall values for the # people and # jobs metrics are expected to include people in the Historically Underserved categories.
Tables 1 and 2. Standard metrics available for selection in the application with required NOTES.
Capacity, Outreach, Incentives
|# jobs created||Enter the # of individuals hired to directly work on the project (non-volunteers). Jobs should be directly engaged in grant activities, funded by the grant, and shouldn't have existed prior to the grant. In the notes, provide the FTE for the jobs created. If applicable, in the NOTES section report the number of new jobs created for people in the Historically Underserved categories.|
|# jobs sustained||Enter the # of paid jobs that are partially or fully sustained through this grant. Jobs should have existed prior to the grant, be funded by the grant, and be directly engaged in project activities. The starting value for this metric should be zero. If applicable, in the NOTES section report the number of jobs sustained for people in the Historically Underserved categories.|
|# people reached||Enter the number of farmers who responded to an offer of outreach, training, or technical assistance. In the NOTES, specify the percent of people reached out of the total targeted. If applicable, note the number of people in the Historically Underserved categories.|
|# workshops, webinars, meetings||Enter the number of workshops, webinars, and meetings held to promote the Farmers for Soil Health opportunity.|
|# participants receiving gov't agency cost share or financial assistance||Enter the number of FARMERS enrolled in the Farmers for Soil Health financial assistance opportunity as a result of your TA. In the NOTES section, if applicable, note the number of participants in the Historically Underserved categories.|
|Acres covered by government agency cost share or financial assistance||Enter the number of acres enrolled in the Farmers for Soil Health financial assistance opportunity as a result of your TA. In the NOTES section, acreage should be equal to or less than “Acreage of project footprint” metric.|
|Acreage of project footprint||Enter the total number of acres impacted by one or more project conservation activities. Only count an acre once, even if multiple activities or treatments will occur on that acre during the project.|
|Acres with conservation tillage||Enter the number of cropland acres with conservation tillage practices. Please describe conservation tillage practices in the NOTES section.|
|Acres with cover crops||Enter the number of cropland acres with cover crops practices. Please describe the cover crop practices in the NOTES section.|
|Acres with enhanced nutrient mgt||Enter the number of cropland acres with enhanced nutrient management practices other than or in addition to conservation tillage or cover crops. Please describe the nutrient management practices in the NOTES section.|
|Acres with managed grazing||Enter the number of acres with managed grazing (i.e., promoting plant growth above and below ground, improving wildlife habitat, and maximizing soil carbon through grazing approaches that optimize stocking rates, livestock rotations, utilization rates, and plant rest and recovery, including development of associated grazing infrastructure). Please describe the grazing practices in the NOTES section.|
|Lbs N avoided (annually)||Enter the amount of nitrogen prevented from entering system annually and indicate method of calculating reduction in NOTES section.|
|Lbs P avoided (annually)||Enter the amount of phosphorous prevented from entering system annually and indicate method of calculating reduction in NOTES section.|
|Lbs sediment avoided (annually)||Enter the amount of sediment prevented from entering system annually and indicate method of calculating reduction in NOTES section.|
Eligible and Ineligible Entities
- Eligible applicants include state commodity organizations (including research and promotion programs, also called “checkoff programs”) and their designated partners. Designated partners may include 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, tribal governments and organizations, or educational institutions partnering with a commodity organization.
- To be competitive, applicant organizations must demonstrate capacity and experience commensurate with the scale of the project being proposed and the funding being requested.
- Individuals, federal government agencies, and for-profit entities are not eligible to apply for grant funding.
Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds
- Equipment: Applicants are encouraged to rent equipment where possible and cost- effective or use matching funds to make those purchases. NFWF acknowledges, however, that some projects may only be completed using NFWF funds to procure equipment. If this applies to your project, please contact the program staff listed in this RFP to discuss options.
- Federal funds and matching contributions may not be used to procure or obtain equipment, services, or systems (including entering into or renewing a contract) that uses telecommunications equipment or services produced by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation (or any subsidiary or affiliate of such entities) as a substantial or essential component, or as critical technology of any system. Refer to Public Law 115-232, section 889 for additional information.
- 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 CONTRIBUTIONS
Approximately $15 million in grant funding is available under this funding opportunity. Typical grant awards will range from $200,000 to $1,200,000, with an estimated average grant size of approximately $750,000 per state-level program. The grant range is estimated based on a single state proposal. Multi-state proposals may exceed $1,200,000.
This amount reflects the funding available to support grantee activities as outlined in the program priorities section. NFWF will make the financial assistance payments to participating farmers with other funding separate from the available grant funding.
NFWF expects the budget and outcomes for each proposal to reflect the relative abundance of corn and soy acres within the state(s) where the project would focus. In other words, projects in states with more corn and soy acres are expected to generate larger acreage outcomes (See Table 2):
|State||# Farmers||# Corn/Soy Acres||FSH Enrollment Goal (Total acres across two signups)|
|Iowa||56,000||18,500,000||100,000–200,000 acres per state|
|South Dakota||18,000||9,500,000||50,000–100,000 acres per state|
|Wisconsin||39,000||4,600,000||25,000–50,000 acres per state|
|Pennsylvania||23,000||1,700,000||5,000–25,000 acres per state|
Table 3. Approximate number of farmers and corn and soy acres per FSH target state (courtesy of Data Transmission Network), and an approximate enrollment goal per state (cumulative across two planned signup cohorts).
