Skip to main content

Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities FAQs

REVISED Q: Where do I submit my grant application materials?

A: All application materials must be uploaded to www.grants.gov, including:

  1. Application for Federal Assistance (SF-424)
  2. Project Narrative (refer to Funding Opportunity for detailed requirements)
  3. Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs (SF-424A)
  4. Budget Narrative (use guidance attached to Funding Opportunity)
  5. Grants.gov Lobbying Form
  6. Support Letters
  7. Resume of lead project administrator
  8. Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreements (if applicable)
  9. SF-LLL, Disclosure of Lobbying Activities (if applicable)
  10. Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest (if applicable)

Note: Once the applicant has completed all the registration steps described in the funding opportunity, Grants.gov recommends submitting your application package at least 24–48 hours prior to the closing date to provide you with time to correct any potential technical issues that may disrupt the application submission. When uploading in grants.gov, please upload items 1–4 as labeled, and items 5–10 as “Other Narrative Attachments.” In general, materials that are emailed, mailed, faxed, or materials received by any other means, will not be considered; however, USDA may grant waivers on a case-by-case basis as described below.

The SAM.gov entity legal business name and address validation tickets are taking longer than expected to process due to high demand. Therefore, if an applicant is not able to upload its application in grants.gov for the second funding pool because the applicant does not have full SAM registration and a unique entity identifier, and if the applicant is still awaiting a response to a pending SAM.gov help desk ticket, then USDA may grant waivers on a case-by-case basis. In these circumstances, submissions received via email by the 11:59 p.m. EST June 10, 2022 deadline will be considered for a case-by-case waiver if all of the following is provided in a single email sent to climate-smart-commodities@usda.gov:

  1. All elements described above, and
  2. A valid copy of the SAM.gov help desk ticket.

Please be aware that applicants must complete their SAM registration prior to award. Waivers/exemptions have already been considered for the first funding pool using the same criteria under that deadline. An application submitted or resubmitted after the deadline is late (an application is considered on time at 11:59.59 pm ET, but it is late at 12:00 am ET). Late submissions will not be reviewed or considered.

New Q: The funding opportunity states that applicants must ensure the collection meets the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act. What does that mean?

A: To avoid overburdening the public with federally sponsored data collections, the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995 requires that U.S. Federal Government agencies obtain Office of Management and Budget approval before requesting or collecting most types of information from the public. The agency prepares an Information Collection Request as part of this process. The USDA Information Collection Request(s) will generally cover all information collected at the specific request of USDA related to grants under this funding opportunity requirements. If you plan to collect additional information from subrecipients, beneficiaries, or the general public related to your grant (beyond the reporting and other specific collection requirements of this Funding Opportunity), you must share this plan with USDA prior to collecting the information, generally through the proposal or as otherwise directed within the award. This is necessary for USDA to determine if the Paperwork Reduction Act applies and whether USDA needs to include the additional requested information in the approved USDA Information Collection Request(s).

New Q: Will USDA be able to expedite creating producer records and determining eligibility for the individual producer participating?

A: USDA does not plan to directly determine producer eligibility for Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities projects. Awardees are responsible for providing their plan to determine producer eligibility within the funding opportunity requirements within their proposal; this may be negotiated upon award. Partners will inform producers of eligibility requirements and direct them to local USDA offices for requested information as necessary, including but not limited to, farm and tract establishment, Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Compliance determinations, and environmental evaluations. Following producer requests, awardees may provide a list of producers that are seeking participation in their project and need USDA assistance related to the project grant, and USDA will provide reminders to local USDA offices on producers awaiting USDA assistance related to this funding opportunity. Privacy of producers is a priority through this process.

New Q: How will USDA protect producer privacy in reporting and modeling?

USDA will not provide recipients any data that is not already publicly available. Applicants must provide information in their proposals about how producer privacy will be protected as they collect information. USDA may provide additional requirements for data handling at time of award. USDA will handle producer data received from recipients using standard procedures in accordance with applicable laws.

New Q: What if my organization had trouble complying with Federal financial assistance award terms and conditions previously, but the issue has been resolved?

A: If the applicant has previously obtained Federal financial assistance award(s) and the award(s) was terminated for failing to materially comply with the Federal award terms and conditions, then they are generally not eligible to apply under this funding opportunity. However, if the incident occurred more than 5 years ago, the applicant may submit information with their proposal describing how any material weaknesses or previous issues with compliance have been addressed, and USDA will consider whether to entertain review of the application.

New Q: Will sale of greenhouse gas benefits be considered program (project) income?

A: Program Income means gross income earned by recipients that is directly generated by a supported activity or earned as a result of the Federal award during the period of performance. For the purposes of this opportunity, program income includes but is not limited to income from fees for services performed, the use or rental of property acquired under Federal awards, and the sale of commodities or other things of value fabricated or created under a Federal award. The sale of green-house gas credits would fall under this definition. In general, USDA will require that program income be added to the award and be subsequently used for the purposes and under the conditions of the award. USDA may consider this use of program income as “match” for the purposes of proposal evaluations, depending on how the proposal budget is structured. However, USDA will consider treatment of program income as negotiable on a project-by-project basis. USDA considers producers participating with recipients and receiving incentive payments to be beneficiaries rather than recipients or sub-recipients of awards. Therefore, neither the incentive payments themselves nor income earned by producers as a result of receiving incentive payments will be considered program income.

