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United States Department of Agriculture

USDA Information

General USDA Information

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on public policy, the best available science, and effective management. The Department's vision is to provide economic opportunity through innovation, helping rural America to thrive; to promote agriculture production that better nourishes Americans while also helping feed others throughout the world; and to preserve our Nation's natural resources through conservation, restored forests, improved watersheds, and healthy private working lands. 

To learn more about the USDA:

Programs

The majority of USDA university grant awards come from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a sub-office within USDA.

NIFA collaborates with leading scientists, policymakers, experts, and educators in organizations throughout the world to find innovative solutions to the most pressing local and global problems.  

  • Advances the competitiveness of American agriculture
  • Bolsters the U.S. economy;
  • Enhances the safety of the nation’s food supply
  • Improves the nutrition and well-being of American citizens;
  • Sustains natural resources and the environment
  • Builds energy independence 

     

For more information about NIFA, read the NIFA strategic plan, or  download the USDA-NIFA factsheet.

Of particular interest within NIFA is the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which provides grants to support research, education and extension activities in six Farm Bill priority areas: plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition, and health; bioenergy, natural resources, and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economies and rural communities. For more information, download the AFRI factsheet.

Looking for funding opportunities?

If you didn't find a funding program at USDA that fits your project, you can also check for opportunities with commodity organizations.

Submitting a Proposal to USDA

The USDA-NIFA lifecycle of grants and cooperative agreements consists of four phases: Pre-Award, Award, Post-Award, and Close Out. NIFA’s Office of Grants and Financial Management provides support and guidance for award recipients during each of these phases. For more information, visit the NIFA grants page

USDA-NIFA provides a guide for preparation and submission of NIFA applications via grants.gov; this is an important resource for developing a compliant proposal. 

USDA-NIFA proposals are submitted through Grants.gov. You can learn more about using Grants.gov by visiting the online user guide

For assistance with developing a proposal, see the Proposal Preparation & Project Development section below, or visit the Research Development website

 

Funding Priorities

When developing a project idea, it is helpful to relate your idea to current priorities:

You can also see what USDA-NIFA has recently funded by searching for awards in the Current Research Information System (CRIS), or explore the NIFA award data page

Review

Proposals submitted to USDA-NIFA undergo a series of reviews before funding decisions are made. This process is detailed on the NIFA grants page 

In general, the following elements are considered during the review process: 

  • Compliance with RFA requirements
  • Adherence to federal cost principles and regulations
  • Compliance with the program's statutory requirements
  • Scientific validity of the proposed project
  • Capacity of applicant to manage the grant
  • Budget is reasonable and allowable

To learn even more about the review process, you can volunteer to be a reviewer. To be considered as a reviewer, applicants must send an e-mail message noting his/her organization name and area(s) of expertise (limit to 4 or 5 keywords) to newreviewer@nifa.usda.gov.

 

Proposal Preparation & Project Development

Biographical Sketch

Instructions for USDA Biographical Sketches from the NIFA Application Guide:

Provide a biographical sketch for the PD/PI. Recommended information includes - Education and Training, Research and Professional Experience, Collaborators and Affiliations (for conflicts of interest), Publications and Synergistic Activities. 

NIFA-specific Instructions:

The Biographical Sketch should be limited to 2 pages each in length, excluding publications listings. The vitae should include a presentation of academic and research credentials, as applicable (e.g., earned degrees, teaching experience, employment history, professional activities, honors and awards, and grants received). Include a chronological list of all publications in refereed journals during the past 4 years, including those in press. Also, list only those non-refereed technical publications that have relevance to the proposed project. List all authors in the same order as they appear on each paper cited, along with the title and complete reference as these usually appear in journals. 
USDA-NIFA template (not required)

Remember the requirements for attachments:

