Here are some common questions about the Resilient Food System Infrastructure (RFSI) Grant.

General program

We aren’t offering a simplified Equipment-Only Grant application at this time. The current round of funding, which opened in January 2024, is only for Infrastructure Grant projects between $100,000 and $3 million. If enough funding is available after the end of this round, we will do a separate Equipment-Only Grant round in early 2025. In the Equipment-Only round, grant awards will be capped at $100,000 with the same matching requirements as this round of Infrastructure Grants.

The RFSI program is funded by one-time federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). If funds remain after the 2024 Infrastructure Grants round, it’s possible that we may run a separate Equipment-Only Grant round in early 2025 (see above). Aside from that, this is one-time grant program that will not be offered again.

USDA has provided a list of definitions for this program within Section 9.1 of the RFSI Program Scope and Requirements (below).

Yes. We recorded the February 28 webinar and it’s available to view on YouTube. There’s also a transcript (PDF) of the webinar.

Organizational eligibility

Yes, new businesses and organizations are eligible to apply. You must be incorporated as an entity and registered with the Minnesota Secretary of State (when required for your entity type), although you do not need to be fully operational. You must be far enough into the development of your start-up business to be able to clearly describe your business readiness, financial viability, goals for the project, and how your project meets the grant’s goals. Additionally, you must have the internal capacity to be able to effectively manage federal grant funds and reporting requirements.

Yes, joint applications are allowed. If you are submitting a joint application, one organization must be selected as the main applicant. This organization will have the grant contract agreement with the MDA and be responsible for completing and reporting on the project. This organization will receive a 1099 form from the State of Minnesota for income tax purposes. The main applicant, not a partner/collaborator on the project, must also qualify for reduced match in order to claim reduced match.

Your project could fund equipment/infrastructure at more than one location. However, each grant may only fund one “project,” so there must be a clear connection between the equipment/infrastructure requested for the various locations. A project is a set of interrelated tasks with a cohesive, distinct, specified, and defined goal. The overarching goal that the primary applicant wants to accomplish must involve all the organizations involved in the application.

Further guidance on collaborative projects is provided on page five of the RFP.

In most cases, farmers’ markets are not eligible applicants because their activities and services typically focus on providing food directly to consumers and occur at the end of the food supply chain rather than the middle. A farmers’ market could only be eligible if the proposed scope for the project was different from their typical services (e.g., a weekly market), and the project solely focused on middle-of-the-food-supply-chain activities. An example of an eligible project from a farmers’ market would be a group of producers working together and operating under the umbrella of the local farmers’ market to create new market opportunities for themselves by building a new shared processing facility to process their produce.

In most cases, food banks, pantries, or shelves are not eligible applicants because their activities and services typically focus on providing food directly to consumers and occur at the end of the food supply chain rather than the middle. A food bank could only be eligible if the proposed scope for the project was different from their typical services (e.g., providing food directly to consumers), and the project solely focused on middle-of-the-food-supply-chain activities. An example of an eligible project from a food bank would be operating an aggregation site that brings together producers to aggregate their crops that would then be packaged and distributed to a network of food pantries.

In most cases, grocery stores, food cooperatives, restaurants, or other food businesses primarily focused on retail are not eligible because their activities and services focus on providing food directly to consumers and occur at the end of the food supply chain rather than the middle. The eligibility of projects proposed by these types of applicants would depend on the nature of the product being produced. A project focused on creating products or consumer packaged goods intended for later consumption could be eligible. A project focused on products, even packaged goods, intended for immediate consumption would not be eligible.

For example, a grocery cooperative could apply for a project to develop a commercial kitchen to lightly process local vegetables into a frozen, bagged product, but could not apply for a commercial kitchen to process local vegetables into items for the deli or hot bar. If the commercial kitchen would serve both functions, the applicant may only apply for the relevant portion of the funds for the kitchen based on the percentage of time the kitchen would be used for processing and other-middle-of-the-supply-chain activities and not for the percentage of time for preparation of food intended for immediate consumption and other end-of-the-supply-chain activities.

Another example: A restaurant could apply for a project to enter a new market by processing local tomatoes into a bottled shelf-stable ketchup product to be distributed to retail and wholesale markets, but not to process local tomatoes into ketchup to serve in their restaurant.

Breweries and wineries are eligible to apply so long as they meet the other applicant and project eligibility requirements.

Yes, it is allowable to apply using a fiscal sponsor, so long as both you and the fiscal sponsor are eligible to apply. The fiscal sponsor, rather than the sponsored organization or project, is the applicant. This means the fiscal sponsor will be responsible for entering into a grant contract agreement with the MDA and must ensure all project activities and costs, including activities and costs of the sponsored organization, comply with applicable state and federal rules and regulations.