Q: How many resumes and support letters can I include in my proposal?

A: Applicants should follow the funding opportunity requirements, which require submission of a resume for the lead project administrator only and letters of support from all project partners identified in the project narrative. Additional letters of support from organizations or individuals not directly involved in the project, which demonstrate past success of the applicant’s activities, may also be provided.

Q: To whom should letters of support be addressed?

A: Please ask that the letters be addressed to the applicant. However, applications will not be penalized if the letters are addressed differently. Again, all letters of support should be uploaded to www.grants.gov.

Q: Can I include references for my project narrative, and do they count toward the 15-page limit for the project narrative?

Yes, you may include references for the project narrative, and they will not count toward the 15-page limit for the project narrative. However, please note that any other tables or charts associated with the project narrative will count toward the 15-page limit.

Q: Can you be more specific about how “match” will be considered in the technical criteria?

A: “Match,” or non-Federal resource contributions, will be evaluated as a factor under the budget criteria during review of the budget narrative and related application package materials. The evaluation of non-Federal contributions will be considered through the lens of equity, so the ability to secure a non-Federal match is not a barrier to participation. Match should be appropriately leveraged to further project goals, and any financial constraints should be identified and justified in the proposal.

Q: Can my project focus solely on carbon offset markets?

A: This funding opportunity is focused on projects that generate climate-smart commodities. Projects may investigate systems that track GHG benefits associated with both climate-smart commodities and carbon offsets. Applicants may consider approaches where the climate-smart activities could generate

carbon offsets; however, applicants should ensure there is not double-counting of climate benefits entering commodity supply chains and the benefits being used to generate carbon offsets. Applicants must define how GHG benefit ownership will be tracked and transferred through different parts of the supply chain and how double-counting will be avoided.

Q: Will USDA claim ownership of the greenhouse gas and carbon sequestration benefits generated through Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodity projects?

A: No, USDA will not claim ownership of the climate benefits generated through Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities projects. Specific ownership of GHG benefits shall be proposed by applicants (e.g., how GHG benefit ownership will be transferred through different parts of the supply chain). These chain-of-custody ownership clauses could be included, for example, in: (a) contracts between producers and project developers, and (b) contracts between project developers and commodity purchasers. Like other USDA programs, all benefits generated through Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodity projects will contribute to the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for the agriculture and forestry sectors toward meeting U.S. climate commitments.

Q: Are feasibility studies for digesters allowed to be included for potential grant funding in proposals under either funding pool?

A: Funding for feasibility studies for digesters are prohibited in both funding pools. Under the first funding pool, a feasibility study would be considered planning for a digester, which is prohibited. Under the second funding pool, the feasibility study is required at time of application; therefore, the study would be funded by the applicant prior to any grant award under this funding opportunity.

Q: Are practices such as waste separation, waste transfer, waste storage structures and nutrient recovery systems included in the prohibition on funding digesters under the first funding pool?

A: No, these items are not prohibited as potentially fundable items in proposals for the first or second funding pool.

Q: Under the first funding pool, does the prohibition on use of funds for capital costs of digesters also include costs for electricity generating equipment that uses digester gas to fire the generators, costs to clean, dewater, and compress digester gas for insertion into a pipeline, and ongoing costs of maintaining digesters?

A: Yes, these items are also prohibited for funding under the first funding pool.

Q: What types of producers are considered historically underserved for this funding opportunity?

A: Highly competitive proposals will demonstrate how they will provide benefits to producers, including producers who fall within USDA definitions of small and/or historically underserved producers. Historically underserved producers generally include beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, veteran farmers, and limited resource farmers; women farmers and producers growing specialty crops are generally also included in these categories.

Q: Are soil and water conservation districts eligible for awards?

A: Because “conservation districts” are established under State law (PDF, 1.8 MB), they are often referred to differently depending on where they are located. Some examples are soil and water conservation districts, natural resources conservation districts, resource conservation districts, land conservation districts, and soil conservation districts. They are any district or unit of State, Tribal, or local government formed under State, Tribal, or territorial law for the express purpose of developing and carrying out a local soil and water conservation program. Regardless of the name, most districts are units of State government and are therefore eligible under that category. Other districts are eligible as local government units or as Tribal or territorial governmental units. A full list of eligible entity types appears in Section C of the notice of funding opportunity.

Q: Are U.S. territories eligible to apply under this funding opportunity?

A: Yes, if they qualify under the definition of “State” in 2 CFR Part 200. For this funding opportunity, USDA uses the definition of “State” from 2 CFR 200.1, which means any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and any agency or instrumentality thereof exclusive of local governments.

Q: Do practices under these projects need to comply with USDA practice standards?

A: Practices and enhancements to existing practices are not limited to those under existing USDA practice standards; however, compliance and reporting activities will likely be more complex for practices without existing standards. If a project is specifically applying a USDA practice standard, it needs to ensure compliance with USDA practice standard criteria. If a project is applying practices outside of the USDA practice standards, then the proposal must clearly describe what alternative standards will be applied and how it will ensure compliance with those alternative standards. USDA may negotiate practices at time of award.

