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Frequently Asked Questions 2501 Program

Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program
(The 2501 Program)

Listen to recordings of the latest 2501 grant applicant Q&A teleconferences:

  • 8/6/19 Grant applicant Q&A teleconference recording: 800-475-6701, Access Code: 469846
  • 7/23/19 Grant applicant Q&A teleconference recording: 800-475-6701, Access Code: 469845

ELIGIBILITY QUESTIONS

1. Who is eligible to apply for grants under the 2501 Program?

Higher education institutions, eligible conservation districts, eligible economic development corporations, nonprofit organizations, and non-governmental community-based associations or organizations that provide agricultural education or agriculturally related services to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers in their region are eligible and may apply for a grant under the 2501 Program, as determined in 7 U.S.C. 2279.

Examples of eligible entities that may apply for a 2501 grant are:

  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions, as defined in 7 U.S.C., section 7601
  • 1994 American Indian Tribal Community Colleges
  • Alaska Native Cooperative Colleges
  • Hispanic-serving post-secondary educational institutions
  • Other accredited post-secondary ag-related educational institutions
  • Community-based nonprofit organizations
  • Indian tribes providing agricultural education or other agriculturally related services to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers in their region

2. What groups are defined as socially disadvantaged under the 2501 Program?

The term socially disadvantaged has different definitions depending on the authorizing statute. Under Section 2501 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990 (FACT Act), also known as the 1990 Farm Bill, P.L. 101-624, a socially disadvantaged group is defined as: A farmer or rancher who is a member of one or more of the following groups whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities, 7 U.S.C. § 2279(e). Groups include, but are not limited to, African-Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. The Secretary of Agriculture will determine on a case-by-case basis whether additional groups qualify under this definition, either at the Secretary's initiative or in response to a written request with supporting explanation.

3. Can an individual apply for a grant under the 2501 Program?

No, Please see question # 1.

4. What qualifications/credentials/documentation must eligible entities have to be considered eligible to apply for grants under the 2501 Program?

Applicants must have the financial, legal, administrative, and operational capacity to carry out the objectives of the federal grant. They must have documented experience in providing agriculturally related education, training, or services to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers.

Nonprofit organizations should provide a current 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 certification, Articles of Incorporation dated at least three years prior to application, and must not engage in activities prohibited under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Applicants awaiting certification of nonprofit status by the IRS must submit documentation in their application.

5. Are conservation districts and economic development corporations eligible to apply for a 2501 Grant?

Conservation districts and economic development corporations are eligible to apply if they meet the eligibility criteria identified in the statutory authority stated in the current funding opportunity posted on www.grants.gov (7 U.S.C. 2279). In order to be eligible, conservation districts and economic development corporations must meet community-based organization requirements and be non-governmental in status.

6. Can eligible community-based, nonprofit organizations not affiliated with Indian tribes or located on Indian tribal lands provide services to tribes?

Yes. Eligible community-based organizations may provide services for tribes on Indian tribal lands. Entities working on Indian tribal lands are encouraged to obtain documentation from the tribal leadership of the agreeance to provide services. Additionally, we encourage applicants to work closely with the local USDA Service Center to obtain any existing protocol that may be in place to provide these services on behalf of USDA.

7. Can 2501 grant monies be used by federally recognized Indian tribes to provide farming and ranching assistance to their own members?

Yes. Eligible Indian tribes or groups that are federally recognized may use grant monies to assist members of their own tribe in farming and ranching activities or to assist other farmers and ranchers who are not tribe members.

8. Do organizations need to show three years of working with farmers, ranchers and or veterans?

Yes. All eligible organizations must have at least three years of experience working with socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers or veteran farmers and ranchers. Organizations may either work with or have worked with one or both groups.

GRANT APPLICATION PROCESS QUESTIONS

All applicants that receive 2501 funding should familiarize themselves with the ezFedGrants system,  USDA’s system for managing grants/awards. Learn more at ezFedGrants.