As the applicant, the fiscal sponsor — not the sponsored organization or project — will also be the organization that determines your eligibility to claim the 25% reduced match. Proposals that involve a fiscal sponsorship must clearly disclose the arrangement and all parties that are involved within the application. Additionally, any fees charged for fiscal sponsorship are not allowed to be charged as a direct cost to the grant, but fiscal sponsorship fees may be allowable as part of your indirect costs so long as they are charged consistently with the sponsor organization’s established policies.

No, your project must be based in Minnesota to be eligible for Minnesota RFSI grant funds. But other states are also running their own RFSI grant programs. You can check which other states are currently accepting grant applications and if you’d be eligible to apply to their grant program on the USDA’s State Infrastructure Grants website.

Project and cost eligibility

USDA, which funds this program, breaks the food supply chain into four stages:

  1. Production
  2. Processing
  3. Aggregation/distribution
  4. Markets/consumers

For the purposes of the RFSI program, “middle-of-the-supply-chain” refers to the middle stages:

  1. Processing
  2. Aggregation/distribution

RFSI Infrastructure Grants will fund projects that expand capacity and infrastructure for the “aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling, or distribution of targeted agricultural products.” You can see more examples of eligible activities on page 6 of the RFP.

Any activities related to food supply chain stages: 1) production, and 4) markets/consumers, are not eligible under the RFSI program.

For example, agricultural production equipment (e.g., tractors, harvesting equipment, and facilities for livestock production) is not eligible because it falls into the beginning “production” stage of the food supply chain.

Direct-to-consumer marketing costs and retail displays are examples of costs that would not be eligible because they fall into the final “markets/consumers” stage of the food supply chain.

It is important to carefully review the full RFP to understand what kinds of projects and costs are eligible and which are not. A list of ineligible expenses can be found on page eight of the RFP. Some common reasons why a cost would not be allowed include:

  • The cost is not part of the middle of the supply chain (e.g., it’s a cost for production, harvesting, marketing, retail, or serving food directly to consumers).
  • The cost is related to ineligible agricultural products such as meat, poultry, animal feed, or cannabis.
  • The cost is for purchasing land or an existing facility.

Note: You also cannot use ineligible costs as match to your project.

You may apply for the grant to fund the next steps of a project that you already have underway, but any expenses incurred before a grant contract has been signed by all parties are not eligible for reimbursement. They are also not able to be used as your matching contribution.

Note: You cannot apply for a grant for project expenses that have been or will be reimbursed under any federal, state, or local government funding. However, RFSI funds may be used to build on the successes of prior funding to fund subsequent activities or a new phase of your project.

There is no specific definition of specialty crops and grains for the RFSI program. Crops and agricultural products are eligible for RFSI grants if they:

  1. Are intended for human consumption.
  2. Are not meat or poultry.
  3.  Are not federally controlled as illegal drugs (e.g., cannabis).

To be eligible for RFSI, your project must be focused on food intended for human consumption. Food ingredients that can be used for applications besides food are eligible, but you must describe in your proposal how the project will focus on food meant for human consumption, rather than the other applications of the ingredient.

The purpose of the RFSI grant program is to invest in infrastructure for aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling, and distribution of "locally and regionally produced food."

Your project should be primarily focused on activities involving locally and regionally produced food and activities that will benefit local and regional producers. It is acceptable for projects to include some products or ingredients that are not locally or regionally produced, as long as you can demonstrate the use of other local or regional products and the benefit to local and regional producers.

For example, a value-added hummus product that mostly uses Minnesota-grown chickpeas, but also includes some non-local ingredients such as tahini and olive oil, would be an acceptable product under the RFSI program.

Products are not required to be grown in Minnesota to be eligible. However, projects will be scored based on their potential impact on Minnesota agriculture and will receive additional priority if they involve Minnesota-produced dairy, annual/perennial grains, fruits/vegetables, dry beans, or aquaculture.

There is no specific definition of local or regional foods or producers provided for the RFSI program, but USDA Agricultural Marketing Services talks about local food as a “food product that is raised, produced, aggregated, stored, processed, and distributed in the locality or region in which the final product is marketed.” Some other USDA programs use a definition of less than 400 miles from the origin of the product or within the state in which the product is produced, but these definitions haven’t been applied to the RFSI program.

Because no specific definition was provided, there are no specific sourcing requirements for RFSI and the eligibility of the food products you use in your project will not be determined based on where they are sourced from. However, your application will be scored based on how well it addresses the goals of the RFSI program, which include expanding capacity in the middle of the food supply chain for “Minnesota food products and producers.” Because RFSI focuses on both local and regional foods, reviewers may take into consideration the regionality of products sourced from nearby states, but priority points are specifically available to products involving Minnesota-produced dairy, annual/perennial grains, fruits/vegetables, dry beans, or aquaculture.

