Webinar: Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program and Historically Underserved Producers

Webinar: Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program and Historically Underserved  Producers

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so i'm just going to start with a program introduction to give you the basics um expand on what kari had mentioned about the three components as well as you know giving you a little guidance on making the decision if you should apply to these programs or not so the conservation innovation grants program um the purpose of it is to stimulate the development and adoption of innovation and conservation approaches and technologies in conjunction with agricultural production it's actually funded out of a program called equip which is a cost share program for producers to integrate conservation practices on their land so the intent of this program is to bring innovation in conservation for farmers ultimately to use um and therefore the money actually comes out of what um congress gives to the eqip program so the most important component of this program is to demonstrate innovative features of your proposed technology or approach so we have three program components another way to word it would be opportunities because we post these components as funding opportunities on the grants.gov the federalgrants.gov website and as kari mentioned we have the national sig program which came out of the 2004 farm bill that's when it originated and the the focus of this program is really to do field demonstration projects to test new technologies um that show opera that show promise and the state sig programs are very similar to this but they're much smaller they're they're programs that are regional um and they have a more localized um focus sometimes a state program can be scaled up to a national program but um basically those are other opportunities that exist in addition we have the 2008 out of the 2018 farm bill a new component was added called on-farm trials and the on-farm trials program is is really focused on the widespread adoption of innovative approaches and it does this by putting a large portion of the funding is asked to go towards farmer incentive payments so we really want to see scalability in this program we want to see um a new technology tested on more farms basically than what you would see in the sig classic program so to give you a little bit more information on each program each program the the funding opportunity in recent years uh has in general been posted in the spring and this is true as well for the national sig classic program now last year um we had 15 million for this specific program and every individual application could ask for up to 2 million dollars of federal funding um last year also the minimum was a hundred and fifty thousand dollars now keep in mind the total amount we put towards the program in the amount the federal amounts uh maximum and minimums that you can ask for can change every year but they don't change very much if they do change so in general this has been what we've seen recently now another really important part of this program is that each project has to bring a certain amount of non-federal match most projects are required to bring at least 50 percent so if you're gonna ask for two million dollars of federal money you're gonna have to provide as well to to i mean not two hundred million or two million dollars of federal money you'll have to provide two million dollars as well of non-federal funds as match um now recently there have been um outlined special circumstances where a decrease in match could be allowed and lucas is going to talk a little bit more about that um so i won't cover that but um in in general it's important to remember also that the priority areas can change annually so while we try to cover every resource um concern every few years um there's a good chance every resource concern will not be covered every year so when i talk about resource concerns i'm talking about things like wildlife habitat water quality soil health for those of you familiar with nrcs you're going to be very familiar with what those resource concerns are i'm not going to go into those um here today though um also to keep in mind um one of the really nice things uh about the sig program is that overall it does have fairly high funding rates relative to um other federal grant programs in 2019 the sig classic program funded 17 of the proposals submitted and last year in 2020 we funded 24 of the um proposals submitted for the sig the national sig program so the second component of the program is the state sig program and for this program the notice of funding opportunities um what we call an nfo um many of you are familiar with like rfa or rfps that's the same thing basically as an nfo and the state nfos are posted as well in the spring on grants.gov and last year we had 24 states participating that means each state is going to post their own funding opportunity now again this program is funded out of the eqip program so each state is allowed to put up to five percent of their funds to of their equip funds to their innovation grants program so these these programs are very small you know in a large state they might give about they might have a total of maybe 500 000 to give out to grants um so often the amounts you see are more like seventy five thousand dollars per grant um but the states have flexibility to to say how much they're willing to give to each project and and you would need to um read the nfos and communicate with that state to really understand that opportunity and just like the national program the state priorities also change every year right now the the funding opportunities they all come out at different times depending on the state but in general you see them between february and april and just like the national program you're gonna have to put 50 percent match for each state award so if you ask for 75 000 of federal funding you'll have to match that with at least 75 000 um but another thing about the state competitions is they seem to be even less competitive than the national competitions where we've seen as high as 50 percent of the proposals submitted funded um but generally about 20 30 of the proposals are funded so um it is a good opportunity to apply to so the on-farm trials program um is a program that has been funded since 2018 so we've had two complete cycles of this program and we've just posted our third nfo and it's posted at 25 million dollars the on-farm trials program will allow for each project up to five million dollars of federal funding and the non-federal match is much less it's only 25 of federal funding which comes to 20 of the total budget so um the minimum project um could be as low as 250 000 but again this program is about farmer incentive payments so they want to see um a lot of farmers involved and there has to be um funding put into the the budget in order to bring farmers in and give that money out to farmers to get them involved in trying the innovation um but as it's a new program the first year we um competed this program we were able to fund 24 of the projects but its popularity has grown and last year we were able to fund 15 of the projects that were submitted the next question if this program interests you is should you apply and before you apply there's three really simple questions to ask yourself before you actually put pen to paper and that's if your idea is truly innovative um the second question is is your organization eligible and then does your idea fit into one of the priority areas so um what does the sig program consider to be innovation so the most obvious thing is something completely new a new