Q: Can we receive an advance on our project?

A: Determinations on advances will be made at time of award on a case-by-case basis after review of the proposal, associated budget, and other supporting documents. The funding opportunity allows for USDA to “consider advances in limited circumstances, particularly for small and underserved entities.” According to regulations at 2 CFR 200.305:

  • advance payments to a non-Federal entity must be limited to the minimum amounts needed and be timed to be in accordance with the actual, immediate cash requirements of the non-Federal entity in carrying out the purpose of the approved program or project,
  • the timing and amount of advance payments must be as close as is administratively feasible to the actual disbursements by the non-Federal entity for direct program or project costs and the proportionate share of any allowable indirect costs, and
  • the non-Federal entity must make timely payment to contractors in accordance with the contract provisions.

Q: What kind of equipment can be paid for under this grant opportunity?

A: To have capital expenditures for equipment considered for funding, applicants should include a detailed justification in their budget narrative supporting a finding that it qualifies as special versus general purpose equipment, explaining why the equipment is necessary for the successful completion of the project goals, and what “scientific or technical activities” related specifically to the project objectives it will be used for. If the budget is approved, this satisfies the “prior approval” requirement.

Note: Capital expenditures for general purpose equipment, buildings, and land, and for improvements to land, buildings, or equipment which materially increase their value or useful life are generally not allowable costs for these awards. Additionally, capital expenditures for equipment must be in accordance with the provisions of 15 U.S.C. 714b(h), including but not limited to a prohibition on the use of grant funds for the purpose of constructing or purchasing refrigerated cold storage facilities.

The following regulatory definitions from 2 CFR part 200 apply:

Equipment means tangible personal property (including information technology systems) having a useful life of more than 1 year and a per-unit acquisition cost which equals or exceeds the lesser of the capitalization level established by the non-Federal entity for financial statement purposes, or $5,000.

General purpose equipment means equipment which is not limited to research, medical, scientific or other technical activities. Examples include office equipment and furnishings, modular offices, telephone networks, information technology equipment and systems, air conditioning equipment, reproduction and printing equipment, and motor vehicles.

Special purpose equipment means equipment which is used only for research, medical, scientific, or other technical activities. Examples of special purpose equipment include microscopes, x-ray machines, surgical instruments, and spectrometers.

Capital assets means:

(1) Tangible or intangible assets used in operations having a useful life of more than 1 year which are capitalized in accordance with GAAP. Capital assets include:

(i) Land, buildings (facilities), equipment, and intellectual property (including software) whether acquired by purchase, construction, manufacture, exchange, or through a lease accounted for as financed purchase under Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) standards or a finance lease under Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) standards; and

(ii) Additions, improvements, modifications, replacements, rearrangements, reinstallations, renovations, or alterations to capital assets that materially increase their value or useful life (not ordinary repairs and maintenance).

(2) For purpose of this part, capital assets do not include intangible right-to-use assets (per GASB) and right-to-use operating lease assets (per FASB). For example, assets capitalized that recognize a lessee's right to control the use of property and/or equipment for a period of time under a lease contract. See also § 200.465.

Capital expenditures means expenditures to acquire capital assets or expenditures to make additions, improvements, modifications, replacements, rearrangements, reinstallations, renovations, or alterations to capital assets that materially increase their value or useful life.

Q: What are the differences between Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)?

A: These two efforts are distinct in many ways. First and foremost, they have different goals. Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities is an agricultural commodity production program tied directly to the development and expansion of climate-smart markets for producers authorized under the Commodity Credit Corporation. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is a conservation program that can address climate change as well as other resource concerns like water quality, water quantity, wildlife habitat, and air quality and is authorized through changes made to Title II of the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills.

The grant amounts, structures, and requirements are also different. Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities provides funding for between 1- and 5-year grants of up to $100 million, while RCPP generally funds 5-year program agreements up to $10 million. Additionally, Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities does not have a matching requirement, but matching is a part of the evaluation criteria; for RCPP, it is NRCS’s goal that partner contributions at least equal the NRCS investment in an RCPP project. Unlike RCPP, contracts with producers under Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities must always flow through the grant recipient rather than through contracts and easements between USDA and a producer or landowner.

In addition, there are different activities covered under these two opportunities. While RCPP supports conservation easements, land rentals, and public works activities, these activities are not eligible under the Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity.

In regard to reporting and partnerships, outcomes reporting is required for both programs, but Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities has a rigorous learning component. Participation in a formal Partnership Network is required under Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, which is not a requirement under RCPP.

This is not an exhaustive list of the differences between the programs, and it is recommended that applicants review each program to determine which program best suits their project.

Q: Are foreign entities eligible to apply for Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities?

