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Home > Grants, Loans & Financing > Grant Opportunities > Specialty Crop Grants > Frequently Asked Questions

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Frequently Asked Questions

Q: MDA Funding Priorities - a list of topics is provided at the top of page 4. Can I assume that these funding priority topics are of equal importance or does the order in which they appear in the list indicate their relative priority?

A. The funding priorities are of equal importance, the order in which they appear does not matter.  Note that per the evaluation criteria listed on page 16 of the Request for Proposals (RFP)/Grant Manual, points will be awarded to projects that address any/all of the funding priorities.

Q: Eligibility - the description here seems rather oriented around universities and nonprofit organizations.  I am a private researcher and entrepreneur organized as a sole proprietorship.  Does that put me at a disadvantage?

A. Per the Evaluation Criteria, no extra points are awarded based on the applicant’s organization status, but note that on page 4 of the RFP/Grant Manual it states, “Projects proposed by individual producers, for-profit businesses, or commercial entities are only eligible only if they demonstrate a significant benefit to the specialty crop industry (or a segment of the industry). Each project must include a plan to share results with a wider audience of beneficiaries.”

Q: Intellectual Property - I didn't see any discussion about intellectual property.  If I developed some intellectual property under an SCBG project, do I own the rights to that property?

A. If awarded, an entity will enter into a Grant Agreement with the MDA, which contains an Intellectual Property Clause that contains the following language, indicating that the rights are jointly owned between the MDA and the Grantee:

"Intellectual Property Rights

(a) Intellectual Property Rights: All rights, title, and interest in all of the intellectual property rights, including copyrights, patents, trade secrets, trademarks, and service marks in the works and documents, shall be jointly owned by the Grantee and the State. “Works” shall mean all inventions, improvements, discoveries (whether or not patentable), databases, computer programs, reports, notes, studies, photographs, negatives, designs, drawings, specifications, materials, tapes, and disks conceived, reduced to practice, created or originated by the Grantee, its employees, agents, and subcontractors, either individually or jointly with others in the performance of this Contract. “Documents” are the originals of any databases, computer programs, reports, notes, studies, photographs, negatives, designs, drawings, specifications, materials, tapes, disks, or other materials, whether intangible or electronic forms, prepared by the Grantee, its employees, agents, or subcontractors, in the performance of this Contract. The ownership interests of the State and the Grantee in the Works and Documents shall equal the ratio of each party’s contributions to the total costs described in the Budget of this Contract, except that the State’s ownership interest in the Works and Documents shall not be less than fifty percent (50%). The party’s ownership interest in the Works and Documents shall not be reduced by any royalties or revenues received from the sale of the products or licensing or other activities arising from the use of the Works and Documents. Each party hereto shall, at the request of the other, execute all papers and perform all other acts necessary to transfer or record the appropriate ownership interests in the Works and Documents.

(b) Obligations.

(1) Notification. Whenever any invention, improvement or discovery (whether or not patentable) is made or conceived for the first time or actually or constructively reduced to practice by the Grantee, including its employees and contractors, in the performance of this Contract, the Grantee shall immediately give the State’s Authorized Representative written notice thereof, and shall promptly furnish the Authorized Representative with complete information and/or disclosure thereon. All decisions regarding the filing of patent, copyright, trademark or service mark applications and/or registrations shall be the joint decision of the Grantee and the State, and costs for such applications shall be divided as agreed by the parties at the time of the filing decisions. In the event the parties cannot agree on said filing decisions, the filing decision will be made by the State.

(2) Representation: The Grantee shall perform all acts, and take all steps necessary to ensure that all intellectual property rights in the Works and Documents are the sole property of the State, and that no Grantee employee, agent, or contractor retains any interest in and to the Works and Documents. The Grantee represents and warrants that the Works and Documents do not and shall not infringe upon any intellectual property rights of others. The Grantee shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the State, at the Grantee’s expense, from any action or claim brought against the State to the extent that it is based on a claim that all or part of the Works or Documents infringe upon the intellectual property rights of others. The Grantee shall be responsible for payment of any and all such claims, demands, obligations, liabilities, costs, and damages including, but not limited to, attorney fees. If such a claim or action arises, or in the Grantee’s or the State’s opinion is likely to arise, the Grantee shall, at the State’s discretion, either procure for the State the right or license to use the intellectual property rights at issue or to replace or modify the allegedly infringing Works or Documents as necessary and appropriate to obviate the claim. This remedy of the State shall be in addition to and not exclusive of other remedies provided by law.