idea or methodology or technology that could help cut the field of conservation but sig has a very broad definition of innovation and if you change a technology that already exists in a new way or if you um change part of a methodology of for instance a current conservation practice um you know the adoption or transference in this new way is also viewed as um uh innovation as well if we there's a proven technology in a part of our country or even in another country that has shown itself to work well if you want to bring that to our country or to a region of our country where it hasn't been used um to show that it could also work there that's also viewed as innovation in the sig program so what what organizations or individuals are actually eligible to apply to this program so it really depends on the component so the sig classic opportunity pretty much allows everyone to apply except federal entities so for instance um the usda ars organization um does a lot of great research but they are not eligible to apply to our program because they are federal employees um but state governments are able to apply as well individuals can apply so if a farmer has create like figured out a new technology and wants to test it out he can apply um to the sig classic program in addition um in addition we allow um non-profits to apply universities to apply um and the state program is the same as the sig classic program but because they're working in a specific state and they want to see benefits to a specific state even if you apply from outside the state usually they like to see the work done in that state while that's not really clear to us all the time we have seen that bias where a lot of states don't really want to consider a project if there is outside work so if you want to do part of the testing outside the state i would recommend you actually check with that state and what they allow so the on-farm trials program since it's very different than the the two sig classic programs um it's the idea of on-farm trials is really to get the farmers to use high-risk technologies that are innovative that they wouldn't necessarily do on their own so you see this reflected in the organizations that are actually eligible to apply um individuals are not allowed to apply to the on-farm trials program but um for-profit entities such as businesses um as well as non-profit entities that have experience in the agricultural sector are allowed to apply as well as as well as non-federal government organizations such as universities though they are also able to apply so does your idea fit into the priority some of these questions may seem really obvious but we get every year a good a number of proposals that actually apply that do not fit into the priority area and i i just want to um you know really um accentuate the fact that this is an important point and uh it takes a lot of work to put a good proposal together so you know i would recommend you if your proposal is not in a priority the idea you have if it's not in the priority area this year there's a good chance it could have come up other years so you might want to wait to um to submit such a idea but basically for all the three components the priority areas can change each year what you've seen with on-farm trials is it hasn't really changed that much but the program is just beginning and we do have the flexibility to change those priority areas but with the sig classic programs it is very common every year to have completely new priority areas so you really can't count on a priority area appearing next year that is in this year's nfo um but i really would like to say again um it's probably not worth your time submitting a proposal if it doesn't fit a priority area or if it isn't innovative and one of the types of proposals we often see are proposals that really focus on training on conservation and these types of proposals there's actually another nrcs program that funds this that's fully focused on this idea and so we try not to fund these types of projects with the sig program because in general training is not viewed as innovative okay so um that ends my initial presentation and if you have any questions on this part of our presentation i'll take a couple of them but other than that we'll move on thanks caroline um again folks have any questions you can write them in the chat um but not seeing any i'm gonna go ahead and move on to the next presentation which is focused on historically insured farmers and ranchers and the conservation innovation grant program so [Music] okay [Music] okay fantastic um well thanks caroline for that that was really helpful and a nice primer oh i think we do have one question here before i get started um what have you observed as a good sources of matches or what is allowed for matching fun requirements so match is really open we allow both cash and in kind so if people want to give volunteer hours um and you want to use that type of match for 100 of the match that is actually acceptable um you can do really any mix of cash or in kind um we are we're very open as long as the match is directly related to the project and it has to happen in the lifetime of the project so it can't be something that's happened before the agreement is um negotiated awesome thank you caroline okay i'm gonna get started here then um on historically underserved farmers and ranchers and the conservation innovation grant opportunity so what we'll cover in this presentation is who are the groups that qualify as historically underserved farmers and ranchers the benefits that these groups or projects that are serving historically underserved farmers and ranchers receive under the sig program i'm going to briefly touch on a few of the recent hu projects that we funded in this year's cohort both for our on-farm trial and sig classic and then i'm going to end with a little bit of detail on a working group that we have within the nrcs that's focused on hu producers and farmers and how they interact with the nrcs and how hopefully all of you can get involved in some of this work and benefit from it as well so there we go um so the farm bill defines a number of different groups as historically underserved because these groups have been historically underserved by the department of agriculture and so in order to address this issue the usda provides competitive advantages for hu producers for a number of its programs i'm going to go into detail about the advantages the specific advantages for sig but generally across a lot of nrcs offerings these advantages may include increased payment rates for conservation practices targets for conservation funding or loan allocations and access to advanced payments for conservation practice implementation i should also note that as kari said at the beginning of this uh this webinar that the current administration has really made civil rights and the reduction of barriers to participating in usda programs a priority um and so for us at the nrcs this is more than just a farm build mandate we see it as really important work as we as we try to solve these complex natural resource challenges uh and supporting the uh producers across the country and so uh we we take this work as um as a as a really fantastic opportunity to uh to help solve these natural resource challenges so who qualifies as historically underserved under the nrcs um there are four different groups that qualify as underserved historically underserved and i should note that these are the nrcs's definitions there are other usda agencies that have slightly varying definitions the first group that qualifies as an hu group is a beginning farmer rancher so this is a person who has worked for no more than 10 consecutive years on a farm the second