A: This opportunity is open only to domestic applicants/recipients, and subrecipients must also be domestic; beneficiaries must meet additional requirements. For the purposes of this funding opportunity, and as determined by USDA, “domestic” means an entity that is neither a foreign organization nor a foreign public entity, as defined at 2 CFR 200.1. Those definitions read, in their entirety:

Foreign Organization means an entity that is:

  1. A public or private organization located in a country other than the United States and its territories that is subject to the laws of the country in which it is located, irrespective of the citizenship of project staff or place of performance;
  2. A private nongovernmental organization located in a country other than the United States that solicits and receives cash contributions from the general public;
  3. A charitable organization located in a country other than the United States that is nonprofit and tax exempt under the laws of its country of domicile and operation, and is not a university, college, accredited degree-granting institution of education, private foundation, hospital, organization engaged exclusively in research or scientific activities, church, synagogue, mosque or other similar entities organized primarily for religious purposes; or
  4. An organization located in a country other than the United States not recognized as a foreign public entity.

Foreign public entity means:

  1. A foreign government or foreign governmental entity;
  2. A public international organization, which is an organization entitled to enjoy privileges, exemptions, and immunities as an international organization under the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288-288f);
  3. An entity owned (in whole or in part) or controlled by a foreign government; or
  4. Any other entity consisting wholly or partially of one or more foreign governments or foreign governmental entities.

Q: Are producers that are beneficiaries under a Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities grant subject to Payment Limitation or Adjusted Gross Income limitations?

A: No, awards made pursuant to this Funding Opportunity are not subject to any payment limitations or Adjusted Gross Income limitations. However, any agricultural producers or landowners receiving a payment through participation in a project awarded under this Funding Opportunity are considered beneficiaries for purpose of this Funding Opportunity, and must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Meet the eligibility requirements of 7 CFR Part 12;
  • Must have control of the land involved for the term of the proposed award period; and
  • Must also satisfy the following eligibility criteria, as applicable:
    • If a person: any person who is not a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted into the United States for permanent residence under the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101-1778) will be ineligible to receive any disbursement under this Funding Opportunity on a farm that is owned or operated by the person, unless the person is an individual who is providing land, capital, and a substantial amount of personal labor in the production of crops on the farm; or
    • If a corporation or legal entity: A corporation or other legal entity will be ineligible to receive disbursement under this Funding Opportunity if more than 10 percent of the ownership of the legal entity is held by persons who are not citizens of the United States or lawful aliens unless each foreign person who is a stockholder or other type of member provides a substantial amount of active personal labor in the production of crops on a farm owned or operated by the legal entity. However, upon the written request of the legal entity, the grant recipient may make payments in an amount representative of the percentage interest of the legal entity that is owned by citizens of the United States and lawful aliens or foreign stockholders or other type of member who provide a significant contribution of active personal labor in the production of crops on a farm owned or operated by the legal entity. USDA will provide additional direction on how these percentages may be determined and approved.

Q: Can aquaculture be considered a commodity under this funding opportunity?

A: Aquaculture may be included as a potential commodity under Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities. Producers will be required to establish a farm and tract as well as meet other requirements in the funding opportunity. The range of agricultural commodities that may be included under this funding opportunity is broad, including wheat, cotton, flax, corn, dry beans, oats, barley, rye, rice, peanuts, soybeans, sugar beets, sugar cane, tomatoes, grain sorghum, sunflowers, raisins, oranges, sweet corn, dry peas, freezing and canning peas, forage, apples, grapes, potatoes, timber and forests, nursery crops, citrus, and other fruits and vegetables, nuts, tame hay, native grass, hemp, aquacultural species (including, but not limited to, any species of finfish, mollusk, crustacean, or other aquatic invertebrates).

Q: Is carbon itself a commodity under this funding opportunity?

A: No.

Q: Can project proposals include benefits to controlled environment agricultural producers like those that conduct vertical farming or grow commodities in greenhouses?

A: Yes, vertical farming or growing commodities in a greenhouse may be included in project proposals as long as a climate-smart commodity is being produced and a farm and tract is established, as well as meeting all other criteria in the funding opportunity.

Q: What is the timeframe for a project under this funding opportunity?

A: Project awards can range from 1 to 5 years, and up to two 1-year extensions may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Q: Who will provide the financial and technical assistance to producers through these projects?

A: Project awardees will be responsible for providing producers with financial and technical assistance, except for activities related to compliance with USDA’s Highly Erodible Land conservation (HEL) and Wetland conservation (WC) requirements, which shall remain the responsibility of producers. USDA will provide general oversight of the grant and reporting requirements. However, in general, any on-the-ground technical assistance will need to be provided by the recipient (except for HEL- and WC-related compliance determinations). Producers will not be directly paid incentives for climate-smart practices, systems, or activities by USDA.

Q: How do you define small producers for this funding opportunity?

A: Small farms are generally those with less than $350,000 in annual gross cash farm income.

Q: What is a minority serving institution?

A: For the purposes of this funding opportunity, minority serving institutions generally include colleges and universities that provide educational opportunities to those who have historically faced inequality in their access to higher education such as Historically Black Colleges & Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Native American-Serving Non-Tribal Institutions, Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions, Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions, Alaska Native-Serving Institutions, and Predominantly Black Institutions.

Q: Can you clarify how the Indirect Cost Rate (IDC) should be calculated for this program? In one place, the Funding Opportunity states we should use our Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA), but in another part of the Funding Opportunity, it says there is a 10 percent cap.