9. Can organizations submit more than one proposal for the current Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA)?

Organizations may submit only one proposal for each Funding Opportunity Announcement. This does not apply to applicants in the state of Massachusetts. The State fiscal transfer agent may submit multiple proposals ensuring that only one proposal is submitted on behalf of each of its individual fiscally sponsored organizations.

10. Can eligible organizations apply for the 2501 grant year after year?

Yes, however, beginning with the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, organizations that have been selected to receive the grant must be in the final year of their existing project, make every effort to complete their current project, expend all funding, and be ready to close their existing grant before being eligible to reapply.

11. Can organizations apply for supplemental funding following each year that they received a grant?

No. Supplemental projects are not being considered at this time. All applications will be considered new projects.

12. Can current recipients on a no-cost extension reapply for additional funding in upcoming grant cycles?

Yes; however, recipients must be in their final year of their existing grant and should make every effort to complete their current projects, expend all funding, and close the existing grant prior to the expiration of the grant.

13. What date should organizations use in their application to indicate when their proposed project will begin?

Applicants should propose that project activities coincide with our federally established fiscal year as close as possible. However, projects should begin prior to September 30. Work cannot begin on any project prior to a fully executed grant agreement between OPPE and the non-federal entity.

14. How are 2501 applications evaluated and how many discretionary points may be given to applicants?

All applications received are reviewed by at least two members of an Independent Review Panel not associated with 2501 staff members within USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE). The panel scores each application and may award a maximum of 100 points of which five (20) points may be awarded as discretionary points for Secretarial initiatives as stated in the Funding Opportunity Announcement.

15. Do organizations need to match federal funding received if selected as a 2501 grant recipient?

Matching funding is not required for the 2501 grant.

GRANT MANAGEMENT QUESTIONS


16. In terms of meeting the requirement to provide agricultural education or agriculturally related services to farmers, ranchers and veterans, what types of education or services are considered acceptable activities?

Instructional and hands-on training on the farm, in classrooms, or in workshops are acceptable forms of activities. Assistance in USDA loan application processes, crop and livestock production, business and market planning, land acquisition or tenure, establishment of local food systems, alternative enterprise opportunities, diversifying operations, and other value-added productions are acceptable forms of activities.

17. Can organizations provide legal assistance or intervention services to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers to enable them to retain their lands?

Yes.

18. Can projects include spending on farm infrastructure (i.e. incubators, buildings, irrigation and farm equipment, etc.) for educational purposes or used for construction costs?

Grant funds are to be used for non-construction costs, as stated in 7 USC 2279(c)(4)(H). Instructional processes, for example, how to build a hoop house, are acceptable. Recipients may have to request guidance on disposition of any type of equipment purchased and used for training purposes at the close of the grant. As expressed in the Cost Principles for Nonprofit Organizations (2 CFR 200.402-408), to be allowable, costs must meet the following general criteria:

Costs must be reasonable:

  • Recognized as ordinary and necessary.
  • Arms-length transactions.
  • Individuals concerned acted with prudence.
  • Not deviating from established practices of the organization.

Costs must be allocated to the grant, project, etc. in accordance with benefits received:

  • Incurred specifically for the award.
  • Benefits both award and other work and can be reasonably distributed in proportion to benefits received.
  • Necessary to overall operation - if no direct relationship to award can be shown.
  • Learn more at the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR).

19. Can organizations include overhead/administrative expenses in their budgets and what is the maximum indirect cost rate?

Yes. OPPE will work with all selected applicants to finalize budgets, statements of work, and project timelines prior to award issuance.

Applicants may charge their negotiated indirect cost rate or 10 percent, whichever is lower. Indirect cost rates exceeding 10 percent will not be permitted.

20. When does an organization have to request an approval from OPPE for a change in their budget?

If the change in budget is less than 10 percent of the award, organizations may proceed with the budget change or transfer of monies from one category to another without prior approval from OPPE. Please be sure to document the transfer and keep in your records. Any changes of greater than 10 percent requires prior approval by OPPE.