group is socially disadvantaged farmers are ranchers and so this includes individuals or producers who are a member of a group that has historically been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice and so this includes individuals or producers who identify as native american or alaskan native asian black or african american native hawaiian or other pacific islander or hispanic the other two groups that qualify as historically underserved under the nrcs's definition are limited resource farmers or ranchers so these are groups or individuals who have a total household income of less than 50 percent of the county medium household income in the past two years um and last but not least veteran farmers or ranchers so these are folks who have served in the armed forces including a reserve component they were released from service under conditions other than dishonorable and they cannot have operated a farmer ranch for more than 10 years and again just to keep everyone oriented here for the sig classic and oft opportunities most of the projects are going to that qualify or that benefit from the hu from the hu benefits for sig are projects that are serving these um farmers or ranchers again individuals can apply for the oft and or for sick classic but largely will um it will be projects that are serving these groups so uh these are they're they're as i mentioned at the beginning of this talk there are a number of benefits that hu groups and project serving hu groups receive under the conservation innovation grant program um the first is that for the sig classic opportunity there's earmarked funds so at least 10 of the national funds available for sig classic are uh set aside for proposals from hu producers and organizations serving hu groups states can develop their own requirements for set-aside funds the a second benefit that caroline mentioned as well is that there's a reduced match requirements for sig classic for um projects that are competing for this hu set-aside pool of funds um the so for 2021 entities competing for hu face hu funding face a lower matching fund requirement um the exact uh reduced uh match requirement will be made will be specified in the national funding opportunity when that comes out in a few weeks and i should note that this fluctuates annually so the benefits uh sorry i just got someone seems to be someone seems to be trying to join this chat is there someone that can't be admitted from the lobby i'll i'll continue i think i can let them in um and i should also note again that the on-farm trial opportunity does not have earmarked funds for specifically hu projects nor does it have a reduced funding match requirement this is um just for the sig classic opportunity [Music] uh then the third uh competitive advantage that he projects receive is uh ranking criteria and this applies to all of the sig opportunities classic on-farm trial and state and so what this means is that priority consideration is provided to proposals competing for hu funding but also to proposals that are not able to compete for earmarked funds regardless of whether a project is competing under the sig classic pool for these set-aside funds the panels that are evaluating these projects take into account whether hu producers or organizations are part of the project's goals and that gives the project a competitive advantage when it's being evaluated so again i think that this is a something that we're really trying to emphasize this year uh that of course if the project's main goals are to serve and and try to overcome some of the barriers for a2 producers and organizations then they can compete for these set-aside funds but all projects if they're able to incorporate ahu producers into their goals stand to benefit from this this priority consideration [Music] so uh how are sig applications evaluated all sig applications all sig proposals are evaluated against technical criteria so the quality of the proposal's purpose and goals the degree of innovation in the proposal's technology or approach and how beneficial or transferable the proposed project's goals are caroline is going to go much more into depth into all of these technical criteria in her next presentation on grantsmanship um but what i'm going to touch on here is the additional criteria that sig classic and on-farm trial proposals are evaluated under if they are competing for the hu set-aside pool that's for sig classic or on-farm trial if they're sent if they are a project that is serving hu producers um and so uh this is for projects that have a strong hu component in them and the panel uh a panel specifically devoted to hu evaluating the hu merits of a project we'll be asking questions such as to what degree are the benefits or goals of the proposed project clearly and appropriately targeted towards the hu producers that the project aims to serve has the project identified and built collaborations with community-based organizations and community leaders that can assist in informing the project goals and delivering results the panel will be asking whether there's representation on the project or team that reflects the community that the project aims to serve and how well do the project goals and objectives aim to address the current barriers and historical legacies that have impacted participation and or success that the target hu producers face and really these questions are aimed at evaluating how well a project will actually be able to serve the hu community or producers that it aims to serve and these new criteria are the result of a working group that we have at the nrcs which has really been trying to increase the quality of uh sig applications that are serving the hu community across the country um and so as a working group we've been meeting to help develop these evaluation criteria which again are meant to make sure that hu proposals are appropriately considered alongside all sig proposals again we've established a specific hu panel for sid classic and on-form trial which will be evaluating the issue criteria we're also really hoping to improve the technical contact training to ensure the provision of effective oversight for hu projects and we're also working to improve targeted outreach to expand knowledge of the program and this is specifically this webinar is is a product of that effort right here this is part of that process of making sure that we're getting the opportunity um into the right the right hands um and then lastly we're working to improve the documentation and data collection for these hu projects again to make sure that we're better serving the aging communities across the country uh at the at 3 30 my colleague briana henry is going to be presenting on nrcs and the broader offerings and from the agency and how they relate to hu producers um i'm just going to briefly mention a few of them here so there are many other nsgs programs that offer benefits to hd producers these include programs like the conservation stewardship program where at least five percent of total funding needs to go to beginning farmers and ranchers and five percent to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and just like sid classic and oft there's a separate ranking tool for the csp program for these hu groups the rcpp or regional conservation partnership program um considers hu engagement in their selection criteria just as state classic and an on-farm trial do and uh eqip on the environmental quality incentives program provides advanced payments uh a higher cost share increased payment rates and a separate ranking pool for he producers so again my colleague brown henry is going to go over this uh later but i just wanted to sort of touch on that it isn't just the conservation innovation