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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program

U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES)
Agricultural Food and Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program

CLOSED - FOR REFERENCES PURPOSES ONLY

Enhancing Ecosystem Services From Agricultural Lands: Management, Quantification, And Developing Decision Support Tools

This is the initial announcement of this funding opportunity.

Funding Opportunity Number: EPA-G2008-STAR-K1

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: EPA: 66.509, USDA: 10.310

Solicitation Opening Date: February 25, 2009
Solicitation Closing Date: May 26, 2009, 4:00 pm Eastern Time

Eligibility Contact: William Stelz (stelz.william@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8039
Electronic Submissions: Ron Josephson (josephson.ron@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-0442; email: josephson.ron@epa.gov
EPA Technical Contact: Anne Sergeant (sergeant.anne@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8105; email: sergeant.anne@epa.gov
USDA Technical Contact: Diana Jerkins (djerkins@csrees.usda.gov); phone: 202-401-6996; email djerkins@csrees.usda.gov

Table of Contents:
SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS
Synopsis of Program
Award Information
Eligibility Information
Application Materials
Agency Contacts
I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION
A. Introduction
B. Background
C. Authority and Regulations
D. Specific Areas of Interest/Expected Outputs and Outcomes
E. References
F. Special Requirements
II. AWARD INFORMATION
III. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION
A. Eligible Applicants
B. Cost Sharing
C. Other
IV. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION
A. Internet Address to Request Application Package
B. Content and Form of Application Submission
C. Submission Dates and Times
D. Funding Restrictions
E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements
V. APPLICATION REVIEW INFORMATION
A. Peer Review
B. Programmatic Review
C. Funding Decisions
VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION
A. Award Notices
B. Disputes
C. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
VII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Access Standard STAR Forms (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/)
View research awarded under previous STAR solicitations (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/archive/grants/)

SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

Synopsis of Program:
The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as part of its Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grants Program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, are seeking applications proposing research on the ecosystem services provided by agricultural lands. Ecosystem services are the goods and services derived from natural and managed ecosystems upon which human welfare depends. Because of the global intensification of land use, these services are in decline, especially in agricultural ecosystems. Ecosystem services are essential in maintaining both human welfare as well as ecological integrity, yet these services can be affected by natural changes and management actions. In addition, agricultural lands are experiencing significant land use changes as demonstrated by the rapid conversion of these lands from traditional farming use, to alternate farming practices, to urban development, and to non-agricultural use.

Award Information:
Anticipated Type of Award: Grant or Cooperative Agreement
Estimated Number of Awards:

    EPA: Approximately 2 awards are anticipated with an estimated total funding level of approximately $1 Million.
    USDA: Approximately 7 awards are anticipated with an estimated funding level of approximately $3.5 Million.
Potential Funding per Award: Proposed project budget requests must not exceed $500,000 (including direct and indirect costs) with a maximum duration of 4 years for USDA and EPA grants. Proposals with budgets exceeding the total award limits will not be considered. Cost-sharing is not required.

Eligibility Information:
EPA
Public nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes public institutions of higher education and hospitals) and private nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes private institutions of higher education and hospitals) located in the U.S., state and local governments, Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments, and U.S. territories or possessions are eligible to apply. See full announcement for more details.

USDA
Except where otherwise prohibited by law, State agricultural experiment stations, all colleges and universities, other research institutions and organizations, Federal agencies, National Laboratories, private organizations or corporations, and individuals are eligible to apply for and to receive a competitive grant through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES).

Application Materials:
To apply under this solicitation, use the application package available at Grants.gov (for further submission information see Section IV.E. “Submission Instructions and other Submission Requirements”).  The necessary forms for submitting a STAR application will be found on the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) web site, http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/. If your organization is not currently registered with Grants.gov, you need to allow approximately one week to complete the registration process.  This registration, and electronic submission of your application, must be performed by an authorized representative of your organization.

If you do not have the technical capability to utilize the Grants.gov application submission process for this solicitation, call 1-800-490-9194 or send a webmail message to http://www.epa.gov/ncer/contact_us.html at least 15 calendar working days before the submission deadline to assure timely receipt of alternate submission instructions.  In your message  provide the funding opportunity number and title of the program, specify that you are requesting alternate submission instructions, and provide a telephone number, fax number, and an email address, if available.  Alternate instructions will be e-mailed whenever possible.  Any applications submitted through alternate submission methods must comply with all the provisions of this RFA, including Section IV, and be received by the solicitation closing date identified above.