21. Are grantees allow to use grant funds to provide land acquisition and operating loans to socially disadvantage or veteran farmers and ranchers?

No. Project activities are limited to those described the program's statute, 7 U.S.C. 2279, and as expounded in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) posted on www.grants.gov .

USDA already offers loan programs for farmers and ranchers. Organizations may provide training and assistance to farmers and ranchers to increase their awareness of USDA loans and programs and assistance in applying.

22. Is there a limit on the number of subawards that may be used to fund partnerships and on the number of contractors or subcontractors?

No more than three (3) subcontracts may be awarded for consultants or procured services. However, subawards are not subject to the same limitation. In either case, OPPE will negotiate final statements of work, timelines, and budgets prior to award issuance to non-federal entities or recipients. At least 50 percent of grant funds must remain with the non-federal entities and cannot be reallocated.

23. Can grantees from different organizations collaborate with and work together on their individual projects?

Yes, but with a qualification. Recipients may partner with subawardees from other organizations already receiving federal funding as long as grant monies are not applied or used for the same single transaction. Organizations/institutions must avoid "double dipping" as USDA cannot and will not pay twice for the same service, activity, personnel expense, etc.

24. Can a network of nonprofit organizations work together on a grant where only one organization in the group has the necessary experience of working with socially disadvantaged or veteran farmers and ranchers for at least a period of three years?

Yes, but the organization with the necessary experience will be considered the lead applicant/organization and will be held responsible for carrying out the provisions of the grant.

25. Concerning subawards and partnerships, is it considered a subaward when grantees render payment to a partner to cover meeting/travel costs or similar expenses, for example when funding individual projects in other locations for training purposes?

Partnering means a joint effort among two or more eligible entities with the capacity to conduct projects intended and designed to accomplish the purpose of the program. Payments to partners for activities conducted under the grant, including meeting expenses, are subawards and grantees will have to limit the number of subawards to three.

Meetings and conferences generally are allowable; travel is conditionally allowable in accordance with your approved statement of work. Recipients must ensure that there is no "double-dipping” or duplication of efforts with grant funds.

26. Can grant monies be used to conduct a needs assessment workshop to determine the specific needs or technical assistance required by socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in a local community?

Yes, the funds can be used for needs assessment workshops.

27. Can grantees use grant monies to reach out across state lines for interstate/regional programming purposes or activities?

Yes; programs and activities benefitting socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers that cross state lines are permissible.

28. Is it true that 2501 grants must be fully executed by September 30 each fiscal year? Will the selections and disbursements happen that fast?

Yes, to both questions. Grant disbursements will occur according to your statement of work. Work can begin immediately after the grant agreement has been executed by OPPE and the recipients.

29. When applying for the grant, please clarify when claims processes end regarding class action lawsuits.

The claims process has ended. This provision will only apply if there are cases requiring public involvement. Historically, there were open lawsuits, so it applied and remains a provision in the event there are additional cases.

30. How are applicants notified if they have been awarded a 2501 grant?

Selected applicants will be notified by email or phone so it is very important that you submit a correct and up-to-date Key Contact Sheet as the Program Manager in your application will be OPPE’s main point of contact. Additionally, notification is not a guarantee of an award. The award is official once the grant agreement has been executed by both USDA and the recipient’s authorized approval official.

31. In utilizing grant funds, is budgeting for travel allowable?

Yes, travel is allowable and must be included in the Budget Narrative part of the application. The per diem rate should follow the rates listed in gsa.gov. Also, grantees may use up to $1,000 in grant funds to travel to an annual meeting hosted by OPPE. The non-federal entity is responsible for any charges exceeding $1,000 for up to (2) key grant managing personnel.

32. If recipients are conducting training, can they charge participants to attend training?

Participants are generally not charged to attend training. However, if charges are imposed, fees collected from participants are considered program income and must be deducted from the cost of training and must be included in your statement of work and reported on your quarterly Federal Financial Reports (SF-425).