grants program but nrcs offerings more broadly as well that are working towards helping hu producers across the country so i want to give a little a brief overview of some of the 2020 hu projects that we funded in this year's cohort um so for the we funded six projects overall that were that had a significant hu component to them for the on-farm trials opportunity the university of hawaii has a project that's working to bring soil health management systems to diverse farmers across the islands and specifically focus on overcoming some of the barriers to adoption that exists for these hu groups for the university of texas in rio grande valley they are working on a project that's specifically targeting hu farmers across the texas region and providing them with technical assistance and financial assistance in regards to cover cropping and soil health management principles for the sig classic we funded four projects that were competing for the set-aside pool of funds the first of these projects the indian land tenure foundation their project is working to develop and pilot an operational web-based tool to assess and quantify the benefits of enhanced land-based carbon sequestration through ecosystem conservation on tribal lands the riddle foundation has a project that is expanding the accessibility of biochar and bioenergy specifically for historically underserved communities the arkansas land and community development corporation has a project that's working to bring drone pest management systems to historically underserved vegetable growers in east central arkansas and the first nations development institute is creating a tribal community-based model to support native agricultural producers as they work to improve water quality and watershed management through conservation planning and practices and again this is to give everyone on this call just a brief very very brief example of some of the projects that successfully were funded in this year's cohort that have a strong issue component to them [Music] so just to wrap things up here um some takeaways i think that i hope all of you are are getting from this presentation is uh that there are real benefits from incorporating hu's in your project if that's possible and that's if it is us if it's a if it can be a significant part of your goal you your project can compete for this set-aside pool from sid classic but uh even without competing for the set-aside pool uh if you're incorporating hu producers and communities into your projects you're eligible for this priority ranking another ask here is to consider helping us here at the nrcs with our working group we're really looking to connect with more organizations like yourselves that are serving huge communities hbcus community organizations non-profits 1890 land grants institutions all of these are are are really um we valuable organizations and we're working diligently over the next month or two to make sure that the funding opportunity um is uh is advertisers made it made aware to all these organizations um and so if you want more information or you want to help us uh in this sig he working group my email is below and i believe everyone on this call should also have my email from the invite so with that i think i'm going to open it up to some questions [Music] okay not seeing any questions in the chat um i think we can go ahead and and keep moving then uh caroline do you want to take the reins again sure um and if if anyone has questions um moving forward on one of the past presentations it's fine to to ask it late um i see some things in the chat box though lucas so maybe before i start um oh yeah here's a question yeah is that for the is bf beginning farmer yes beginning farmer so for the sig classic opportunity the benefits um that beginning farmers receive or groups that are specifically serving beginning farmers are that they're eligible to compete for the set-aside funds so that's 10 percent of national funds are available for sig classic are set aside for proposals serving hu producers and beginning farmers and ranchers are one of the categories within hu within the nrcs's definition of historical underserved producers they also benefit from a reduced matching requirement like caroline mentioned sig recipients must provide a non-federal funding match amount from outside organizations at least equal to the amount of federal funding but for projects that are serving beginning farmers or renters that uh funding requirement for sick classic is lower um and the specifics of that will be made will be detailed in the funding opportunity and then the last benefit is that um these projects proposals would uh benefit from priority consideration um when they're uh evaluated by the technical and and hu panels um competing uh during the evaluation process for for sig classic and an on-form trial thanks for your question okay i'm just going to say hello really quick again and then turn my video off so it doesn't distract but um i'm going to go into a 30-minute presentation that's really focused on tips and things to structure the ways to structure your proposal to um uh specifically for the sig program okay okay so i'm just going to go over our review process first um so it gives you a perspective and an in in terms of um who's reviewing the proposals and what is our process to get proposals approved because it's a little different from other grant programs um as well i want to go through the nfo requirements i will i won't go over the h2 criteria again but i will go over the technical criteria in uh as well as other requirements as well i want to touch upon the new sig portal we have a new way to apply to sig um grants now where for the national program this year not for the state programs just the two national programs the application is going to have to go in through our um what we call our sig portal which is very similar to the rcpp portal for those of you familiar with that program so there's really a structural change on how you apply as well i'm just going to go over some tips on editing as well as other things and where to find our nfos um so to start um who reviews the um the proposals um this is this can become an important question because you need to know who your audience is when you write the proposal and traditionally for the sig program nrcs employees are the reviewers for the sig national programs we've really expanded that and we do bring in other usda employees specifically from agencies like ars as well we will recruit reviewers from other federal agencies that are experts specifically in the area for that panel um but unlike other grant federal granting organizations our our panels are not peer review panels so we are not going to um the industry as a whole in taking many reviewers from there every now and then we will bring an expert from outside the federal government but um absolutely not on every panel and it's it's not that common um so what happens basically the way our review processes is the nfo has technical criteria um it really really there's two merit criteria there's the technical criteria and then there's the historically underserved criteria and there's separate review panels for both of these criteria now every proposal is going to go through the technical review and what a technical review means is there's going to be individual reviewers uh actually rating the proposal with a number um based on the criteria that's written in the nfo and you can find this criteria it's on like page 20 or 25 it's really buried in there you got to really go look for it um but they will rate your proposal on that and then all the panelists will come together to discuss the proposals and they will rank these proposals um in in relative to