Agency Contacts:
Eligibility Contact: William Stelz (stelz.william@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8039
Electronic Submissions: Ron Josephson (josephson.ron@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-0442; email: josephson.ron@epa.gov
EPA Technical Contact: Anne Sergeant (sergeant.anne@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8105; email: sergeant.anne@epa.gov
USDA Technical Contact: Diana Jerkins (djerkins@csrees.usda.gov); phone: 202-401-6996; email: djerkins@csrees.usda.gov

I. FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION

A. Introduction
Ecosystem services are the goods and services derived from natural and managed ecosystems upon which human welfare depends. Because of the global intensification of land use, these services are in decline, especially in agricultural ecosystems. Ecosystem services are essential in maintaining human welfare as well as ecological integrity, yet these services can be affected by natural changes and management actions. In addition, agricultural lands are experiencing significant land use changes as demonstrated by the rapid conversion of these lands from traditional farming use, to alternate farming practices, to urban development, and to non-agricultural use.

Agricultural ecosystems provide a vast array of goods and services. Even though ecosystem services relate to all USDA and CSREES strategic goals, CSREES AFRI is interested in expanding the current ecosystem services portfolio and would like to focus on Goal 3, Supporting Increased Economic Opportunities and Improved Quality of Life in Rural America, and Goal 6, Protect and Enhance the Nations Natural Resource Base and Environment. Agroecosystems of interest include cropping, forestry, range and grasslands ecosystems. A program focusing on ecosystem services provides an organized approach in developing basic and applied research projects to deliver scientifically based information for advising and guiding agricultural management, social, and policy decisions. Using a systems approach would expand current CSREES efforts on ecosystem services to evaluate multiple ecosystem services interactions and attributes at larger geographic scales. As more services become monetized, the issues of scale become increasingly important. One service should not be provided at the expense of other services and the long-term productivity of the system. Validation and quantification of the levels and number of services provided for will become necessary to maximize production efficiencies.

Accordingly, USDA and EPA are sponsoring research on ecosystem services, environmental management options, and the development of decision-support tools to assist decision-making by farmers and ranchers, state and local governments and by tribal nations. The EPA currently supports a number of research grants related to ecosystem services resulting from previous solicitations. Information regarding current research can be found on the Office of Research and Developments National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) web site at: http://www.epa.gov/ncer. The USDA/CSREES AFRI currently supports several research projects related to ecosystem services primarily through their Agroecosystem and Rural Prosperity cluster of programs. Information on these programs and current funded projects can be found at http://www.csrees.usda.gov/funding/afri/afri.html.

B. Background
More than 900 million acres of land are presently in agricultural production in the United States, comprising approximately 41% of the total area (USDA 2002). These working lands are also known as agricultural ecosystems or agroecosystems. They are dynamic associations of crops, pastures, forests, livestock, other flora and fauna, atmosphere, soils, and water. Agroecosystems are contained within larger landscapes that include uncultivated land, drainage networks, rural and urban communities, and wildlife.

Agroecosystems are among the most ancient of human-modified landscapes. For millennia they have been managed to provide essential services such as food, fuel, and fiber. Demands for these services, especially the production of biologically based fuels, have increased in recent years. Farms and timberland can also provide less visible ecosystem services, such as internal cycling of nutrients, retention of soils and sediments, mitigation of flood damage, climate-change regulation, and protection of biodiversity (MEA 2005). New research and spatially explicit models and other analytical tools are needed to assess the array of ecosystem services that could be provided from agricultural ecosystems both now and in the future. Ideally, new tools will be developed that identify how the pattern, connectivity, and management of agroecosystems could enhance the production of ecosystem services (e.g., enhanced riparian and aquatic habitat, carbon sequestration, ecological processes that affect the spread of invasive plants or animals, enhanced biodiversity, control of crop pests by natural predators), while reducing undesirable impacts such as non-point source pollution, eutrophication of lakes, rivers, and estuaries, and degraded groundwater and air quality. An important goal of this research is to provide a scientific framework to identify ways in which environmental protection goals can be integrated with management of agricultural ecosystems, especially at regional and sub-regional scales of analysis.