In the application, you will be asked to explain how your project will impact Minnesota agricultural products and to list your current or anticipated sources of Minnesota agricultural products and the estimated amounts you will use per year during your project. You are not required to submit any type of documentation with your application to demonstrate your use of local or regional foods. You may opt to provide letter(s) of support from farmers or vendors of the food products you use to help demonstrate project impact, but it is not required.

Your project should be primarily focused on foods that are eligible for the RFSI program. It is acceptable for projects to include some products or ingredients that are not eligible, as long the primary ingredients are eligible.

For example, a value-added cheese product that includes a small amount of bacon as flavoring would be an acceptable product under the RFSI program, but you may only request funds for the activities and expenses relevant and proportional to cheese production and not for bacon processing.

Your project should be primarily focused on foods that are eligible for the RFSI program. It is acceptable for applicants and projects to handle ineligible meat and poultry products, as long the primary focus of the project is eligible products and you do not request funding for the ineligible products. In your application, you should describe the tracking mechanisms that will be used to ensure that RFSI funds are not used to support ineligible products.

For example, if a food hub moves 80% produce and 20% meat, the food hub may request funds for the activities and expenses relevant and proportional to handling produce (80%) but not for handling meat (20%).

It is acceptable if your organization or overall project includes activities or products that are not eligible for RFSI. However, you can only request funds to support eligible activities or products. You should describe in your application how you will ensure that RFSI funds will focus on eligible activities or products.

USDA defines aquaculture as the production of aquatic organisms under controlled conditions throughout part or all their lifecycle — this does not include wild-caught seafood or fish. Equipment and infrastructure for the processing, aggregation, or distribution of aquaculture as an agricultural product are eligible.

The production of fish, shrimp, shellfish, or other aquatic life — including in fish hatcheries — or the marketing of fish and other aquaculture products aren’t eligible because these activities fall outside the “middle of the supply chain."

Yes. Honey, eggs, and dairy are allowable animal products for the RFSI program. However, the cultivation/extraction of honey is considered harvesting, and is not eligible for grant funding.

Bottling and further processing of honey (such as creaming or creating a value-added product) would be considered eligible middle-of-the-supply chain activities. In the case that the proposed facility serves both harvesting and processing functions, the applicant may only apply for funds for the portion of the facility and equipment used for the middle-of-the-supply-chain activities.

The location of your project does not determine your eligibility. On-farm projects are eligible for RFSI funding as long as they focus on eligible middle-of-the-supply-chain activities and not production or harvest.

For example, the purchase of an irrigation system for a vegetable farm would not be eligible, because it is infrastructure used for the production stage of the food supply chain. The construction of an on-farm processing facility or commercial kitchen to produce a value-added vegetable product would be eligible.

On-farm storage facilities or equipment used only to benefit a single producer would not be eligible for RFSI funding because this is considered part of the production and harvesting stage of the food supply chain. However, in some cases, on-farm storage may be eligible as a middle-of-the-food-supply-chain activity if the on-farm storage facility/equipment is used to aggregate products for multiple producers or store products that have undergone further processing.

No. Plants and products for human consumption that are federally controlled as illegal drugs (e.g., cannabis) are ineligible for this program. This includes THC and CBD derived from hemp, as these extracts are not considered food products. Food products produced from hemp, such as hemp hearts or hemp protein powder, are allowable.

No, the purchase of buildings, facilities, or land is not an allowable cost for the RFSI grant.

Yes, RFSI funds may be used for construction of a new facility or construction costs involving an existing facility (e.g., expansion, upgrades, additions). We encourage you to review Section 8.0 of the USDA General Terms and Conditions (below) and the RFSI Program Specific Terms and Conditions (below) when determining if a specific cost may or may not be eligible.

Yes, construction costs may also include “soft costs” or pre-build costs tied to construction. These could include administrative or legal expenses, relocation expenses, architectural and engineering fees, or project inspection fees, as long as they occur after your grant contract agreement has been executed.

No, according to Section 8.0 of the USDA AMS General Terms and Conditions (below), contingency costs are not an allowable cost.

No, utility costs are not allowable as direct costs. However, these could potentially be covered by including an indirect cost rate in your budget.

“Developing, customizing, or installing climate-smart equipment that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, increases efficiency in water use, improves air and/or water quality, and/or meets one of the USDA’s climate action goals” is listed as one of the eligible project examples in the RFSI Program Scope and Requirements (below). Installations of solar panels and equipment, along with other costs or activities related to mitigating and adapting to climate change, are allowable as part of your grant budget.

Yes, you can include the costs for wells, water treatment, or wastewater management infrastructure in your grant budget, as long as these items are connected and necessary to your eligible middle-of-the-supply-chain project.

Yes, used equipment is an eligible expense. Keep in mind that if you don't identify vendors in your application, even for used equipment, purchases may be subject to the state’s bidding requirements. Reimbursement for used equipment also requires the same proof of purchase and proof of payment documentation as new equipment, so make sure the seller provides adequate documentation at the time of sale and payment.