each other and so when the recommended list um comes together and is submitted to um leadership it's it's really the top part of that list and so in in the end the proposals end up competing against each other now the historically underserved panel happens the very same way where a prioritized list happens and so those on the top of the list um are um the ones that are recommended um basically the technical review recommendation list and the hu review recommendation let's get combined they they're merged and the last review we do is a state review so depending on the state your application will occur in and if it occurs in multiple states the proposal will be sent out to multiple states an expert in that state will be assigned to review the proposal and look basically specifically at the applicability to that state and if there's any duplication the the duplication becomes very important because as we've told you there are state sig programs and it is very common for an organization to apply to the national program and to apply to the state program so if the state's planning on funding that project a lot of times they'll tell us and we'll take it off of the recommendation list because the same project is going to be funded but basically all that information comes together and the recommended list is then move forward to leadership for approval and leadership likes to see this list they they don't rubber stamp it they're thinking about nrcs priorities and they want to make sure that these address nrcs priorities when we put our panels together well there's no issues there though and we are and our leadership is usually very much in support of what we present so when you develop a sig proposal um the most important thing to start with is a compelling idea and the other component that you need to think of to in order for your proposal to be competitive is to think about writing a really good quality written document i think a lot of people they kind of write this off they'll put a proposal together quickly and they don't do their due diligence and um this aspect sometimes is overlooked and making sure your document flows and everything is really clear um can can make a big difference in actually getting your proposal funded because it's going to limit the number of questions so i'm going to go through in detail what that means specifically for the sig program so um i'm going to spend a lot of time on the technical criteria now the first thing you'll notice if you review the nfos for the sig classic program as well as the on farm trials program is that the technical criteria are slightly different and pretty much the details of the criteria are the same where they're different is how much weight is given to each element so for instance on the sid classic program you'll notice and i don't think i have a um i don't know if you can see my um my little arrow but on sig classic basically there's four elements and each element is worth 25 but innovation stands alone as an element so um for the sick classic program the concept of presenting a really innovative idea is really really important whereas for the on-farm trials program innovation is actually just part of that 25 um and it's it's embedded into the purpose and approach section so um for on-farm trials while innovation is important it isn't um it doesn't have as much weight what you'll see having a lot of weight on on farm trials is evaluation and evaluation stands alone as 25 whereas um for sig classic evaluation is embedded in the purpose and approach so um it's important you know this this starts to help you really understand the difference between these two programs on-farm trials is about getting something out to producers and it's about really understanding um how this new innovation is going to act in different places right so the evaluation components really important because a lot of times ideas that are really new they might do really good in the sig classic program because you're just testing it on maybe two or three actual fields um but you're not really scaling it up and sometimes when you scale up a really innovative idea it doesn't work so that's really what on farm trials is trying to get at but you'll see also project management project outcomes and benefits they align pretty well with both programs so i'm going to go through each of these components in detail and again i've mentioned innovation and for sig classic this is a very important component and when we say 25 of the rating goes to innovation it's not just the idea of what your innovation is but it's how well you back that up you know how much background detail are you giving us are you explaining to us where the pitfalls of that innovation are are you explaining why that innovation is really timely um and and why we should really pay attention are you um being clear with the linkages of that innovation with the priority area or the purpose so there's a lot that goes into that rating um so the next section to pay attention to is the purpose in the approach so for both on-farm trials and sig classic there this section is is worth 25 for both of them but you'll see when you actually read through the criteria um the details can uh in what we want you to really focus on and accentuate is slightly different for on-farm trials there's a lot put into design and methodology as well if the purpose is compelling there's also an added element for the soil health assessment soil health is a component of on-farm trials that i'm not going to get into in this talk but um soil health is actually funded every year through on-farm trials um whereas for sick classic um they really in this section they want you to talk about the pitfalls in your methodologies or or your goals and your purpose um in addition to your design and methodology and again the sig classic program doesn't have an evaluation section and so a lot of the results can actually be put in this section but in general for the purpose and approach um you're going to want to lay out in both proposals your purpose your goal and your objective so why are you doing this project um the purpose is a much more expanded goal statement and it actually should almost run into the goal the goal is just going to be maximum 150 words um for most of these projects we want you to just have one goal if your project has two roles that's good but um this program sees goals and objectives as very different um where the objectives are basically what support the goal but the purpose is the background like what is bringing you to make a decision to have this as your goal um we want to know that story and um it's going to really help the reviewers understand your proposal and and make your proposal compelling so you're going to really want to give details on the purpose and you're going to want to give data and solid information as to why this innovation is important and a lot of this is going to go in the background section for the purpose um but again your goal should just be a pretty simple statement the goal should be maybe just one or two sentences whereas your objectives exist to support the goal um i i wanna again reiterate in the sig program we've really created a separation between goal and objectives and now that we have the sig portal application this this separation becomes very important i think in the past we've seen a lot of applications use the terms objective and goals interchangeably but because we now have word limits in the sig portal this difference is really important and you have a lot of space to really expand objectives so your objectives should support your goals also you don't want to use the term objective throughout your proposal randomly we see this a lot in proposals as well where