DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Standards and Requirements for the Agricultural Business Development Center Farm Vitality Planning Grant Program
[50 Pa.B. 20]
[Saturday, January 4, 2020]
The Department of Agriculture (Department) hereby provides notice of the standards and requirements for the Farm Vitality Planning Grant Program (Program).
The Program is established under authority of the act of July 1, 2019 (3 Pa.C.S. §§ 4801—4810), referred to as the Agricultural Business Development Center Act (act). The act allows the Department to award matching grants to farmers, prospective farmers and others in furtherance of the objectives set forth in the act. These objectives relate to enhancing the long-term vitality of farms in this Commonwealth through sound business planning, efficient transitions of farm ownership, strategic farm expansion, diversification of agricultural production and building a team of financial and technical expertise as a resource for farmers in this Commonwealth.
This notice establishes the standards and requirements for the Program. It establishes the process by which grant applications will be solicited and reviewed, and by which grants will be awarded, drawing on up to $1 million in funding made available by the Department in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019-2020.
For this initial year of the Program, the Department is soliciting applications that fulfill the general objectives of the act, described as follows. The Department will revise these standards and requirements in subsequent years, as the Department and its new Agricultural Business Development Center gain experience in administering the Program.
This document has been developed in consultation with the Agricultural Business Development Center Advisory Committee.
1. Program objectives. The Program's objective is to provide grants to eligible farmers, prospective farmers and others to further the objectives of the act. These include providing grants to help grant recipients:
a. Create or obtain business plans and management strategies to enhance the long-term economic viability of a farm.
b. Create or obtain plans for the transition of ownership and operation of a farm to new owners and operators.
c. Create or obtain plans for transfer of ownership and operation of a farm within the farmer's family.
d. Create or obtain business planning to diversify an existing agricultural operation to new or different forms of agricultural production, including on-farm value-added processing and agritourism.
e. Maintain the long-term economic viability and protect the investment of public funds in preserving farms that are subject to perpetual agricultural conservation easements acquired under the act of June 30, 1981 (P.L. 128, No. 43), known as the Agricultural Area Security Law (3 P.S. §§ 901—915), for agricultural production.
f. Create or obtain business planning for a farm expansion or to seek financing for farm growth.
2. Eligibility. Farmers, prospective farmers and others may apply to the Department for a grant under the Program.
3. Available funding. The Department shall make up to $1 million available for Program grants in the 2019-2020 FY.
4. Grant caps, limits and restrictions.
a. Funds-available basis. Grants shall be awarded on a funds-available basis.
b. Eligible projects. Grants shall only be awarded with respect to projects that achieve one or more of the Program objectives previously presented in Paragraph No. 1.
c. Maximum grant amount: An individual grant shall not exceed $7,500.
d. Matching grants. Grant amounts shall be limited to 75% of project costs.
e. Reimbursement grants. Grants shall be reimbursement grants. The amount of reimbursement is based on actual eligible costs submitted by an approved applicant for an approved project during the fiscal year in which grants are offered.
f. No in-kind support. In-kind support shall not be counted toward an applicant's matching contribution.
g. Other funding. Grant money may not be used to reimburse any portion of the project costs which are being paid or reimbursed under another Federal or State grant program.
5. Application process.
a. Online applications only. An applicant for a grant under the Program shall be submitted through the Commonwealth's Single Application for Assistance online application system at www.esa.dced.state.pa.us.
b. Application window. Applications must be submitted through the Single Application for Assistance online application system between 8 a.m. on January 4, 2020, and 4:59 p.m. on April 3, 2020. Applications received outside of that application window, or after funding is exhausted, will not be considered or reviewed.
c. Single project. An application shall only seek grant funds for a single project. Separate projects require separate applications.
d. Rolling review. The Department will review complete grant applications in the order they are received and will award grants on a continuous basis until available funds are exhausted.
6. Application requirements. An application for a grant under the Program shall contain the following information:
a. The applicant's name, business address and contact information.
b. A detailed description of the project for which the grant is sought.
c. Specification of the exact purpose (or purposes) of the act, as previously presented in Paragraph No. 1, that will be achieved by the project.
d. The details of the project for which reimbursement grant money is sought, including the following:
i. A project budget.
ii. A statement of the maximum amount of grant money sought for the project.
iii. A project implementation schedule, as appropriate for the project or purchase with respect to which the grant is sought.
iv. A brief narrative identifying each entity that will assist with and participate in the project.
e. An attestation signed by the applicant, verifying the accuracy of the information presented on the application.
7. Disposition and review of grant applications.
a. The Department will review each application, and supporting documentation submitted therewith, for completeness and accuracy, and determine eligibility.
b. If an application is found to be incomplete or inaccurate, the Department may request additional documentation and may discontinue further processing of the application until the requested information is received.
c. The Department will provide quarterly summaries of grant activity to the Agricultural Business Development Center Advisory Committee.
8. Notice of disposition of application. The Department will provide the applicant written notice of the disposition (approval or disapproval) of the application.
9. Agreement required. If the Department approves a grant application, and as a precondition to the Department's release of grant moneys to a successful applicant, the Department and the applicant shall execute a Grant Agreement which describes the terms and conditions subject to which the grant is made. This Grant Agreement may be done electronically, through the Single Application for Assistance.
10. Distribution of grant money. As Program grants are reimbursement grants, the Department will not issue grant money until the successful applicant submits the following to the Department:
a. A verified statement that the eligible project has been completed or implemented.
b. A verified statement of the project completion date, with the project completion date being no more than 2 years from the effective date of the Grant Agreement.
c. Bills and invoices demonstrating that expenses were incurred for which reimbursement grant funds are sought.
d. Other information as the Department might reasonably require.
11. Additional information: Additional information may be obtained from the Department by contacting Morgan Sheffield, (717) 787-3568, firstname.lastname@example.org.
RUSSELL C. REDDING,
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 20-8. Filed for public inspection January 3, 2020, 9:00 a.m.]
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