(c) Uses of the Works and Documents. The State and Grantee shall jointly have the right to make, have made reproduce, modify, distribute, perform, and otherwise use the Works, including Documents produced under this Contract, for noncommercial research, scholarly work, government purposes, and other noncommercial purposes without payment or accounting to the other party. No commercial development, manufacture, marketing, reproduction, distribution, sales or licensing of the Works, including Documents, shall be authorized without a future written contractual agreement between the parties.

(d) Possession of the Documents. The Documents may remain in the possession of the Grantee. The State may inspect any of the Documents at any reasonable time. The Grantee shall provide a copy of the Documents to the State without cost upon the request of the State.

(e) Suitability. The rights and duties of the State and the Grantee, provided for above, shall survive the expiration or cancellation of this Contract.”

Q. Intellectual Property (IP) disclosed - If I have to disclose some IP in the proposal to document my plan or approach, how would I protect it as proprietary? Would I mark that part of the proposal as Proprietary?

A. Refer to Paragraph L of the RFP/Grant Manual which deals with Open Records including any confidential, trade secret, or not for public disclosure information.

Q. What are the word limits for each section?

A. Our online application portal uses character, not word limits. We estimate 3,000 characters is equal to a page. The character limits are listed below the text box of each narrative in the online application.

Q. I was wondering if I could get a summary of previously funded specialty crop programs or any examples of programs that have been approved in the past.

A.  Here are some examples of previously funded projects:

  • Minnesota Food Association to increase the marketability of traditional Asian, African, and Latino crops by developing, evaluating, and eventually providing training on techniques to improve the efficiency of these crops.
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to increase the local sale of Minnesota grown specialty crops in the child care marketplace through technical assistance and outreach to Minnesota’s 33-county level Head Start programs, including coordination with farmers, distribution and processing partners, and Head Start staff.
  • Minnesota Grape Growers Association to provide growers of cold hardy grapes information, techniques and best viticultural practices and methods of growing highest quality, cold hardy grapes for maximum economic gain and personal satisfaction by developing a publication and accompanying videos.
  • North Dakota State University to reduce lost profits and wasted food through the identification of blemish problems commonly found in tuber potatoes and develop agronomic practices.
  • Cooperative Development Services to increase specialty crop farmer knowledge of financial metrics pertinent to various food hub models by obtaining regional specialty crop-based food hub metrics, assessing the desires of Minnesota based specialty crop participants, developing proforma templates for several types and scales of businesses, and disseminating the findings to specialty crop producers via web access and group seminars.
  • Minnesota Grown Promotion Group, Inc. to increase sales of Minnesota specialty crops by promoting and improving the printed and online versions of the Minnesota Grown Directory; creating innovative new promotional materials for wineries, vegetable growers and nurseries/garden centers; and creating a public television feature program highlighting specialty crops.
  • Sweetland Orchard, LLC to increase understanding of the market demands for cider varieties by measuring the state of Minnesota’s hard cider industry through annual surveys of the state’s hard cider producers and sharing results with the Minnesota Farm Winery Association, the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, and the Minnesota Apple Growers Association.
  • University of Minnesota to improve producers’ knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and food safety practices by providing technical assistance, education and tools necessary to support increased adoption of GAPs by specialty crop growers, including Hmong growers.

Q: Intellectual Property - Can you please interpret this portion of the Intellectual Property Section? Does that mean that I am free to collect royalties from the product or that the royalties must be shared with the government?

"...The party’s ownership interest in the Works and Documents shall not be reduced by any royalties or revenues received from the sale of the products or licensing or other activities arising from the use of the Works and Documents."