the project team will call a lot of different elements of the project objectives um and and they really start to confuse the project where it becomes really unfocused so we want to recommend to you that your purpose your goal and your job objectives all line up another thing i want to recommend for objectives especially if you don't have experience writing grants is to google smart objectives smart objectives are objectives that are specific measurable achievable realistic and time-bound so you know really we want a an objective that's well developed that basically is measurable so you're going to be able to have a clear deliverable and um a quantifiable um end product right um but basically all of these should cascade from each other in addition to your activities activities are the elements of the project that support the objectives and they should be in this purpose and approach section as well um as well the design methodology and the measurements that are going to be taken as well should be in this purpose and approach section and i really want to highlight that people should spend time really expanding on the methodology often the panelists come up with a lot of questions on methodology we get a lot of proposals that don't really give the details of like how many samples are going to be taken where are the samples going to be taken what are the methods used and why were those methods chosen while you don't have a lot of space to expand giving some indication to this is is really helpful and can really benefit um it can it can really um help not create questions from the reviewers basically so the third element in the technical criteria is project management and um the project management section is fairly similar between on-farm trials as well as zig classic um the one thing i'll note though is lucas was talking about how historically underserved participation is included in both of the technical criteria um of both programs and that is true the the thing is is it's included in different sections so really that doesn't matter because in the sig portal you're going to be um you're going to be basically filling in a section specifically for the historically underserved um component but um because of this it's important for you to know how the reviewers are ranking and and where this is going to get ranked and when it's going to be discussed but there's several elements to project management i want to discuss and project management is important because overall it's it's helping us determine um your team's ability to execute the project successfully so the first thing is a project teams management structure you'll see in the sig portal there is a section on project management that should get filled out and some mentioned to the management team structure should be in there and this is really the activities that are going to regularly happen to ensure the work gets done things like what is the meeting schedule is the team overall going to meet monthly who's going to coordinate that is the team going to hire maybe a project manager to ensure coordination of activities and ensure that deliverables are met things like that you'll want to discuss in this section as well what are the team's qualifications um one of the unique things about the sig program is we do not ask for resumes we don't want to see uh vitas or resumes and what we ask for is a very concise half page description of all the um major participants all the major team members on your project and to give a summary of their abilities and their experience and how that lends to the credibility of the project so you'll have to plan on writing little summaries up oops the other thing that is mentioned in the nfo is experiencing managing federal awards um people who have gone through the process of getting federal money and um having a project like that be successful and having uh actual deliverables come to fruition that's really important experience for us to know now does that mean if you don't have federal experience that um your proposal will not be viewed highly um that's not necessarily true but you're going to want to take the opportunity to explain that to explain that you have the capacity and the experience to deliver on such a large project because a lot of these projects end up being very large also i want to talk about the timeline and milestones section um historically a lot of people like to put gantt charts use gantt charts for this section but now with the sig portal this isn't really possible the timelines in milestone section is going to have to be text while you can attach a gantt chart as an attachment to your submission the timelines and milestone section is going to have to be in text at to some degree now a lot of for if you've never done the timeline and milestones before um some advice i'd give is to make sure you have at least 10 activities on that list um some of these um some of these requests really give the um reviewer another view into your project where they're really looking at the project from another perspective than the actual written narrative and timelines and milestones are one of those opportunities where you're giving a chronological view of the activities so if you just put five activities down it's really not going to help the reviewers so take your time to document those activities and highlight which of those activities are actual milestones and also if you line them up with objectives that becomes also very helpful for the reviewers the last thing i'm going to spend a lot of time on the project management section is partnerships partnerships um it does they don't actually shake out as like a really high percent of the um of the the rating right but it is a very very important part of the project and if you do review the sig projects that we have funded in the past um most of them have been funded um that with a lot of partnerships it's very rare that we fund a project with no project there are no partnerships although we have done it um but then your i project idea has to be that much more compelling and one of the biggest advantages of partnerships is basically you're including letters from these groups and they're saying hey we think this idea also is really great and they're willing to lend their word at at the very minimum if not um maybe some match and it is important to get match and so that's another driver for partnerships is to get people to buy into your idea so that's very valuable um now for on-prem trials i'm going to mention also in the project management section is project technical assistance one of the things with the sig program is we really don't want you to use nrcs employees for your technical assistance we really want to see other organizations doing the technical assistance that being said on some technologies sometimes you cannot overcome that and there are times when money is put aside for nrcs but i just wanted to bring up that um technical assistance um is within the on-farm trials and we do prefer that nrcs not cover that technical assistance if possible so the last element of project management is a very huge part of it and that's the budget budget is very important and the way you display the budget in the proposal is extremely important again just like the timeline and milestones it's another way to describe the project so when the reviewers look at it they get the same story written in a different way and so it really helps to flush out what your project is about and give people a picture of what's going on so really take time to write a solid budget narrative most budget narratives are at least two pages each for the federal section and then the non-federal section now with the new sig portal you're also required to do a