LASA Grants Program Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the LASA Grants Program?
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Agriculture is accepting grant applications for the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) Grants Program.  The goal of the program, established by the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act of 2012, is to support the growth, development, and marketing of local food and seafood in the Rhode Island.  It is made possible by $100,000 in funding from the State of Rhode Island, and an additional $110,000 in funds from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, and the Rhode Island Foundation.  This unique and unprecedented public-private partnership will provide grants intended to directly benefit and strengthen the local food system in RI.

Who May Apply?
Non-profit organizations, farmers, fishermen/women, and producer groups are eligible to apply. Applicants must be based in the State of Rhode Island. The Advisory Council will value geographic diversity in the applicant pool when making award determinations.  Only small and/or beginning farmers (or producer groups of small or beginning farmers) are eligible to apply for capital grants.  (Aquaculture operators are considered farmers).

How Much May An Applicant Apply For?
The maximum grant award available to a farmer, individual, business (e.g. LLC) or non-profit organization is $20,000. Overhead and/or administrative costs are limited to 10% of total budget proposal.

Where Can I Find LASA Application Materials?
The Application and the Guidelines Document can be found on the Rhode Island Division of Agriculture website (under "grant opportunities" tab).  It also can be found on this LASA FAQ page (see LASA 2014 Documents sidebar, right).
 

What is the Timing for the LASA Grants Program?

  • All grant applications are due to the RI Division of Agriculture by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, April 1st, 2014.

  • Applications can be emailed to LASA@dem.ri.gov or mailed to/dropped off at the Division of Agriculture office (235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908). (Please note that the Division of Agriculture office closes at 4:30 pm).  Email submissions are strongly preferred.

  • The Division of Agriculture will send an email confirmation when applications arrive at the office as long as an email address has been provided on the application form.

  • Applicants will be notified of award decisions by May 1, 2014.

  • Projects may start the moment the award contract is signed.  Grantees will be responsible for interim and final reports for projects and all projects need to be completed within 2 years of contract signing.  100% of the funding will be provided up front.

  • Projects awarded funding will be highlighted in press and media and receive site visits from RIFPC staff to help coordinate the story-telling and the documentation of the impact of projects.
     

What are "on-going capital campaigns" as defined in the LASA Grant Guidelines?
A capital campaign is a fundraising effort - a time-limited effort by a nonprofit organization to raise significant dollars for a specific project.  Capital Campaigns are not eligible for LASA funding.

May a non-profit, running a small farm, apply for a piece of farm equipment, like a tractor, under this grant opportunity?
Yes, as long as the farm meets the definition of a small or beginning farm as defined in the Guidelines - "A small farmer is defined as one with annual revenues not exceeding $250,000.  A beginning farmer is one who has not operated a farm or aquaculture operation for more than 10 years".

Are Rhode Island municipalities eligible to apply for the LASA Grants Program if they have a non-profit status?
Yes.

Where can I find help to fill in the application correctly?
Attend/Participate in one of our 3 Technical Assistance Sessions in March.  There will be one in Providence, one in So. County and one is a conference call.

May a group apply for funding to help market a segment of RI fisheries (like shellfish) through the creation of a public service announcement or regular advertising?
Yes.  The LASA Advisory Committee will make grant recommendations to the RIDEM in coordination with the upcoming statewide marketing campaign for RI Seafood.  The primary goal is not to duplicate efforts for statewide seafood marketing, but grants that address seafood marketing for specific sectors may be submitted for consideration and will be evaluated as the statewide marketing campaign is developed.

Under the term "small farmer", the definition is less than $250,000 in annual revenues.  Would this just apply towards actual crop sales, or would the sales from a farm cafe, farm retail stand, etc. also be included in that annual revenue total?
Since the 2014 LASA grants reference the current USDA definition of a small or beginning farmer, the annual revenue measurement for the 2014 LASA grants will be consistent with how income is measured by the USDA - based upon gross annual income from the previous year for agricultural products (i.e. crops, livestock, aquaculture, etc.) directly raised by the farmer in Rhode Island, not including value added, agritourism or custom hire income.

If a nonprofit is headquartered in another state, but serves Rhode Island, are they eligible to apply?
Per the application language, nonprofits must be based in the State of Rhode Island - meaning they must be registered in Rhode Island.  Nonprofits headquartered in other states could only apply for a LASA grant if they are partnering with a lead applicant based in Rhode Island.  *Please note that for RI-based businesses (for-profits), a legal incorporation status does not have to be in RI (due to lack of RI laws for incorporation of some types of businesses).  As long as the business itself is based in RI - meaning operating within the state, they are eligible to apply.*  If an explanation is necessary for the LASA Grants Committee, please make this clear in the application.