A: The USDA cap on indirect costs only applies to cooperative and contribution agreements (not grants). Agreements awarded under this Funding Opportunity will be grants, so the cap does not apply. If an organization has a current NICRA, they should use that rate. For those without a current NICRA, they may elect to use the 10 percent de minimis rate.

Q: The Funding Opportunity states we must include the resume of the “lead project administrator.” Is that the same thing as the Primary Investigator (PI)? Can we include the resumes of other staff assigned to the project?

A: The lead project administrator is the individual who will assume overall oversight responsibility for the project. Depending on the nature of the applicant organization and how a proposal is developed, that may be a PI or someone else. Please submit only the items requested in the Funding Opportunity.

Q: Can we use the DUNS or Unique Entity Identifier of another related organization if we do not have one?

A: No, the applicant must use their own registration number. Please register as soon as possible at SAM.gov, because this process can take multiple weeks to complete.

Q: How should we categorize payments to producers for implementation of practices, systems or activities, or other incentives in the budget narrative? Would it go under "contractual"?

A: No, please list these producer payments under the “other” category. These producer payments will be excluded from the distribution base for indirect costs unless specifically allowed in an applicants’ Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement.

Q: Will national level applications be more competitive than a regionally focused concept?

A: As you can see through the funding opportunity, there are a variety of goals and objectives of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities. USDA intends to fund a diverse set of projects and will not discriminate based on size of the project. Diversity of applications, including geographic diversity and size and scale of projects, will be considered when making award decisions. USDA will select a variety of projects so that this emerging marketplace starts out with robust competition and options for producers.

Q: Can I purchase land with this grant funding?

A: No, however, USDA does have other programs that might help with the purchase of land like our loan programs. Please visit the following website for more information: Grants and Loans | USDA .

Q: Could you please comment as to what the project budget should look like in terms of funding to incentivize producers to use CSAF practices vs monitoring costs? Rough percentage of the requested budget to allocate to each?

A: USDA is not dictating a specific split in costs. USDA will consider benefits to producers and the monitoring strategy as well as the rest of the ranking criteria in the ranking of projects.

Q: I have a project idea that proposes to do X, can you tell me if this is a good project idea?

A: USDA cannot provide specific feedback on project ideas at this stage of the funding opportunity. If you have a question on process or about a specific part of the funding opportunity and what it means, we can work to provide those answers to you and the rest of the public. We will be providing general presentations and webinars accessible to the public. And, we encourage you to visit our website at Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities | USDA for additional details and regular updates to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), webinars, and other resources.

Q: Is anyone with a CSP or EQIP contract automatically ineligible for participation on all acres?

A: No, in fact, early adopters (those who have already applied some climate-smart practices) are eligible and encouraged to be part of the pilot projects. Federal funds under this funding opportunity may not be used to pay for implementation of the same practice on the same land. Generally, if a practice has (or had) a Federal contract and is still within the project lifespan, then that specific practice on that specific land will not be paid for again; however, an enhancement to that practice or practices implemented on other areas of the farm are acceptable. Payments to further incentivize the climate-smart commodity generated are also acceptable.

Q: How should we think about the dollar delivery mechanism to producers? Do we need to provide benefits to landlords who are sharecroppers or land-owners in a cash lease situation in a particular way?

A: Partnerships’ proposals should help build markets and invest in America’s climate-smart farmers, ranchers, and forest owners to strengthen U.S. rural and agricultural communities. Sufficient incentives to encourage producer participation, as well as generation of verifiable greenhouse gas reductions and carbon sequestration, are critical to project success and will be considered in the evaluation criteria. Proposals should discuss your plan for providing benefits directly to producers and landowners. USDA is not dictating a particular mechanism for providing these benefits.

Q: How will funding be provided to grant recipients?

A: Funding will be provided on a reimbursable basis based on benchmarks for each project. Advances may be considered in limited circumstances, particularly for small and underserved entities, consistent with the provisions of 2 CFR 200.

Q: What are the Funding Opportunity quantification requirements related to COMET?

A: As outlined in the Notice of Funding Opportunity, “USDA encourages deployment of innovative, cost-effective methods for the quantification of greenhouse gas and carbon sequestration benefits in these pilots. Alongside such innovative approaches, the Carbon Management Evaluation Tool (COMET) should be used where applicable.” Specifically, USDA requires that applicants use the COMET-Planner tool to determine common estimates of the greenhouse gas impacts of commodity production activities whenever those activities are offered in COMET-Planner. COMET-Planner is a free online tool jointly administered by USDA and Colorado State University (CSU). COMET-Planner requires minimal data inputs and provides results based on detailed look-up tables. The COMET-Planner tool does not store any data, is available for unlimited use, and has no restrictions on commercial use.

Separate from the COMET-Planner tool that is mentioned throughout the Funding Opportunity, USDA and CSU also offer a GHG accounting tool called COMET-Farm, which is freely available to the public. COMET-Farm provides more detailed, farm-specific estimates based on 10 years of farm management information provided by the user. A COMET-Farm application programming interface (API) is also available to users who wish to bypass the COMET-Farm user interface and simply upload data to COMET-Farm as an XML file. Please note that the COMET-Farm API currently limits users to 50 model runs per day and has commercial use restrictions. All user data submitted to COMET-Farm are password protected and will not be shared. Usage of COMET-Farm is not required to receive funding under this program, though it is possible that some applicants may wish to use COMET-Farm and/or the COMET-Farm API in their projects. USDA is currently working with CSU to increase the capacity of the COMET-Farm API to accommodate large projects with over 50 daily model runs, which may be applicable to this funding opportunity.