Yes, grant funds can be used to repair equipment as long as the repairs are directly connected and necessary to your project and not general operational costs. If the repair work will be performed by you or employees, the cost should be included in your personnel budget. If the repair work will be performed by a contracted third-party, the cost should be included in your contractual budget.

Yes, grant funds can be used to pay for deep professional cleaning as long as this work is tied directly to your project (e.g., in preparation for the installation of new equipment or as part of a goal to bring a facility to up to a higher level of food safety). Costs for professional cleaning work performed by a contracted third-party should be included in your contractual budget.

No, your travel budget is only intended to cover costs for project-related travel, except that of contractual personnel. Project-related travel costs can include costs such as mileage or per diem to attend trainings or conferences related to your project or for you to drive to pick up equipment you are buying for your project. Travel costs cannot include general operational costs, such as mileage for delivery routes.

Special purpose vehicles necessary to the scope of work for your project, such as delivery vehicles or refrigerated trucks, are allowable as an equipment item under RFSI. However, the purchase of a general-use vehicle is not allowable. There is more information on what is considered special purpose equipment on page 33 of the RFP.

Yes, costs you pay to rent land and buildings are allowable grant costs if they are directly connected to and necessary to your project (i.e., not a general operational cost). However, lease agreements to own (e.g., lease-to-own or rent-to-own) are not allowable.

Yes, it is allowable to make improvements or install equipment in a rented space or facility or repair equipment that is rented or part of a rented space (i.e., owned by your landlord). However, you must provide an Evidence of Critical Resources and Infrastructure letter from your landlord stating that you are allowed to make the proposed changes to the space. A downloadable template for this letter can be found on the main RFSI web page.

The cost for insurance that is directly connected and necessary to your project (i.e., not a general operational cost) can be included in your grant budget under the “other costs” category.

Yes, if the business owner is one of the personnel of the business and is working on the project, you may request grant funds in your personnel budget to pay them at their normal and reasonable rate for their time working on the project. Likewise, cash funds provided by the applicant that are used to pay the business owner at their normal and reasonable rate for time working on your project or the in-kind contribution of their time valued at this rate can also be used as match to your project.

Yes, grant funds can be used to pay personnel from your organization for working on the project, or those labor costs could be used as a matching contribution to the project.

However, any labor costs must be directly connected and necessary to your project (i.e., not a general operational cost). In most cases, the ongoing, day-to-day cost of personnel doing their regular jobs would be considered a general operational cost and not a project cost.

In the Budget Justification section of the application, you must include the following information for all personnel involved in your project: name (if available at the time you submit your application), position title, their role and the activities they will complete in the project, and the timeframe to complete those activities.

RFSI grants will fund projects that expand capacity and infrastructure in the middle of the supply chain. If your food rescue project focuses primarily on aggregation and distribution activities, and not on producing and harvesting food (beginning of the supply chain) or providing food or meal directly to the end consumers (end of the supply chain), you are eligible to apply.

Typically, per Section 8.0 of the USDA AMS General Terms and Conditions (below), software purchases are not allowable. However, the RFSI Program Scope and Requirements (below) does allow for the funding of projects aimed at modernizing via information technology systems. Specifically, for RFSI, software purchases that align with the intent of the grant are allowable.

RFSI grants will fund projects that expand capacity and infrastructure in the middle of the supply chain, specifically for the aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling, or distribution of targeted agricultural products. Software or data supporting agricultural production (e.g., production planning) or direct-to-consumer sales (e.g., farmers' markets) does not align with the allowable RFSI middle-of-the-supply-chain activities; however, connecting producers to buyers or new market opportunities would align. If a project focused on data or software will include purposes outside of the middle of the food supply chain or products not eligible for RFSI (e.g., meat or poultry), you may only request funds for the portion of the project that will serve eligible purposes.

No, projects or organizations do not need to be located in a DCI county to be eligible to apply. However, projects that directly and meaningfully benefit DCI counties will receive priority points. The Project Evaluation Profile found on page 19 of the RFP outlines how applications will be scored.

We have a variety of funding opportunities available for farmers and food businesses. Even if RFSI isn’t a fit for your project or organization, you can review our full list of funding opportunities to see if there is another grant that could support your project.


When determining if a cost will be eligible as match, it must meet these three criteria:

  1. It is an eligible cost that could be paid for with grant funds.
  2. It will happen during the grant period.
  3. It will be paid for with non-federal funds.

To verify the match for your grant project, you must submit a match verification letter signed by each individual or organization providing in-kind or cash matching contributions for your project. We’ve provided the required template for these letters as a download on our RFSI web page. As part of the Project Readiness section of the application, you may also choose to include letters of support from business or financial contacts that can attest to your business and financial readiness and your organization’s capacity to provide the match you are committing.