  1. Format of Contents:  Attachments to an application should be a typed or word processed document using font no smaller than 12 point, regardless of line spacing, and with at least 1-inch margins. Number each page of an attachment sequentially.  These specifications apply unless the RFA specifies otherwise.  This guide or the RFA will indicate if a page limitation applies to a specific attachment.
  2. File Format:  NIFA REQUIRES that attachments be in .pdf.  Using pdf format allows applicants to preserve the formatting of their documents.
  3. File Name Restrictions:  File names of .pdf attachments must be limited to 50 characters, may not include special characters (e.g., &,–,*,%,/,#), periods (.), blank spaces or accent marks, and must be unique (i.e., no other attachment may have the same file name). An underscore (example:my_Attached_File.pdf) may be used to separate a file name.
  4. File Protections:  The pdf attachment must NOT be password protected.  Lead institutions of multi-organization applications must ensure, that documents from collaborators are NOT password protected.

ANY APPLICATION CONTAINING ATTACHMENTS THAT ARE NOT COMPLIANT WITH A. THROUGH D. ABOVE ARE AT RISK OF BEING EXCLUDED FROM CONSIDERATION.  

ATTENTION: There is a paper clip icon on the left side of the page in every application.  Do NOT attach documents with this function.  If you attach documents under this function your application will be incomplete and cause errors.  

Budget

Sponsored Programs Administration provides many resources for creating budgets on their Budget Development webpage, including information on NDSU's F&A Rate Agreement (indirect costs)

To assist you in developing your budget, the following templates are available: 

If you have questions regarding budget development, contact Sponsored Programs Administration.

Conflict of Interest List

NIFA-Specific Instructions for the Conflict of Interest List:

Unless stated otherwise in the RFA, a Conflict of Interest (COI) list is required for each Senior/Key Person included in the R&R Senior/Key Person profile. Prepare the COI list(s) following the instructions and format below. A suggested template for the COI list is available at https://nifa.usda.gov/resource/application-support-templates. Attach a single attachment containing a COI list for each Senior/Key Person included in the R&R Senior/Key Person Profile (i.e., one attachment containing all the COI lists).  

INSTRUCTIONS: For each Senior/Key Person, list alphabetically by last name (and with last name first), the full names of individuals in the following categories and mark each category which applies with an “x”. 

  • All thesis or postdoctoral advisees/advisors
  • All co-authors on publications within the past 3 years, including pending publications and submissions
  • All collaborators on projects within the past 3 years, including current and planned collaborations
  • All persons in your field with whom you have had a consulting/financial arrangement/other conflict-of-interest in the past 3 years including receiving compensation of any type (e.g., money, goods or services). 

Note: Other individuals working in the applicant's specific area are not in conflict of interest with the applicant unless those individuals fall within one of the listed categories. The Program Contact must be informed of any additional conflicts of interest that arise after the application is submitted.

Remember the requirements for attachments:

  1. Format of Contents:  Attachments to an application should be a typed or word processed document using font no smaller than 12 point, regardless of line spacing, and with at least 1-inch margins. Number each page of an attachment sequentially.  These specifications apply unless the RFA specifies otherwise.  This guide or the RFA will indicate if a page limitation applies to a specific attachment.
  2. File Format:  NIFA REQUIRES that attachments be in .pdf.  Using pdf format allows applicants to preserve the formatting of their documents.
  3. File Name Restrictions:  File names of .pdf attachments must be limited to 50 characters, may not include special characters (e.g., &,–,*,%,/,#), periods (.), blank spaces or accent marks, and must be unique (i.e., no other attachment may have the same file name). An underscore (example:my_Attached_File.pdf) may be used to separate a file name.
  4. File Protections:  The pdf attachment must NOT be password protected.  Lead institutions of multi-organization applications must ensure, that documents from collaborators are NOT password protected.

ANY APPLICATION CONTAINING ATTACHMENTS THAT ARE NOT COMPLIANT WITH A. THROUGH D. ABOVE ARE AT RISK OF BEING EXCLUDED FROM CONSIDERATION.  

ATTENTION: There is a paper clip icon on the left side of the page in every application.  Do NOT attach documents with this function.  If you attach documents under this function your application will be incomplete and cause errors.  