33. In budgeting for the proposal, is the leasing of vehicles allowed?

Yes. Please see 2 CFR 200.465.

34. Can organizations buy a refrigerated truck to transport produce?

No, purchases are limited to $5,000. Please see 2 CFR 200.439.

35. Are salaries of employees an approved cost in budgeting for proposals?

Yes, salaries and fringe benefits are approved costs, but keep in mind, if employees work on more than one project or grant, salaries must be allocated proportionally to the time spent on each project.

ADMINISTRATIVE QUESTIONS FOR PROPOSAL SUBMISSIONS


36. Is the timeline for tasks included in the 20-page limit of the Project Narrative?

Map out the timeline for each task to be accomplished during the proposed award period and identify the relationship of each task to a priority area identified as one of the priority areas. This timeline is part of the Project Narrative and the Project Narrative should not exceed the 20-page limit. The timeline can be as simple as a one-page description of scheduled tasks.

37. Is the Budget Narrative counted towards the 20 double-spaced pages?

The Project Summary and Budget Narrative are separate documents. The FOA states:

Attachment 1 is the Project Summary/Narrative which is double-spaced, 12-point font and 20 pages or less. Attachment 2 is the Budget Narrative which should not exceed 2 pages. The budget can be in the form of a table and does not count towards the 2-page limit for the Budget Narrative.

38. Can budget tables and charts in proposals be single spaced and are tables and charts part of the 2-page limit for the Budget Narrative?

Yes, tables and charts may be single spaced. Tables and charts are not a part of the 2-page limit; tables and charts may be submitted in addition to the 2-page Budget Narrative.

39. Are there templates that may be used to complete the Project Summary and the Budget Narrative?

No. These are documents that are created and submitted by the applicant. Please convert your documents into pdf format when submitting them in www.grants.gov.

40. Is there a page limit for appendices which is Attachment 3?

There is no page limit on the number of supporting documents that organizations may submit. However, please keep your application concise and submit only pertinent data.

41. What types of supporting documents should be submitted in Attachment 3 as appendices?

Supporting documentation should include 501(c)(3) or other nonprofit certification from the IRS (if applicable), organizational documents indicating at least 3 years of experience assisting socially disadvantaged and/or veteran farmers and ranchers, letters of support, letters of partnership, resumes of key personnel, and any other supporting documents and certifications.

42. Should organizations submit names of key personnel in their applications?

Providing the correct names and contact information of key personnel is important on both the application and on the required Key Contact Sheet. These are the forms OPPE uses to notify applicants of selection or non-selection and for all future correspondence. PLEASE USE FULL NAMES (FIRST, MIDDLE, AND LAST NAME) ON KEY CONTACT SHEETS TO PREVENT CONFUSION WITH INDIVIDUALS WITH SIMILAR NAMES WHO MAY BE LISTED ON THE DEBARRMENT-SUSPENSION LIST DURING THE VETTING PROCESS.

TROUBLESHOOTING/TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

For organizations experiencing difficulties uploading grant applications on www.grants.gov, please visit www.grants.gov OPPE works closely with www.grants.gov personnel to resolve issues as they occur. However, only www.grants.gov can assist you with technical issues regarding that website.

Visit: www.grants.gov and click the full application package link in the announcement. All attachments can be downloaded under Item 15 of the application (SF-424).

GENERAL QUESTIONS


43. Does USDA or each state/county have data on current populations of socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers presently living and working in each state?

Learn more about these populations at the following links:

  • Visit the 2501 main page for lists of past and present 2501 grantees (link to 2501 main page).
  • USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service, statistics by state
  • USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service, 2017 Census of Agriculture

44. Since the 2501 Program is specifically for organizations, where can individuals find USDA resources and information?

RECENTLY ADDED QUESTIONS

Q. The budget criteria in the Funding Opportunity Announcement mentions that “food for conferences may not exceed $10 per person.” Is that per person, per day?