Funds must be either committed or secured at the time an applicant is recommended for an award. You are not required to have the full match amount in-hand at that time. If you receive an RFSI grant, you will be required provide documentation when requesting reimbursement from the grant to verify both in-kind and cash match contributions have been provided according to the budget provided as part of your application.

You may obtain a loan for your project before applying for and receiving this grant. If you plan to use the loan to cover the matching part of your project, you might want to start working with a lender now, because all matching funds must be committed or secured at the time an applicant is recommended for an award.

Even if you obtain a loan now, we cannot reimburse any expenses that happen before the start of the grant contract agreement, nor can you use these expenses as part of your match contribution. Do not make any purchases or spend any funds you plan to include in your grant project or utilize as a matching contribution before all parties have signed your grant contract agreement.

For example, if you buy a piece of equipment with a loan before the start of the grant contract agreement, it’s not eligible to be reimbursed through the grant, nor can it be counted as part of your matching contribution.

According to the USDA AMS General Terms and Conditions (below), grantees cannot use federal funds to meet cost sharing or matching requirements. However, some loan programs that the federal government is involved in or guarantees provide loans originating from non-federal sources. If you are unsure if your loan is considered federal funds, it is your responsibility to speak to your lender to understand the categorization of the funds.

Please note that the grant-funded assets cannot be used as collateral for the matching funds loan.

If you, as the applicant, are providing the match to your own project, you only need to provide a match verification letter from yourself to verify that you have the match committed or secured. It is allowable for the letter to be both addressed to and signed by you. If any third parties that are not the applicant are contributing match to your project, they must also provide a match verification letter.

You do not need to provide match item-by-item. It is acceptable to provide match on some items but not for others, as long as for your overall project, you meet the match requirement of 50% or 25% if you qualify for the reduced match. For example, you could meet your match by providing an in-kind contribution in your personnel/fringe budget categories, but only request grant funds in your equipment budget category.

Note: For this reason, the budget worksheet will not automatically calculate your required match. Please double check that you are providing your required match of 25% or 50% of total project costs by using the totals in the first “Budget Summary” tab of the worksheet. You should also cross-reference these to the Grant Request section at the beginning of the application to ensure that the totals on your budget worksheet match the total project cost, grant request, and matching funds you have listed there.

For each line item in your budget, you must list how much money you are requesting from the grant for the item and how much of the line item’s cost you will be covering with your matching contribution. In the “Funds requested” column, list the amount of grant money you are requesting for the item. In the “Match value” column, list the amount of match you are providing for the item. The sum of your “Funds requested” column and the “Match value” column for each line item should equal the total cost of the item.

For example, if a piece of equipment costs $2,000 and you plan to cover 25% of the item’s cost with matching funds, you would list $1,500 in the “Funds requested” column and $500 in the “Match value” column.

No, to qualify for the reduced match, you only need to self-certify that you meet the definition of one of these types of businesses or organizations on the application:

  • Beginning farmer or rancher
  • Veteran farmer or rancher
  • Limited resource farmer or rancher
  • Socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher
  • Small disadvantaged business
  • Women-owned small business
  • Veteran-owned small business

The definitions for beginning farmer or rancher, veteran farmer or rancher, limited resource farmer or rancher, and socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher can be found on the USDA’s Historically Underserved Farmers and Ranchers web page.

The definitions for small disadvantaged business, women-owned small business, and veteran-owned small business can be found on the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Contracting Assistance Programs web page. Note that you don't need to be registered with these SBA contracting programs to qualify for the reduced match. 

By selecting to self-certify for the reduced 25% match on the application, you are attesting to the truth and accuracy of your claim that your business or organization meets the definitions listed above and qualifies for reduced match.

Nonprofits and cooperatives will qualify for reduced match based on the composition of their board or governing body. To be eligible, the majority of the board’s members must be eligible for reduced match under one or more of the qualifying categories described on page 9 of the RFP. Eligibility for reduced match is not based on the population(s) the organization serves.

For example, a nonprofit may qualify for reduced match under the women-owned business category if 51% or more of their voting board members are women, or a cooperative may qualify for reduced match if its nine-member board is made up of four board members who are socially disadvantaged producers and two board members who are women (six out of nine members belong to a qualifying category).

If your cooperative business, like other types of businesses, can demonstrate that 51% or more of your cooperative is owned by members who are eligible for reduced match, that may also be used as the basis for the cooperative to qualify for reduced match.

There is no specific set aside or portion of RFSI funds dedicated specifically to tribal/Native American (Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, or enrolled members of a federally or state-recognized tribe) applications. However, tribal/Native American applicants (Native American farmers and producers, businesses owned by Native Americans, tribally owned businesses, and tribal governments) will qualify for the reduced 25% match, so long as the business or entity applying for the grant is majority-owned and/or controlled by Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, or enrolled members of a federally or state-recognized tribe. Tribal/Native American applicants may also be eligible to receive additional priority points as target beneficiaries of the program.