For organizations working with farmers, should the organization apply for funding or should the farmers apply on their own?
Either way is fine - an organization may apply for the funds or individual farmers may apply as long as they meet the USDA definition for new or beginner farmers as outlined in the Application and Guideline materials.

If only small and/or beginning farmers are allowed to apply for capital funding, may a nonprofit organization (that meets the definition of small and/or beginning farmer) apply for capital funding on behalf of a group of small and/or beginning farmers?
Yes, as long as all the conditions as listed above are met in terms of small and/or beginning farmer status - the nonprofit organization applying itself meets the definition of small and/or beginning farmer.

 

Will the funding be distributed equally between land-based and water-based projects?
No, the funding will be distributed based on the quality of the applications.  The Committee will also make an effort to award projects with geographic diversity and an impact on the RI food system diversity in mind.

Will the Committee fund a portion of a project?
The Committee would be reluctant to do this, since it would require a good deal of proposal revision and Committee communication with applicants.  This would be quite difficult given the quick timeframe of the LASA application process as well as the 2-year timeframe for LASA projects to be completed.  Ideally, there will be no partial awards.

How much detail does an applicant need to provide in an application?  May an applicant attach additional materials if the space allotted on the application is not enough?
The LASA Advisory Committee is made up of a diverse group of individuals with varying expertise in different areas of the RI local food system.  Please provide enough detail in your application so that your project can be fully understood by a wide range of Committee members, but not too much as to detract from making the key aspects of your project easily understood.  A longer application does not necessarily mean a better one, but if necessary, appendices may be added.  There is no page limit or word limit.  Just the space for the fillable pdf.  Additional documents may be attached.

Is is okay for applicants submit multiple applications to LASA for different projects?  If projects are submitted for the Specialty Crops Block Grant Program can they still be submitted for the LASA grants program?
There is no restriction for the number of projects/applications that an individual or organization submits to the LASA grants program.  The Specialty Crop Block Grant program awards will be scored and awarded before the LASA awards so that there is no duplication of effort.  Applicants may apply for both, but please note that the criteria is more specific for the Specialty Crops Block grant Program, so certain projects may not fit into both funding areas.

May a company apply for LASA grant funding to purchase a piece of equipment (like a boat) in order to help teach the public about local ag or seafood in RI?  What if this piece of equipment also gave the public the opportunity to purchase local ag or seafood?
Under the funding guidelines, only small or beginning farmers are permitted to apply for funds for the purchase of a capital expense (like a boat or truck).  However, a company would be able to apply for funding to support the development of programming, tours or educational endeavors that promote local ag and/or seafood.

As a public-private partnership, will the RIDEM have certain benchmarks for this project that need to be hit for this funding stream to continue in future years?
Right now, there are no qualitative benchmarks to ensure continuation of this funding in future years.  It will be put into the RIDEM budget, but the funding is not guaranteed, it is a political process and dependent on the General Assembly and the Governor.  Right now, the critical success of this first round of funding will be based upon the success of the various projects that are funded and their overall contribution to the local food system.  Awardees should expect, in addition to the interim and final reports required for their project, media and RIFPC staff interest in documenting (photos, articles, interviews) progress during the projects.

Will the LASA Grants Program Advisory Committee provide any kind of feedback to applicants that don't receive funding in the first round?  Is there a system set-up to let applicants know why they did not receive funding for 2014 so that they may adjust their projects for future applications?
As the LASA Committee develops the LASA grant recommendation process (this is the first year of LASA grant funding, therefore there are no feedback systems set in place yet), the LASA Advisory Committee will decide how best to provide feedback to applicants that did not receive funding in 2014.

If you are applying for capital purchases, do you need to provide tax returns to verify your financial situation as reflected in your application?
No, the LASA grant does not ask for tax documentation to be provided with the application.  By signing the application before you submit it, you are entering into a legal agreement with the LASA Grants Program Advisory Committee, and the State,  that all the information you provided in the application was truthful, accurate and complete to the best of your knowledge.  The Advisory Committee, and the State, reserve the right to ask for additional information from potential awardees, but attached financial documents are not required as part of the application process for this first year of funding.