Current and Pending Support

USDA Instructions for Current and Pending Support Document:

Provide a list of all current and pending support for the PD/PI (even if they receive no salary support from the project(s)) for ongoing projects and pending proposals. Show the total award amount for the entire award period (including indirect costs) as well as the number of person-months per year to be devoted to the project by the senior/key person, regardless of source of support. Concurrent submission of a proposal to other organizations will not prejudice its review.

NIFA-Specific Instructions:

A suggested template for the Current and Pending support is available at https://nifa.usda.gov/resource/application-support-templates. Include a current and pending support list for the PD/PI. Even if no other funding is currently reported as “Active,” list this application as “Pending” in the information submitted. Identify the proposed project as pending in the attached document. The percent of time committed should not exceed 100% of effort for concurrent projects. NIFA will not fund an application that duplicates or overlaps substantially with an application already funded (or to be funded) by another organization or agency. Prepare the Current and Pending support list(s) following the instructions and format noted below. 

Remember the requirements for attachments:

  1. Format of Contents:  Attachments to an application should be a typed or word processed document using font no smaller than 12 point, regardless of line spacing, and with at least 1-inch margins. Number each page of an attachment sequentially.  These specifications apply unless the RFA specifies otherwise.  This guide or the RFA will indicate if a page limitation applies to a specific attachment.
  2. File Format:  NIFA REQUIRES that attachments be in .pdf.  Using pdf format allows applicants to preserve the formatting of their documents.
  3. File Name Restrictions:  File names of .pdf attachments must be limited to 50 characters, may not include special characters (e.g., &,–,*,%,/,#), periods (.), blank spaces or accent marks, and must be unique (i.e., no other attachment may have the same file name). An underscore (example:my_Attached_File.pdf) may be used to separate a file name.
  4. File Protections:  The pdf attachment must NOT be password protected.  Lead institutions of multi-organization applications must ensure, that documents from collaborators are NOT password protected.

ANY APPLICATION CONTAINING ATTACHMENTS THAT ARE NOT COMPLIANT WITH A. THROUGH D. ABOVE ARE AT RISK OF BEING EXCLUDED FROM CONSIDERATION.  

ATTENTION: There is a paper clip icon on the left side of the page in every application.  Do NOT attach documents with this function.  If you attach documents under this function your application will be incomplete and cause errors.  

Data Management Plan (DMP)

USDA requires data management plans. These data management plans will, at a minimum, describe how researchers will provide for long-term preservation of, and access to, the digital scientific data created by the proposed study. Data management plans will be evaluated as a part of grant applications and verified as part of reporting. 

 You can also visit the SPARC Data Sharing Requirements by Federal Agency webpage. 

 

Evaluation Plans

If your proposal requires an evaluation plan, you can use these resources to aid in developing an effective plan. 

Resources for developing evaluation plans include:

Resources for using Logic Models in your Evaluation Plan
Logic Model Planning and Development:

Logic Model Examples:

If you are looking for an external evaluator or need some assistance in developing an evaluation plan, please contact the Research Development office at ndsu.researchdev@ndsu.edu.

Institutional Information

Sponsored Programs Administration maintains an Institutional Information page which includes: 

  • NDSU authorized organizational representative
  • Official NDSU address for sponsored projects
  • Indirect cost rates
  • Fringe benefit rates
  • Proposal routing procedure
  • Audit reports, and
  • Frequently used numbers: 

    • NDSU's EIN #: 45-6002439
    • DUNS Number: 80-388-2299
    • Congressional District: ND1
    • Cage Code: 40341
    • NDSU's Animal Welfare Assurance #: A3244-01
    • USDA Research Facility Registration #: 45-R-002
    • NSF's Institutional Code # assigned to NDSU: 00 29975 000
    • Human Subjects Assurance: FWA00002439
    • Number of NDSU employees 

ABoilerplate Description of NDSU contains general campus information that can be used or customized as needed.  