RFSI is federally funded through a cooperative agreement with USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service. Unlike most grants administered by the MDA, you may use grant funds from another state grant as matching funds for this program. Funds from other state, local, or private grants may be used as matching funds, so long as those funds are not from another federal pass-through grant (such as a Specialty Crop Block Grant) and aren’t committed to another grant as matching funds. Federal grants or funds from any source cannot be used as match.

Note: If you plan to use funds from a state grant or loan to meet all or part of your project’s matching requirement — and if your project involves construction — the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry will need to evaluate your project to determine if state prevailing wage requirements will apply.

No additional priority is given to applications that include more matching funds than the 50% match requirement or 25% reduced match requirement for qualifying applicants. Even if you plan to spend more than the required matching amount for your project (i.e., “overmatching”), we recommend you only include the required matching amount for the application budget. If you voluntarily provide a match above the program’s requirement in your application, the total becomes a binding requirement in your grant contract agreement.

All matching contributions must be an expense that is eligible under the grant. Purchasing land is not an eligible expense under the grant and therefore it also cannot be used as match.

We encourage you to review the Project Evaluation Profile to understand how applications will be scored. No additional priority is given to projects solely based on the source of their match, but consideration will be made to the applicant’s financial and administrative capacity to carry out the project and the applicant’s ability to accurately track, document, and verify any in-kind contributions provided.

Application and submission process

No, each organization may only submit one application for consideration.

If your organization doesn’t have a federal Unique Entity ID (UEI), request one online from The Federal Service Desk has a list of the information and documents you will need.

Note: Because RFSI infrastructure grants are federal subawards, you are not required to complete a full registration for your entity. You only need to request a UEI. Follow these step-by-step instructions on YouTube or contact us for additional assistance. We recommend doing this now or early in your application process – it’s free.


If you are experiencing delays in receiving your UEI number, please contact for further instructions.

For the purposes of the application, only the applicant needs to get a UEI number. However, if you receive a grant and the other partnering organizations or businesses involved in your project will be contracted as part of your grant and paid with federal funds, they will need a UEI to receive the federal funds.

Grant writers and technical assistance providers can help with submitting your online application from your own account or they can submit your application from their account. However, the contact information that is provided in the application must be your contact information rather than the grant writer’s. We will use this information to correspond with you about the grant and the project if you are awarded funds.

If your project addresses any part of this question, you may answer yes to the question and provide a response in the follow-up question to explain the ways in which your project addresses the question.

We are not able provide specific guidance on how to answer questions in the application or speculate on how answers will be perceived by reviewers. Answer all questions honestly, and if you answer yes, in the follow-up answer you should identify the federal or state grant program(s) and describe how the RFSI project differs from or supplements the other grant program(s) efforts. As stated in the RFP, reviewers will evaluate if the project/applicant has any apparent conflicts with other state or federal grants and ensure that projects are not receiving funding for the same costs from two grants (“double dipping”). It is allowable to use another non-federal grant as match to your RFSI grant (see answer in the match section above).

Yes, in the Community Support section of the application, you may upload letters of support from any stakeholders who you feel can help demonstrate your project’s community impact. Letters of support are an optional part of the application.

In the Project Beneficiaries section of the application, tribes and tribal applicants may choose to include the scores from counties that are nearby or overlapping with their lands or communities, along with a description of the project beneficiaries and socio-economic or demographic characteristics of the relevant communities and people who will benefit from the project. The review committee will take into consideration information or statistics specific to tribal areas that may not be accurately or fully represented by the county-based scores within the DCI.

In the Project Beneficiaries section of the application, it is allowable to include other socio-economic or demographic statistics, indicators, or characteristics that are relevant to your project or the people or communities that will benefit from your project.

Grant projects are not required to focus on the target beneficiaries (listed on page one of the RFP) to be eligible. The application provides you the opportunity to describe your project's beneficiaries, including both target beneficiaries and other types of beneficiaries. However, projects that directly and meaningfully benefit target beneficiaries will receive priority. The Project Evaluation Profile provided in the RFP outlines how applications will be scored.

Only the primary applicant business or organization is required to submit a business plan or equivalent document with the application. However, we have provided space where you may upload additional business plans or equivalent documents if you feel it would help your application to include documents for partner organizations. Be sure to redact confidential information and trade secrets included in business plans or equivalent documents, whether they are from the primary applicant or partners.

There is no eligibility requirement related to financial projections for profit generated by your project. The Project Evaluation Profile in the RFP outlines how your application, including your business plan or equivalent document, will be scored.

In your application budget, we encourage you to name specific contractors, consultants, and vendors for equipment, supplies, construction, or contractual costs above $10,000. This may allow you to avoid a formal bidding process and save time and effort later. You may attach documents such as quotes, estimates, or bids from your selected consultants, contractors, or vendors in the Budget Justification section. Attaching these documents, especially for major costs or large projects, helps show that the budget you are proposing is well researched and reasonable.