A. Referring to (a) of the Intellectual Property Rights, any interest in IP rights is jointly (50/50) owned by the Grantee and the State. The sentence that precedes this one includes the language “State’s ownership interest in the Works and Documents shall not be less than fifty percent (50%).” What this language indicates is that the State’s 50% interest cannot be reduced by royalties or revenues, therefore you could collect revenues or royalties so long as it doesn’t reduce the State’s ownership interest.

Q: Our idea is to research using innovative LED lighting indoors to provide a cost effective way to provide micro-greens year-round in cold climates. We would like to market micro-greens as a superior, nutrient-dense snack food, particularly to youth. We would utilize paid youth through the Science Museum to help accomplish our goals. Would this idea be something fundable though this grant program?

A. Yes, as long as the project demonstrated how it benefitted and enhanced the competitiveness of the crop.

Q: Can you tell me if a specialty crop block grant that involves a processing facility in Wisconsin which benefits Minnesota hazelnut farmers would be eligible? Or would all of the project participants have to be Minnesota entities and/or farmers?

A. Yes, as long as the project is involving and enhancing the competitiveness of a Minnesota Specialty Crop, then the Grantee doesn’t have to be a Minnesota entity. For example, the MDA has previously funded research projects with North Dakota State University involving Minnesota potatoes.

Q: In the External Project Support Purpose section of the application questions we are asked to attach letters of support. Do you have a sense about the importance of a letter from a large group of growers compared to a letter from individual growers?

A. #3 of the Evaluation Criteria that’s listed on page 13 of the Minnesota Specialty Crop Block Grant RFP & Grant Manual includes scoring for industry support by external stakeholders, so who and how many people the proposed project is benefitting/impacting is taken into consideration when the proposals are evaluated and scored.

Q: If more than one measurable outcome is applicable, should we discuss all of them? Or should we pick one measurable outcome and stick to the indicator we choose from THAT outcome?

A. There is only a minimum of one, but any and all applicable outcomes can be included in your proposal. If an outcome is used, the indicators/sub-indicators listed within that outcome must also be used.

Q: If we choose to develop a project-specific indicator(s) how do we get approval by USDA, and does that approval need to come before we submit the proposal?

A. The Project-Specific indicator is submitted with the State Plan when MDA submits our application to USDA’s Request for Applications in early July. The approval then would come when the USDA accepts our State Plan.

Note: In all communications with USDA, they have stressed the importance of really making an effort to make your outcomes fit within the established ones listed in the RFP.

Q: Project Beneficiaries - Is just a 2 word descriptor preferred as suggested in the RFP, or a full description of the beneficiaries?

A. Just the 2 word descriptor is required.

Q: External Project Support - Project Commitment. If stakeholders not directly involved in the project are submitting letters of support, should they also be described here?

A. Yes.

Q: Expected Measurable Outcomes - I see this is a new format. Is it preferred that we use the exact wording that is presented in the RFP?

A. Yes.

Q: We have a couple helpful figures/tables in our Project Purpose section. Can we upload those under the work plan section and provide references to them in the text of the Project Purpose?

A. Yes, the whole application and all uploaded documents are compiled prior to evaluation and scoring.

Q: Do we include spaces in our character count?

A. Yes.

Q: Do you have any updates on requirements or changes to the grant application?

On March 2, 2016, MDA participated in a conference call with USDA-AMS regarding grants and requirements. Some key highlights that applicants should be aware of:

  • In the Project Purpose Section:
    • A listing of objectives is required. Objectives are to align with the purpose of the project. They are not measurable in nature (these are done in the Expected Measurable Outcomes).
    • This section is being used to lay the foundation for the proposed project.
  • The External Project Support section replaces the section formerly known as Project Commitment.
  • Expected Measurable Outcomes
    • Although only one is required, projects can have more than one Outcome.
    • In the Annual Report, the Grantee will report on the progress of the Outcome(s) for their project.
    • In the Final Report, the Grantee will report on the fulfillment of the Outcome(s).

I am planning on submitting a grant this year to MDA. I am collaborating with a researcher in another state. How should I address this in my budget request?

If you are working together on a project, submit all the details within your budget to the state where most of the work will be done. If you are each going to be completing work across state lines that impacts both states and are asking for more than the maximum allowed for by the USDA, then apply within each state for the work proposed for each state and detail that within your budget narrative.