table and you would fill in that table with the major categories the major budget categories for sig are the standard federal sf-424a categories that's like personnel um you know fringe benefits um supplies contractual stuff like that so we have all that described in the nfo so you know be careful uh try to understand those categories and make sure they're represented and then put the line items under them and really expand on it give us details for personnel we want to know the person's name or their position how many months are going to be spent on the project um what their salary is and then divide it between years let us know each year how much money is going to go to that individual person as well travel should be expanded on we want to know you know where people are going who's traveling what the per gm rates are all these things are important you want to give a lot of details in that budget narrative something to remember whatever you're writing down is an estimate um we expect it to be an estimate and numbers can change slightly if if your award is fun if if your proposal is funded um but make sure that you do all the costs correctly that everything adds up we always put a an example in the nfo and as well i'll touch on match again um i answered that person's question earlier but uh match can be cash or in kind or any mix of that okay so how am i for time oh i'm doing pretty good okay so transferability benefits outcomes and evaluation so these sections are about 25 in sig classic but they add up to about 50 percent of the rating in on-farm trials um also i want to know this is the section for um sig classic that would include hu producers so hu producers um so for instance in sid classic if you've got a project that is not applying to the set-aside but is including hu producers um it's just not all about hu producers the project they would be getting a little bit more credit for that project in this section so let's talk about the details of this this section um the first component or the the the first uh parts i i really want to focus on our communication and transferability of the project um your project should have a list of very clear outcomes um we're very interested in knowing what is going to be the tangible project product of this so if you're the objective of the project is to gain new knowledge are you going to have a report coming out is there going to be fact sheets for people like how is the information what's the communication plan how is the information actually going to move to the public are you going to have events such as field days are you going to do um like um organized media interviews or something like that um so so detail what you plan to do because outreach is really important and and reviewers want to know that whatever is going to be done that that information is going to be shared and there's a solid plan that's going to be used to share that information as well in this section it's very important to know who your targeted audience is so one of the things i'd like to bring up that we don't see in a lot of proposals um is really understanding um the knowledge transfer and um i think this is this this point is becoming more and more important with time and we're seeing more focus on it in a lot of federal grants overall but but really what is the social impact like who's taking the information in and are they actually taking that information in and is it um and is that moving to action so um it's it's a good idea to uh include some element of evaluation of this in all sig projects for on-farm trials it's a requirement but it's not a bad idea to include some sort of survey or something if you're having an event with producers try to find out and incorporate some element of measurement into your project to really find out and know how those producers are taking in that information so i'm going to talk about evaluation really quick here too for on-farm trials evaluation is required it's a big part of it um and one of the great things for us to require evaluation in the beginning of the project um in the project design is that you're really thinking about you know how the project can succeed or not succeed and how that's going to be measured um and what you're going to do because those are two very different outcomes and so it gets you thinking about how those those different outcomes can can lead to different activities later on in the project as well um but you know 10 20 years ago you didn't see a lot of evaluation in projects so it's a real opportunity and even in sig classic there's a lot less emphasis but i really recommend taking time to think through the evaluation of your full project and making sure you have really solid measurements in there but you can think about evaluation in three different ways there's um it's really about measuring the impact of the project and impact is often divided between short-term impacts medium-term impacts and long-term impacts now sig classic is a program that really is focused on short-term impacts um maybe some medium-term impacts but a lot of your measurements are going to be on you know basic um scientific measurements on you know basic outcomes and and knowledge of of what we know um about this innovation and and how it can actually help people or help the environment so there's a lot of learning in syd classic now um on farm trials that's a program that's much more focused on medium-term impacts where we're actually getting this on the ground you've got a lot of farmers involved and you can actually talk to them do interviews find out you know if um if practices can change if behaviors can change you can really start to get into medium-term impacts now long-term impacts are really really hard to gauge in most grant projects right but we want to know about them we want to know where you're heading with this so even if you can't put a measurement for long-term impacts you want to talk about it you know what is the long-term um projection for the project where are you going where's the potential how can this help our nation overall in maybe 10 years if it does become a regular practice so um you know do some estimation i guess do some projection um benefits and outcomes we've really already covered this um benefits again is is is really much it's it's pretty much aligned often with uh long-term impacts it's really like what the impact this project could have to the community um and outcomes are usually speaking specifically to the project objectives and goals um so so really they're aligned very much with the deliverables on the project so i'm not going to go over hu criteria again in detail because lucas really spent a lot of time going over this but i just want to reiterate that um for any proposal for sig classic that is applying to the set-aside they will also be reviewed by an hu panel and have to address the hu criteria now for on farm trials there is not a set aside so it's any proposal that has a significant amount of historically underserved groups involved um and the project teams will actually select that on the sig portal i think um one of my slides got out of um or was uh disorganized so other require other requirements on the nfo that are important um so the concept of innovation we've gone over um a lot but i want to remind people even though it's like 25 of sig classic and a portion for on-farm trials it's really the main point of the project uh the of the grant program so if a project isn't innovative um it really can lose a lot of ranking if it's not viewed as innovative so you you really want to make sure you explain that innovation especially if it's something that is um borrowed from another region that's already succeed that's already used commonly in