Most quotes include an expiration date (usually 30 to 90 days) that shows how long the vendor will honor the quoted price. While it is allowable to include quotes that have expired, it’s your responsibility to ensure the accuracy and reasonableness of the costs you include in your grant budget. It’s best practice for the quotes you include to be more recent or unexpired.

Since quotes, bids, and estimates are not required as part of your application, there is no specific level of detail needed. We encourage you to include as much detail as you have available at the time you submit your application, but even simple documents can be helpful.

No, design and construction documents such as architectural blueprints or plat drawings are not required as part of your application. However, including design and construction documents can help demonstrate that your proposal and budget are well researched and reasonable. These documents can be attached in the Construction Budget Justification section of your application.

In your budget worksheet, only include the amount of RFSI grant funds you are requesting and your matching contribution. The total from your budget worksheet should match your grant request in the beginning of the application. It is allowable to describe your overall project beyond RFSI and any additional investment you’ll be making beyond RFSI in the narrative portions of the application, but do not include them in the budget worksheet.

For example, if your overall project will cost $4 million, and you’re requesting the maximum award amount of $3 million, you should only list $3 million in funds requested and matching funds in the budget worksheet. If you are required to provide the standard 50% match, you’d need to list $1.5 million in grant funds and $1.5 million in matching funds.

In the RFSI Program Scope and Requirements (below), USDA states: “Critical resources and infrastructure can be facilities, land, structure, use of city street/parks, shared-used kitchen, and/or other resources that are essential for the proposed project activities.” You can think of critical resources and infrastructure as prerequisites to your project that must be in place before you would be able to complete your project. Not all applications will require Evidence of Critical Infrastructure and Resources Letter(s).

The review committee will evaluate all eligible applications based on the criteria in the Project Evaluation Profile provided in the RFP. For the reviewers to understand and effectively evaluate your project, it is important that you completely answer all the application questions within the specified character limits. You should provide enough detail to clearly describe the need for your project, the key activities that you will undertake as part of your project, how you will spend the grant funds (your budget), and what you expect the outcomes will be from your project. As much as possible, use plain, easy-to-understand language. Write for reviewers who have general knowledge but may not have a deep understanding of your specific industry, organization, or project.

In addition to the grant program, free technical assistance is available through RFSI to producers, businesses, cooperatives, and other organizations that are part of the food supply chain in Minnesota. You can find more information about the help that is available on the RFSI Technical Assistance web page.

Timeline, evaluation, and review

We are not able to provide an exact date at this time, but we expect that it will be in late summer or fall of 2024. Following our MDA application review and final application review conducted by USDA, we expect that we’ll notify applicants of decisions sometime this summer (2024), but the review process could take more or less time than expected. Once we have notified applicants of award decisions, we’ll set up grant contract agreements sometime in late summer or fall (2024). Once your grant contract agreement is fully executed (signed by all parties), only then may you begin your project and request reimbursement for funds.

We expect that grant contract agreements will begin sometime in late summer or fall 2024. The project timeline and acquisition dates you provide in your grant application should be your best estimate for your project. We recommend beginning your project timeline no earlier than August 2024, with the understanding that your timeline may need to be pushed back if the USDA review process or the environmental review process cause grant awards to be delayed.

You can request reimbursement after you have paid for expenses that are part of your grant budget. Typically, requests are made quarterly, but exceptions to this schedule can be made if needed. More information can be found in this MDA Reimbursement Guide, but note there may be additional or different requirements because RFSI grants are federal funds.

We are not able to provide a definitive answer on how funds will be split between larger projects requesting more funds and smaller projects requesting less funds, nor specific guidance on how big to make your request. We expect to award approximately $9.6 million using a competitive review process. The smallest possible award will be $100,000 and the largest will be $3 million. Although you may request up to $3 million, you should expect that very few, if any, applicants will receive the largest award amount. We expect to award between 25 to 40 grants, but the final number of grants will depend on the size of each grant award.

We encourage you to scale your project appropriately and request funds that correspond to the individual characteristics of your project, your actual need, and the size of your operation, rather than determining the scale of your project based on the amount of available grant funding. The impact of your project relative to the amount of funds you are requesting, how realistic your project's workplan is, your readiness to take on a project at the scale requested, and the cost effectiveness of your budget are all criteria that will be considered by the review committee when making award recommendations. The Project Evaluation Profile in the RFP outlines how applications will be scored.

We recognize that full awards are typically needed for the success and completion of a project. The grant review committee will strive to fully fund all eligible costs and activities for selected grant projects when possible. However, due to the limited availability of funding, it may be necessary to make some partial awards.