Links to COMET tools are below:

COMET-Planner

COMET-Farm

COMET-Farm API

Q: Can Federal Government entities or employees (such as the USDA Climate Hubs or Agricultural Research Service employees) apply for grants under the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities? If not, can they be listed as a partner?

A: Federal Government entities are not eligible to apply for this funding opportunity or to be subrecipients. Federal entities may not be listed as partners on applications. USDA and other Federal personnel should be especially careful not to show preference for a particular project during the application period. Climate Hubs and other Federal entities may support projects after award.

Q: What is the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities opportunity?

A: USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities will provide grants to partners to implement large-scale pilot projects that create market opportunities for commodities produced using agricultural (farming, ranching, or forestry) climate-smart practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon. USDA will fund partners through the pilot projects to provide incentives to producers and landowners to:

  • Implement climate-smart production practices, activities, and systems on working lands
  • Measure/quantify, monitor and verify the carbon and greenhouse gas benefits associated with those practices
  • Develop markets and promote the resulting climate-smart commodities

Q: What is the source of funding for this opportunity?

A: The Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program will be financed through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).

Q: What authority under the CCC is USDA using to implement this funding opportunity?

A: USDA has authority under the CCC Charter Act Section 5(e) to use the CCC to aid in the expansion of markets for agricultural commodities.

Q: Since funding comes from the CCC, is this taking funds away from Title I programs?

A: No. Implementation of Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities will not affect implementation of Title I programs.

Q: What type of funding is announced for the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities (program/initiative)?

A: USDA will provide grants to partners to administer the pilot projects.

Q: What is a climate-smart commodity?

A: For the purposes of this funding opportunity, a “climate-smart commodity” is any agricultural commodity that is produced using agricultural (farming, ranching, or forestry) practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon. Adoption of these practices can produce other associated environmental benefits. Commodities broadly include more traditional agricultural crops like fruits, grains, cotton, peanuts, oilseeds, livestock, dairy, forage crops, and vegetables, as well as timber and other forestry products, and can also include other specialty, organic, or indigenous crops.

Q: What types of forestry projects are included?

A: Climate-smart forest products are included, and applicants may propose and justify innovative forestry projects that generate climate-smart forestry commodities.

Q: What types of producers will this initiative reach?

A: It is a priority to ensure that this effort is inclusive of a broad array of producers and landowners, including small and historically undeserved producers.

Q: Are early adopters included in the program?

A. Yes, early adopters are eligible and encouraged to be part of the pilot projects. Federal funds under this funding opportunity may not be used to pay for implementation of the same practice on the same land, but funding may be used to enhance a practice or to further incentivize the climate-smart commodity generated, especially with respect to early adopters.

Q: How is equity and environmental justice considered in this initiative?

A: Consistent with the Administration’s priorities on equity and Justice40, projects in both funding pools will have to demonstrate meaningful benefit to small or historically underserved producers. The second funding pool will specifically prioritize projects that benefit these types of producers, as well as greenhouse gas reduction/carbon sequestration monitoring, reporting, and verification partnerships through minority serving institutions. This second funding pool also has a longer application period to allow for more time to develop these innovative projects and partnerships.

Q: Am I eligible to apply?

A: Primary applicants/recipients must be entities, not individuals. A wide range of public and private entities may apply:

  • County, city or township governments
  • Special district governments
  • State governments
  • Small businesses
  • For profit organizations other than small businesses
  • Native American Tribal governments (federally recognized)
  • Native American Tribal organizations (other than federally recognized Tribal governments)
  • Nonprofits having a 501(c)(3) (other than institutions of higher education)
  • Nonprofits that do not have a 501(c)(3) (other than institutions of higher education)
  • Private institutions of higher education
  • Public and State-controlled institutions of higher education

Commodity organizations, technical service provider organizations (including university extension), farming cooperatives, organizations representing historically underrepresented communities, local producers, micro-producers, forestry organizations, and others are encouraged to apply.

State recognized Tribes are Tribal organizations and therefore eligible. A resolution of support is required for projects on Tribal lands, from the governing body of the Tribe with jurisdiction over that land, if the applicant is not the Tribe nor an entity owned or operated by that Tribe.

Q: Can multiple partners apply together for a project?

A: Yes. There must be a primary applicant/recipient. Any award made pursuant to this funding opportunity will be made to a single entity. Applicants that apply as “partnerships” or other similar groupings must clearly describe the relationship between the applicant and the “partner” parties. In all but exceptional cases, this must be reflected in the award as an awardee/sub-awardee relationship.

Q: How do I apply?

A: Applicants must submit project proposals on Grants.gov by the appropriate funding pool deadline. Please note that registering to apply for grants via Grants.gov includes several steps and types of registration, including DUNS, SAM.gov, and Grants.gov accounts. The entire process may take several weeks. Visit the Grants.gov Organization Registration webpage for a complete set of instructions and initial steps.