A. Organizations may spend $10 per person, per meal.

Q. Can an organization provide some stipends for growers while they are in training and can some start-up supplies be provided to them?

A. A stipend can be provided to participants of training programs, conferences, or workshops to cover attendance costs as long as costs are reasonable, allowable, allocable, and necessary. Supplies provided to attendees may be covered as part of the costs of a training program or workshop, provided they are necessary for the conduct of the program. Purchased materials and supplies must be charged at their actual prices, net of applicable credits. See 2 C.F.R. § 200.453.

Q. What is the difference between scholarships and stipends?

A. Scholarships are part of programs of student aid paid to students by Institutions of higher education. 2 C.F.R. § 200.466. Stipends may be paid as part of participant support costs. Participant support costs are direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with conferences, or training projects. 2 C.F.R. § 200.75.

Q. The Funding Opportunity Announcement mentions that indirect costs may not exceed 10%. Is that 10% of total direct costs (TDC) or 10% of modified total direct costs (MTDC)?

A. 10% of total direct cost.

Q. Is capacity building allowable under the 2501 Program?

A. No, the types of activities allowable under the 2501 Program include outreach initiatives, training, and education.

Q. If a contractor receiving a 1099 serves in a nonprofit organization, how is that indicated in the budget cost categories on the application?

A. A contractor would be listed under contractual costs whereas an employee would be listed under personnel costs. Costs of professional and consultant services may be charged in accordance with the provisions of 2 C.F.R. § 200.459.

Q. Are fish farms considered agriculture and can nonprofit organizations/operators of fish farms apply for the 2501 grant to conduct training and workshops for socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers interested in aquaponics farming?

A. Yes, raising fish on an aquaponics farm is considered agricultural in nature and nonprofit instructional organizations may apply for the 2501 grant to assist socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers interested in this type of farming; however, fishing in open seas is not considered farming.

Q. If an organization is not a traditional 501(c)(3) organization through the IRS, then in which of the three categories would it compete for the 2501 grant?

A. Nonprofit organizations that have not received 501(c)(3) status certification from IRS would compete as applicants in Category 3, provided the applicant is a community-based organization that does not engage in activities prohibited under section 501(c)(3) of Title 26. See 7 U.S.C. § 2279(c)(1)(A)(iii). 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations would compete as applicants in Category 2.

Q. In which of the three categories would 1862 Colleges compete as applicants to the 2501 Program?

A. 1862 Colleges would complete in Category 3 as applicants to the 2501 Program.

Q. Is the purchasing of livestock allowable under the 2501 program?

A. Purchasing livestock is generally not allowable under the 2501 program unless used for demonstration purposes. Expenses for demonstration livestock cannot exceed $4,000.

Q. The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) requires that applicants show "documentary evidence" of work with socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers during the 3-year period preceding submission of their proposal. Please provide examples of documentary evidence.

A. Documentary evidence examples may include:

  • Dated Articles of Incorporation showing the purpose for which an organization is organized
  • Dated Business Plan (condensed version)
  • Dated Letters of Intent and Partnership Agreements
  • Dated Grant awarding documents from state or federal agencies
  • Organizational Historical Documents or Performance Records
  • Brochures stating organizational Mission, Vision, and Value Statements in combination with organizational documents.
  • Curricula used in the past

Q. In terms of outcomes, how do organizations measure how receptive farmers and ranchers are to the information or guidance provided to them?

A. Some examples of measurement tools that organizations may utilize are: customer satisfaction surveys; face-to-face feedback sessions or questionnaires to determine effectiveness of training materials and whether farmers will recommend your organization to others; monitoring effectiveness of curricula through phone, email, or chat communications; using benchmarks and tracking models to determine if farmers are applying for more USDA programs; increases in workshop attendance as shown on workshop sign-in sheets; and repeat or return farmers interested in seeking additional classroom or hands-on training from experts.