If your grant project is recommended for partial funding, you may work with us to review and revise your scope of work and budget as necessary before a final grant contract agreement is executed. For example, you may be awarded grant funds to expand your facility but not to purchase additional equipment, and you will be given the opportunity to remove the purchase and installation of equipment from your work plan and budget. It is also allowable to turn down partial project funding if it’s no longer feasible to complete your project with only a portion of the funds.

On our RFSI Grant Reviewers web page, there is information about the grant review committee selection process and an interest form for those interested in serving as a reviewer for the RFSI grant.

Requirements for grant recipients

Yes, you will need to pay taxes on the grant funds in the year that you receive them. All grantees will receive a 1099 from the State of Minnesota for income tax purposes.

No, please do not include the documents such as tax returns or Form 990 that are required for the pre-award risk assessment with your application. If you are a selected as a finalist and your application is moved forward to the USDA round of the review process, we will request these documents from you at that time, likely in May or June.

If your grant proposal is selected for funding, it must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and related applicable agency regulations and instructions; Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA); the Endangered Species Act (ESA); other federal environmental laws and regulations; and any applicable state, local, or tribal laws.

A review for NEPA compliance is required prior to the award of grant funds. If selected for an award, applicants must provide all requested information to support compliance with NEPA, NHPA, ESA, and all other federal environmental laws and regulations. USDA has released information about the type of information and documents that will be requested from RFSI grantees during this review on their NEPA Resources website. Projects involving construction of new structures, the expansion of existing structures, wastewater structures, ground disturbance, or other resource impacts are most likely to require additional site-specific environmental review and consultation. Please be advised that while we expect the environmental review process to go quickly for many grantees, some projects could be delayed by several months or more depending on the level of review required.

Resource: A Citizen's Guide to NEPA (PDF) provides an overview of NEPA requirements.

The Build America, Buy America (BABA) Act, enacted in 2021, established a domestic content procurement preference for all federal financial assistance obligated for infrastructure projects after May 14, 2022. The domestic content procurement preference requires that all iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in covered infrastructure projects are produced in the United States. Any public infrastructure project funded under the RFSI program must coordinate with us and USDA AMS to ensure it adheres to BABA guidance. We will help you determine if your project must comply with BABA. For such projects, you must comply with the Buy America Sourcing requirements outlined in the BABA provisions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and further described in 2 CFR Part 184 – Buy America Preferences For Infrastructure Projects.

For-Profit Entities: BABA does not apply to for-profit entities (either primary grantee or subrecipient) for infrastructure projects. AMS will review facilities owned by public entities to determine whether BABA requirements apply, following USDA guidance to exempt de minimis grant awards and other inapplicable activities. All other Infrastructure Grant recipients that surpass the $250,000 threshold of applicable procurement costs must adhere to BABA.

Small Grants Waiver: The small grants waiver will apply to awards with total federal funding below the Simplified Acquisition Threshold, which is currently set at $250,000.

Resource: See BABA requirements for USDA sub-awards (PDF) for additional guidance.

Because RFSI is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, the program is exempt from federal prevailing wage requirements (commonly known as Davis-Bacon rules). Most RFSI projects are also exempt from state prevailing wage requirements (the Minnesota Prevailing Wage Act), as long as you don’t use state funds to meet your project’s matching requirement.

If you do plan to use more than $200,000 in state funds (i.e., state financial assistance such as a state grant or loan) to meet all or a part of your project’s matching requirement — and if your project involves construction — the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry will need to evaluate your project to determine if state prevailing wage requirements will apply. These rules require that the wages of laborers and workers should be comparable to wages paid for similar work in the community as a whole.

While you should do your best to accurately estimate your costs in your grant application, we understand that your actual costs may differ from what you originally proposed. If your costs change significantly, you can request approval from us to amend your budget. If your amendment is approved, you would be able to move funds between categories within your budget, but the overall amount of funds you are awarded will not be increased.

For example, if your costs for constructing your facility came in higher than expected, you could request to purchase less equipment in order to cover the full construction costs. Your total award amount would not be increased to accommodate your increased construction costs.

There is no date that your new processing facility needs to be operational by, but you will be asked to describe your project work plan and timeline in the application. Your project will be scored based on whether you have provided a thorough and realistic work plan and timeline that can be achieved during the project period.

The definition of equipment for this grant is “tangible personal property (including information technology systems) having a useful life of more than one year and a per-unit acquisition cost of $5,000 or more.” RFSI grantees will not be subject to federal management and disposition requirements for equipment purchased using grant funds, and instead will only be subject to the state’s policies and procedures regarding management and disposition of equipment. In Minnesota, grantees must use equipment purchased with grant funds to carry out their grant project during the grant period. At the time of your grant’s closeout, you must account for and report on the status of any equipment purchased in your final report. Following the completion of your project and the closeout of your grant, the use and disposition of the purchased equipment is at the discretion of the grantee without further obligation to the state.