Q: What do proposals need to provide?

A: Proposals must provide plans to:

  • Pilot implementation of climate-smart agriculture and/or forestry practices on a large scale, including meaningful involvement of small and/or historically underserved producers
  • Quantify, monitor, report, and verify climate-smart results
  • Develop markets and promote climate-smart commodities generated as a result of project activities

In addition, sufficient incentives to encourage producer participation, as well as generation of verifiable greenhouse gas reductions and carbon sequestration are critical to project success and will be considered in the evaluation criteria.

Proposals in the first funding pool (requests for amounts from $5 million to $100 million per proposal) will be large-scale pilot projects that emphasize the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production and include direct, meaningful benefits to a representative cross-section of production agriculture, including small and/or historically underserved producers.

Proposals in the second funding pool (requests for amounts from $250,000 to $4,999,999 per proposal) are limited to particularly innovative pilot projects with an emphasis on:

  • enrollment of small and/or underserved producers and/or
  • monitoring, reporting, and verification activities developed at minority-serving institutions.

All projects must be tied to the development of markets and promotion of climate-smart commodities. Projects in both funding pools will have to demonstrate meaningful benefit to small and/or historically underserved producers. Applicants should refer to the funding opportunity for full application requirements.

Q: Is there a matching requirement?

A: There is no specific match requirement for this funding opportunity. Applications will be evaluated, in part, on the relative contribution of non-Federal resources to the project. Cost sharing may be achieved with contributions of cash, services, materials, equipment, or third-party in-kind contributions. However, the evaluation of non-Federal contributions will be considered through the lens of equity so that the ability to secure a non-Federal match is not a barrier to participation.

Q: What is the anticipated project start date and duration?

A: Projects may be between 1 and 5 years in duration, with up to 2 years of no- cost extensions considered on a case-by-case basis. Anticipated start dates are summer 2022.

Q: What types of practices are included?

A: Highly competitive projects will include agricultural and forestry practices or combinations of practices, and/or practice enhancements that provide greenhouse gas benefits and/or carbon sequestration. Practices may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Cover crops
  • Low-till or no-till
  • Nutrient management
  • Enhanced efficiency fertilizers
  • Manure management
  • Feed management to reduce enteric emissions
  • Buffers, wetland, and grassland management, and tree planting on working lands
  • Agroforestry and afforestation on working lands
  • Afforestation/reforestation and sustainable forest management
  • Planting for high carbon sequestration rate
  • Maintaining and improving forest soil quality
  • Increase on-site carbon storage through Forest Stand Management
  • Alternate wetting and drying on rice fields
  • Climate-smart pasture practices, such as prescribed grazing or legume interseeding
  • Soil amendments, like biochar

Note: All practices must demonstrate greenhouse gas benefits. Practices and enhancements to existing practices are not limited to those under existing USDA practice standards; however, compliance and reporting activities will likely be more complex for practices without existing standards.

Q: Will the USDA funds pay for methane digesters?

A: Under the first funding pool, projects may include digesters as part of a broader project working with producers to implement climate-smart practices, but the planning for, materials for, and construction of digester(s) will not be funded through this funding opportunity under this funding pool.

Under the second funding pool, digesters may be funded as a part of a project to help prove out technologies and building infrastructure on farm. Large digesters with high capital costs should plan to leverage other innovative financing as part of their applications. Small-scale digesters that can build off manure management strategies (e.g., covered lagoons that can be converted) and community digesters where one system serves multiple farms may be included.

All projects that incorporate digesters must include provisions for pollution and pathogen mitigation.

Q: What are the evaluation criteria?

In general, all proposals will be evaluated at minimum on the following primary evaluation criteria and sub-criteria as drafted below. For applications in the first funding pool ($5 million to $100 million), projected greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits will be weighted more heavily. For applications in the second funding pool (under $5 million), equity and outreach criteria will be weighted more heavily.

  1. Benefits Associated with the Production of Climate-Smart Commodities  
    1. Projected benefits from GHG mitigation and carbon sequestration from ongoing or new on-farm practices associated with the production of climate-smart commodities (bolded to emphasize that this criterion is weighted most heavily in first funding pool)
    2. Anticipated GHG benefits associated with the production of climate-smart commodities per farm, per project, per commodity produced, per dollar expended
    3. Anticipated longevity of GHG benefits associated with the project,
    4. (Non-GHG) Environmental co-benefits (e.g., water quality, soil quality, localized air pollution, wildlife habitat) of climate-smart commodity production
    5. Climate adaptation benefits of climate-smart commodity production
  2. CSAF Market Development for Climate-Smart Commodities
    1. Scalability  
    2. Likelihood of long-term viability beyond project period 
    3. Ability to inform future USDA actions to encourage climate-smart commodities 
    4. Ability to help producers realize greater market returns by overcoming barriers to adopting climate-smart practices, including estimated market returns to participating producers
  3. Equity/Environmental Justice (EJ)/Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Reach (weighted most heavily in the second funding pool)
    1. Economic benefits for producers, including underserved producers 
    2. Proposed number of underserved producers to be enrolled 
    3. Partnerships with EJ/MSI/equity/small farmer representation organizations 
  4. Project Management Proposal 
    1. Budget proposal 
    2. Estimated GHG benefits from the production of climate-smart commodities per dollar invested
      (Note: The size, complexity and diversity of operations reached will be considered in weighing this factor)
    3. Innovative collaborations/partnerships among organizations  
    4. Prior experience/confidence in the team 
  5. Technical proposal  
    1. Measuring, monitoring, and reporting plan:
      1. Project’s contribution to advancing supply chain tracing and incentive structures,
      2. Completeness and credibility of measurement/quantification, monitoring, tracking, and verification approach
      3. Innovation in approaches to quantification, monitoring and verification of GHG benefits associated with specific CSAF practices.
      4. Project’s direct benefit to producers, particularly small and historically underserved producers.
    2. Approach to reducing transaction costs 
    3. Technical assistance plan 
    4. Producer reach/number of producers targeted to be enrolled 
    5. Consideration of how proposal fits into broad portfolio of funding opportunity (underserved, commodity type, etc.)  