This funding opportunity does not require matching contributions. However, if readily available, matching contributions may make a project more competitive. Matching contributions may include cash, in-kind contributions of staff and volunteer time, work performed, materials and services donated, or other tangible contributions to the project objectives and outcomes. In addition, eligible indirect costs (that would not be paid with requested grant funding) may be applied as match. More information about using indirect costs as match can be found using this link. Eligible matching contributions must be spent or applied between the start and end dates indicated in the application.
PROJECT PERIOD OF PERFORMANCE
Grant period of performance will typically be four years following finalization of the grant agreement, to coincide with the full lifecycle of the two enrollment cohorts under FSH. NFWF expects most grant periods to begin spring 2023 and end spring 2027.
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.
Priorities – Project addresses one or more of the funding opportunity priorities and has specific, quantifiable performance metrics to evaluate project success.
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.
Partnership and Community Impact – The applicant organization partners and engages collaboratively with diverse local community members, leaders, community-based organizations, and other relevant stakeholders to develop and implement the proposed project. This ensures long-term sustainability and success of the project, integration into local programs and policies, and community acceptance of proposed restoration actions. Non-traditional partners or communities are enlisted to broaden the sustained impact from the project.
Cost-Effectiveness – Cost-effectiveness analysis identifies the economically most efficient way to meet project objectives. Project includes a cost-effective budget that balances performance risk and efficient use of funds. Cost-effectiveness evaluation includes, but is not limited to, an assessment of effective direct/indirect costs across all categories in the proposed budget according to the type, size, and duration of project and project objectives. Project budgets will be compared to similar projects to ensure proposed costs across all budget categories are reasonable for the activities being performed and the outcomes proposed.
Transferability and Expansion – Project has potential to apply lessons learned to other communities and catalyze broader practice adoption.
Communication – Project includes a 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. Project includes plans for securing future funding needed to implement long-term monitoring and maintenance activities.
Past Success – Applicant has a proven track record of success in implementing other relevant projects with specific and measurable results.
Partnership – Relationships are in place to implement the project and the project is supported by relevant stakeholders, constituents, and communities. Project identifies key partners (including potential or contemplated subawards to third party subrecipients of the applicant), the roles they will play in implementation, 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 project completion.)
Applicant Demographic Information – In an effort to better understand diversity in our grantmaking, NFWF is collecting basic information on applicants and their organizations via a voluntary survey form (available in Easygrants). This information will not be shared externally or with reviewers and will not be considered when making grant decisions. For more details, please see the tip sheet and the Uploads section of Easygrants.
Procurement – If the applicant chooses to identify specific 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 Acknowledgment 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. Grantees 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 applicable, successful applicants may be required to comply with additional Federal, state or local requirements and obtain all necessary permits and clearances.
Federal Funding – The availability of federal funds estimated in this solicitation is contingent upon the finalization of an award agreement with USDA. Funding decisions will be made based on level of funding and timing of when it is received by NFWF.
Historically Underserved Categories – The historically underserved farmer and rancher categories include those with limited resources, beginning farmers/ranchers, socially disadvantaged (American Indians or Alaska Natives, Asians, Blacks or African Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics) and veterans. More information on the underserved categories can be found here.
Environmental Services – NFWF funds projects in pursuit of its mission to sustain, restore and enhance the nation's fish, wildlife, plants and habitats for current and future generations. NFWF recognizes that some benefits from projects may be of value with regards to credits on an environmental services market (such as a carbon credit market). NFWF does not participate in, facilitate, or manage an environmental services market nor does NFWF assert any claim on such credits. FSH will utilize a digital platform developed by DTN that will allow participating farmers to seek premiums from downstream users of corn and soybeans who are seeking commodities produced to a higher standard of sustainability.
Intellectual Property – Intellectual property created using NFWF awards may be copyrighted or otherwise legally protected by award recipients. NFWF may reserve the right to use, publish, and copy materials created under awards, including posting such material on NFWF’s website and featuring it in publications. NFWF may use project metrics and spatial data from awards to estimate societal benefits that result and to report these results to funding partners. These may include but are not limited to: habitat and species response, species connectivity, water quality, water quantity, risk of detrimental events (e.g., wildfire, floods), carbon accounting (e.g., sequestration, avoided emissions), environmental justice, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Dates of activities are subject to change. Please check the Farmers for Soil Health Partnership program page on the NFWF website for the most current dates and information.
|Applicant Webinar [View Recording]||Tuesday, December 13, 2022 from 12:00 – 2:00 PM ET
|Technical Webinar [View Recording]||Tuesday, January 10, 2023 from 1:00 – 3:00 PM Eastern Time
|Full Proposals Due||Tuesday, February 28, 2023 by 11:59 PM ET|
|Review Period||March 2023|
|Awards Announced||Late April 2023|
After award announcements, NFWF staff will work with grantees to prepare grant agreements and other necessary paperwork, all of which will be completed electronically using the Easygrants system. Additional information about the grantee’s organization and its finances may be solicited during this time. Once grant agreements are finalized, funds will typically be paid to grantees on a reimbursable basis. Funds may be advanced to qualified grantees on an as-needed basis.
HOW TO APPLY
All application materials must be submitted online through NFWF’s Easygrants system.
1. Go to easygrants.nfwf.org to register in NFWF’s 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 Farmers for Soil Health - 2023 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.
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.
A video tutorial of how to start and complete a proposal in Easygrants can be viewed here.
For more information or questions about this funding opportunity, please contact:
Central Region Working Lands
Central Regional Office
For issues or assistance with our online Easygrants system, please contact:
Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET, Monday–Friday.
Include: your name, proposal ID #, email address, phone number, program you are applying to, and a description of the issue.