Are matching funds required for this grant application?
No, matching funds are not required for the 2014 LASA funding.  However, as with all important information about the budget for your project, if you have funding sources that will help with your potential project, be sure to mention that on your application.

Could you please define overhead and administrative costs?  Would travel and marketing costs such as website/brochure development be considered overhead?  Would the cost of renting cold storage space be an eligible expense?
Overhead or administrative costs are the costs of day-to-day operations or the cost for an organization to manage a grant project.  These can include a percentage of bookkeeper or accounting costs, rent, electricity, etc.  Overhead costs are items that a company or organization is paying for on a regular basis and are not project-specific.  Project-specific costs like travel, marketing materials, renting cold storage space should be put in the budget under the "MATERIALS" category or under the "OTHER" category, along with a description of what the costs are.

If an applicant receives an award, is the grant money taxed?
Yes, LASA grant funds would be treated as income and would be taxed under the personal income tax.

Would an applicant need to have 501c3 status in order to be awarded funds, or would they still be eligible if they are incorporated in RI as a nonprofit, but don't have 501c3 status yet?
You do not need to be a 501c3 in order to apply for LASA funds.

Can you please define what "organization" means in the application?
The term "organizations" encompasses both nonprofits and businesses - anyone applying that is not an individual.

If you are a business with an EIN and also qualify as a beginning farmer, per the definition, which way should you apply?
This is a personal decision, based on your project.  If you are applying for a capital grant, then you need to choose beginning farmer.  Otherwise it is up to applicant to decide.

If you are applying as an organization and not asking for capital funds, are you still required to provide annual gross and net revenue for the last 3 years?
Only small and/or beginning farmers can apply for capital grants.  ALL applicants need to fill out the project/program budget section of the application and budget narrative.  That section does not ask for annual and gross revenue for the last 3 years, only the section where you choose whether you are an organization or an individual applying asks for that info.

If you are a beginning farmer and do not have 3 full years of income history, what do you do?
If you have been in operation for less than 3 years, please explain that on the application and provide any information you do have related to the revenue for the time you have been in operation.

If we are in formation and do not have an EIN yet (it is pending), may we still apply?
Yes, an EIN is not required to apply for LASA funds.  Please indicate on your application if you are in the process of obtaining one.

If providing annual gross and revenue figures, can figure ranges be used, for example "6 figures" or "$100,000 to $999,999"?
If you are applying as an individual farmer for a capital grants, you need to give specifics on approximate annual gross revenue and annual net income for each of the last 3 years.  It cannot be an income range.  Eligibility is based on the $250K threshold definition, so this is important for the application.

If we are a local seafood business that aggregates local (caught in RI or nearby federal waters) seafood from a number of fisherman and we want to apply for funds to do a marketing campaign and purchase materials to expand our ability to do more Community Supported Fishery sales, would that be eligible?
This would be eligible as long as the materials to be purchased were for programming expansion/marketing campaign for wild caught seafood (not capital purchases).  However, please note that since aquaculture operators are considered farmers, if an aquaculture operation met the small and/or beginning farmer definition, then capital purchases would be permitted.

Would harvesting wild foods be considered part of local agriculture?  What if an application combined wild food harvesting with a local agriculture aspect (such as as growing wild food to supplement what can be harvested in the wild)?  Would this be eligible?
Yes, as long as the application indicated clearly how harvesting wild foods/growing wild foods would help build the local food system.

 

 

Who is serving on the 2014 LASA Advisory Committee?
The LASA Advisory Committee is Chaired by Ken Ayars, Chief of the Division of Agriculture at RIDEM.
Vice-Chair is Phil Larson, Volunteer at Jamestown Community Farm and Chairman, Jamestown Aquaculture Movement
The other members are as follows: 
Tess Brown-Lavoie, Urban Farmer, Little City Growers Cooperative
Nessa Richman, Brightseed Strategies
Kenneth Payne, Principal, Systems Aesthetics, LLC and representing the RI Agricultural Partnership
David Dadekian, President, EatDrinkRI and representing the RI Food Policy Council
Sheila Brush, Director of Programs, Grow Smart RI and representing the RI Food Policy Council
Max Greene, Staff Attorney, Conservation Law Foundation
Jules Opton-Himmel, Owner and Farmer, Walrus and Carpenter Oysters, LLC
Mike Giveney, President of the RI Shellfisherman's Association