another part of the country and you want to bring it to this part of the country you're going to really have to make that argument as to why it's innovative and why a project is needed as well i want you to note that in each of the priority areas there could be additional requirements um so read your priority area description carefully um as well i just want to remind people that for on-farm trials incentive payments are a requirement so if you do not include incentive payments on an on-farm trials project um there's a good chance it will not be reviewed well or it'll be kicked out of competition um and another requirement that is front and center but it's not in the merit criteria is that every project has to include equip eligible producers now does that mean all the producers have to be equip eligible um not necessarily um but you definitely have to include equip eligible producers so you're going to have to clarify how they're involved now i'm just going to go through some general tips i i want to encourage everyone to spend a lot of time editing their document and reviewing it multiple times for errors and maybe even having someone else review it with fresh eyes i've watched a lot of really good ideas um drop on the ranking list because they're not well edited you always get a few reviewers that just cannot see beyond the errors in fact last year we actually had a proposal and it was submitted in track changes so they didn't even bother to give us a version that had been um had accepted all of the track changes and and it really suffered because of that um so good ideas can often um die for for really um bad reasons that really didn't have to happen so just ch check all your editing go through your grammar you know re review the the project a couple times it'll be well time well spent um also i want to go through a couple other tips the first thing i want to talk about is that you should not assume that your reviewers know your topic well you never want to go into your proposal writing assuming they know things so you really want to work through your idea think about it and try to understand um the things that might not be familiar to your reviewers keep in mind most of the reviewers will probably be nrcs employees or usda employees um so that that could definitely impact um who you're writing to right as well i want to bring up um something that happens periodically a lot of times people are doing research in a project area or they have a large grant already and they can't accomplish everything they want to accomplish with that grant so they're applying to the sig program to fulfill just a component of a bigger research or project idea and that's actually fine with sig we have no problem doing that um funding projects that are parts of larger projects but um proposers applications really run into problems when they don't really clarify that line where they start talking about this other project but they're not really creating clear boundaries between what is that other project and what is this sig program specifically gonna fund so you're gonna wanna give a really clear explanation of that in the background section and then when you talk about project approach project design make sure you're talking about just what you want to fund for the sig project for those of you who have not written a lot of grants um i would really recommend before you put pen to paper to try doing a logic model you can simply google logic model or uh extension logic model because agricultural extension organizations use logic models a lot but it really helps you organize your inputs and your outputs and make sure everything lines up so then when you go to write your proposal it might flow a little bit better so the last bullet here i've already gone over make sure you get feedback on your proposal especially if you're a new grant writer you might want to think about seeking out an experienced grant writer if you don't have a lot of experience to get feedback so last i'm going to talk about this year's notice of funding opportunities so as we've mentioned um uh this year and last year we've both had 24 um we've had 24 states post funding opportunities so right now if you go to the grants.gov website you will see 15 opportunities um listed from individual states so you can check if your state's there um some states like california i noticed uh their opportunity is going to expire in two days but it looks like you still have a lot of time if you're in virginia or south dakota as well as kari mentioned early on the sig on-farm trials program just posted today in yellow here i have highlighted the funding opportunity number so if you put that opportunity number into the grants.gov website search you should be able to pull up that nfo immediately i've also put the link to the grants.gov nfo there now for the sig classic program the national sig classic program we will post that um probably within a month sorry i cannot be more precise but um these nfos we get them out as soon as we can and they have to go through a lot of review um and there's uh you know with the administration change there's always a lot of extra reviews so um it might be a while um but basically you can check our website or grants.gov

um uh-oh my um screen has uh frozen but basically i was just going to show you um a picture hopefully everyone can hear me still we we can still hear caroline oh good thank you so much lucas um i was afraid my screen would freeze and sure enough it has but i only have two more slides and they're just images of grants.gov it's just showing you how to search nrcs in grants.gov as well as our website if you we always post things to the sig website if you're interested in going to the sig website all you have to do is put in your browser cig nrcs is two different words and it usually pops right up but with that i'll take questions thanks caroline we have a question in the chat from uh catherine trish who's asking what kind of producers would be considered ineligible for eqip um so i would have to look at the nfo um offhand i don't remember and i didn't um but basically their equip eligibility is um very specific um but the sig program doesn't use the full uh definition of equip eligibility we just use the first um three criteria so if if you give me a second i will actually pull that up um i think someone just put it in the chat okay it's um you need to be in compliance with highly erodible land and wetland conservation provisions you need to be a person legal entity joint operation indian tribe or native corporation who is engaged in the agricultural production or forestry management or has an interest in ag or forestry operation as defined in seven cfr part 1400 and you have to have control of the land involved for the term of the proposed contract period so those are the elements of equip eligibility that apply and i'll i'll put those in the chat i think someone else may have but i'll i'll do that now there we go can you did that go i don't know why but that did not post well there it goes okay any other questions lucas i believe that's it that's it okay i know i that was a lot of information and i was really rushing through it so hopefully everyone um uh were able to get it all in let me see if i can share my screen again see people can can see my uh there we go there's my email address right there if anyone wants to email me questions uh feel free you can also email lucas yeah if anyone has questions afterwards please feel free to email carolina myself um we have so we have one more presentation now which is gonna be uh brianna henry if she's on this call great um and she's gonna be talking about the other uh

2021-06-25 02:59

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