PTF and Proposal Process

Sponsored Programs Administration provides information on proposal processing for university approval, as well as the Proposal Transmittal Form (PTF) which is required for proposal routing. 

The proposal process at NDSU is detailed in the graphic below: 

Handout: Proposal Submission Flowchart

Program Officers

Tips for Contacting Program Officers

Congratulations on making the important step to visit with a grant program officer.  Statistics show that making a personal connection with your program officer will increase your chances of getting funded immensely.  Following are some tips, based on past experience, to help make your visit as successful as possible.

FIVE STEPS  

  1. Identify a program officer.
  2. Prepare a concept paper / abstract.
  3. Make contact with the program officer. 
  4. Talk / meet with the program officer.
  5. Follow up after the meeting.

CREATE A CONCEPT PAPER TO PROVIDE TO THE PROGRAM OFFICER

To plan for the visit, prepare a brief 1-2 page concept paper that you can hand to the program officer at the beginning of the meeting. You should be ready to discuss a specific proposal. The format is flexible, but include:

  1. Overall goal and objectives of the proposal.  SMART objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
  2. Describe the problem to be addressed. Use Heilmeier’s Catechism - http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/~ddahlstr/misc/heilmeier.html
  3. Refer to your unique personnel, resources, collaborations, whatever strengths will stand out in your proposal
  4. To the extent possible, use the agency’s format, style, and terminology.
  5. For the title of the concept paper, use an eye-catching newspaper-like headline (think of benefits and potential impact of proposal).  This is not going to be the same as the title of your subsequent formal proposal. 
  6. Use headings, color, and institutional branding, and employ meaningful graphics to assist in telling your story.
  7. Ask others to review and provide feedback.


MEETING LOGISTICS

  1. Well before meeting, send an email to introduce yourself.  Attach your concept paper & biosketch in agency format.  Ask to set up a ½ hour meeting. Try to avoid peak review panel season if possible, a busy time for them.
  2. Prior to the meeting, confirm the date, time and location. 
  3. Be on time.  At the meeting, listen closely for his/her advice and recommendations. Program officers will sometimes be willing to advocate for your proposal or refer you to other programs if appropriate, or even find other pockets of funding at times.  This type of ‘inside information’ can be invaluable to you.
  4. Plan to keep the meeting within the planned time constraints, but take your cue from the program officer.
  5. To keep communication open, follow up with a thank you note to the program officer, including a brief written summary of the conversation.  Also share this with university administrators and any collaborators.

OTHER TIPS

  1. Do your homework on the grant agency beforehand so you have a good understanding of how it works.
  2. Though 1-on-1 is best, if a face-to-face ‘live’ meeting is not possible, Skype, Facetime, or even a phone call is a good alternative, better than no contact. Proposals are too much work to be submitted as ‘a shot in the dark.’
  3. Customize questions. For NSF, ask about ideas for broader impacts. For NIH, ask which study section to target.  
  4. Do NOT ask who is on the review panel, but it’s appropriate to ask about the types of expertise of reviewers who will be on the panel.  Do NOT ask if a Congressman can help or provide a letter of support.  Do NOT ask for a copy of a funded application, or if a particular person got funded - that information is available elsewhere.  
  5. DO ask how proposals from early career applicants are handled, if applicable to you.   For other appropriate questions to ask program officers, as well as other good advice, see Can We Talk? Contacting Grant Program Officers 

Download this handout

 

 

Templates

USDA-NIFA provides templates for some proposal elements. Those templates can be downloaded from the USDA-NIFA Application Support Templates page. 

You can also refer to the NIFA Application Guide for examples. 

General Proposal Writing Tips

Some general proposal writing resources are listed below. They include print and video guides from agencies, foundations, and other grant writing groups. 

USDA-NIFA offers guidance for successfully navigating the grants process - see the NIFA Grant Training page

Print Resources

 

Video Resources


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Last Updated: Friday, July 21, 2017 3:01:39 PM
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