Diversity of applications, including geographic diversity and size and scale of projects, will be considered when making award decisions. The Biden-Harris Administration issued EO 14036 on “Promoting Competition in the American Economy” in July 2021 and is committed to selecting a variety of projects such that this emerging marketplace starts out with robust competition and options for producers. USDA is committed to equity and environmental justice in program delivery and explicitly seeks to ensure that all projects provide direct, meaningful benefits to a representative cross-section of production agriculture, including small and/or historically underserved producers, consistent with Justice40 and other related initiatives.

Q: What are the requirements for Measurement, Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MMRV)?

A: All projects must have a plan for (1) GHG benefit quantification and (2) Monitoring/Verification of those benefits over time.

  • For quantification, we encourage projects to use innovative approaches and technologies. Additionally, to help ensure comparability of project results, funded projects should use COMET-Planner where applicable to determine common estimates of the GHG impacts of activities.
  • For monitoring and verification, USDA is not prescribing methodologies, and is seeking proposals that include innovative, rigorous, and cost-effective approaches.

Q: Does the program focus on greenhouse gas benefits across the supply chain?

A: Projects should primarily focus on verifiable on-farm (or forest) GHG emissions reductions and carbon sequestration benefits. Other GHG benefits associated with processing, transportation, etc., throughout the agriculture and forestry supply chains, while important, are not the primary focus of this funding opportunity.

Q: What are the reporting criteria?

A: Progress reports will be required after the first quarter and at least biannually thereafter on the project, including:

  • Producers and landowners participating, and demonstration of equitable enrollment, including enrollment of underserved and small producers
  • Practices applied
  • Outreach and training
  • Financial assistance for producers/landowners to implement climate-smart practices
  • Greenhouse gas and carbon sequestration benefits accrued and verified and other ancillary environmental benefits associated with the production of climate-smart commodities
  • Marketing and outreach related to climate-smart commodities as a result of project activities including information on impacts related to a variety of farm sizes and types
  • Technical assistance and resources provided, especially to help producers overcome barriers to adopting climate-smart practices
  • Partnerships developed and leveraged including public-private partnerships to foster and develop climate-smart markets
  • Climate-smart commodity supply chain and demand impacts as well as other economic benefits, and
  • Implementation of monitoring, reporting, and verification plans and supply chain traceability systems

Additional reporting and data sharing requirements may apply at time of award. Certain reporting elements will be required to be georeferenced. Financial reporting will also be required consistent with 2 CFR 200. Spot checks may be required upon review of reporting documents or other USDA analyses.

Q: What is the Partnerships Network?

A: A representative from each awarded project must be designated as a member of the “USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Learning Network” (Partnerships Network). Participation involves up to two virtual meetings and two in-person meetings a year during the project duration, subject to change. The Partnerships Network will be co-chaired by the Office of the Chief Economist and Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Mission Area. The Partnerships Network will inform synthesis reports to be assembled by USDA on a range of topics related to the implementation of Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities

Q: How will this program interact with existing private sector initiatives to drive climate-smart commodity production?

A: This program is designed to complement, not compete with, existing private sector initiatives surrounding climate-smart commodity production and the entry of farmers, ranchers, and forest owners into private markets focused on carbon, climate-change mitigation, or the provision of other environmental benefits.

Q: There are already several groups and companies working with farmers to produce more sustainable and climate-friendly products. Won't this program compete with those existing initiatives?

A: USDA recognizes there is already significant and important work happening in climate-smart commodity production, but that there are also gaps that the private market has not yet filled and additional opportunities for growth. This program is designed to build on and scale existing private sector efforts, with a particular focus on producers and operations that may not be a good fit for existing initiatives. However, to the degree that an existing participant/group engaged in private sector efforts regarding climate-smart commodity production meets this program's eligibility requirements, USDA encourages those participants and groups to apply for this opportunity so they can continue their work at a greater scale and with a broader reach among America's farmers, ranchers, and forest owners.

Q: Where should I look for more information or apply?

A: For more information and resources to support your application, visit www.usda.gov/climate-solutions/climate-smart-commodities.