I am looking through the SCBG RFP. I don't see any mention of the workplan under the application instructions this time. Can you please tell me whether or not the workplan is part of the proposal this time around?

This year the work plan is built into the budget narratives for the Personnel and the Contractors/consultants.

  • For 2nd part of Personnel: For each individual listed in 1st part, describe the activities to be completed by name/title, including approximately when the activities will occur.
  • 2nd bullet under Contractual Justification & Work Plan: For each of your real or anticipated contractors listed above, provide a description of the project activities each will accomplish to meet the objectives and outcomes of the project. Include timelines for each activity.

On page 11 of the RFP under 'External Project Support' the second clear bullet down says 'describe the specialty crop stakeholders who support the project.' Should this be a description of people who are submitting letters of support? Or a general description of why certain specialty crop farmers would support our proposed project?

I think the USDA is looking for descriptions of all levels of support that your proposed project has from SC stakeholders. I would describe the producers and producer organizations that will benefit from this project or support this project and why each support it. If some producers or people that represent producer organizations have expressed (verbal or written) some level of support to your or someone in your group, I would describe those specifics in this question of this application.

The letters of support are requested for the reviewers of this MDA competitive application to gauge stakeholder support when evaluating your application. The MDA is not requiring letters from any stakeholders to be submitted with your application, but including one or more may strengthen your proposal. If your SC grant proposal is accepted by the MDA for inclusion as a project in the MDA’s SCBG application to the USDA, the Stakeholder support letters will not be included or attached to the MDA’s application.

On page 3 of the RFP it says, "we will award grants ... for projects that can last up to two years and four months." Also on this page it states that the work can start as of 11-1-18 and the latest project end date is 3-31-21, which is a two year 5 month period. Which one is correct?

The latest end date will be 3/31/21. So, if the contract does start on 11/1/18, it would be two years and five months.

I have a question regarding the financial review process, page 9 section R of 2018 RFP. My business is a for-profit business (I do want to note that I have letters of support provided by all relevant industry organizations, though). Is there some other documentation MDA would be looking for in lieu of a financial review process?

The State of Minnesota does not require financial documentation to be submitted by a for-profit business as their requirement for our financial review process. If approved by the MDA, we may request a recent balance sheet as part of our financial review process of for-profit businesses. Make sure to obtain a DUNS number and have registered with the System for Award Management (keep the e-mail confirmation) as described on page 5 of the RFP.

I see that indirect costs are ineligible for the grant. So does that mean that no administrative efforts can be covered? Or if we can estimate the number of hours it will take to do admin and reporting for this grant only, can we include that in the personnel section?

That is correct; all costs paid by the MDA for specialty crop grant project work needs to be direct costs and be able to be supported by your organization’s written procedures. I have seen direct costs for staff time spent doing financial work and report preparation approved and paid with SCBG funds before. Labor costs must be based upon salaries actually earned from time actually worked on the awarded project and backed by documentation; so you would need to estimate this amount of time in the budget of the application.

Because we are located in Minneapolis, some of our collaborators are in WI. Is it ok to work with out of state entities, and even to host one of our events in WI if it will still benefit MN specialty crop producers?

Yes, it is ok to work with out of state entities as long as they are working on the approved project and MN specialty crop producers will benefit from the activities.

We are an AZ-based company currently doing a project with SCBGP funding here. We are considering doing similar projects in other states as well. Are out-of-state companies eligible to apply for funding to do MN-based projects through your SCBGP funds? We would like to make recipe videos to promote MN-grown specialty crops made in recipes from local restaurants to help promote the locally grown specialty crops.

We do accept applications from organizations outside of Minnesota. The overall goal of this grant program is to improve the competitiveness of Minnesota’s specialty crops through research, education or market development projects. Your project may be eligible because your marketing project appears to promote specialty crops grown in Minnesota.


As we receive additional questions about this opportunity, we will post the questions and their answers on this Q&A page.

MDA Contact

Ann Kuzj, Grants Specialist

Ag Marketing & Development Division