Agroecosytems are embedded in a larger landscape mosaic of rural and urban communities that drain to natural and engineered water bodies and are connected within airsheds via climate and weather patterns. This embedment contributes, in part, to the environmental externalities associated with agriculture, especially those related to the quality of air and water resources. Approximately 70 percent of U.S. rivers and streams and 49 percent of lakes are impaired by agricultural runoff which can contain sediments, nutrients and pathogens. Agricultural nutrients also promote eutrophication in receiving coastal waters, contributing to major shifts in the composition and abundances of aquatic plants and animals (Martinetto et al. 2006). Since the 1970s, nitrate flux from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico has increased, causing a persistent and large summer hypoxia (Turner et al. 2005). A significant amount of this nitrogen comes from agriculture: only about 30-50% of the nitrogen and 45% of phosphorous applied to fields is taken up by crops (Cassman et al. 2002; Smil 2000).

Agricultural production can also affect air quality. Agriculture has become dependent upon fixing inorganic nitrogen from the atmosphere to meet production demands. Unfortunately, agriculture is extremely inefficient at utilizing this fixed or reactive nitrogen. Once fixed, reactive nitrogen is converted back to atmospheric N2 gas at a rate that is well below the rate inorganic nitrogen is fixed, resulting in a net annual increase of reactive nitrogen. Inefficiencies in N use can degrade the environment and lead to large pools of reactive N in air, water and soil resources. About a quarter of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, -- an important component of smog -- released into the atmosphere comes from agricultural soils. Farming also contributes to atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases: 50% of the anthropogenic emissions of CH4 and 70% of N2O come from agricultural systems (Bhatia et al. 2004). Manure from livestock operations also contributes significant amounts of NH3, which can be transported off-site via air or water.

Negative impacts of agricultural production are exacerbated by our changing climate (see, for instance, http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap4-3/default.php); this in turn is driving many ecosystems across thresholds that are important for land, natural resource and agricultural production managers to consider. Appropriate natural resource management strategies and strategies for monitoring climate signals and ecosystem responses are needed in response to the increased scientific understanding of these signals and responses. In the face of mounting evidence of the biological and ecological consequences of climate change, and of the possibility that ecosystem changes may in fact be rapid, large, and sometimes irreversible (i.e. there may be thresholds that, once crossed, will present serious coping challenges to humans), policy makers and resource managers are confronted with the need to develop ways to proceed with decision-making in the realms of both mitigation and adaptation, despite the many uncertainties associated with thresholds. Understanding the speed, magnitude, and reversibility of climate change impacts on the natural environment and the potential consequences for the provision of ecosystem services is fundamental to human well being.

EPA has identified in its Strategic Plan its goal to maintain Healthy Communities and Ecosystems using integrated and comprehensive approaches and partnerships. Ecosystem services are provided by ecosystem structure and function. These services are essential to maintaining human welfare and ecological integrity, yet they can be affected by natural and human stressors and by management actions. Authority to manage water resources and privately owned lands is delegated to states and localities, but EPA shares with states and tribal nations the responsibility for implementing regulations related to maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of aquatic ecosystems; protecting groundwater quality; ensuring clean air, and protecting against adverse consequences of pesticide use.

The specific Strategic Goal and Objective from EPAs Strategic Plan that relate to this solicitation are Goal 4: Healthy Communities and Ecosystems, Objective 4.4: Enhance Science and Research.

The EPAs Strategic Plan can be found at http://www.epa.gov/ocfo/plan/2006/entire_report.pdf (PDF) (184 pp, 11.56 MB, about PDF).

C. Authority and Regulations
The EPA authority for this RFA and resulting awards is contained in the Clean Water Act, Section 104, 33 U.S.C. 1254; the Safe Drinking Water Act, Section 1442, 42 U.S.C. 300j-1; the Clean Air Act, Section 103, 42 U.S.C. 7403; and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, Section 20, 7 U.S.C. 136r.

For research with an international aspect, the above statutes are supplemented, as appropriate, by the National Environmental Policy Act, Section 102(2)(F).

Applicable regulations include: 40 CFR Part 30 (Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-Profit Organizations), 40 CFR Part 31 (Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Governments) and 40 CFR Part 40 (Research and Demonstration Grants). Applicable OMB Circulars include: OMB Circular A-21 (Cost Principles for Educational Institutions) relocated to 2 CFR Part 220, OMB Circular A-87 (Cost Principles for State, Local and Indian Tribal Governments) relocated to 2 CFR Part 225, OMB Circular A-102 (Grants and Cooperative Agreements With State and Local Governments), OMB Circular A-110 (Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Other Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals and Other Non-Profit Organizations) relocated to 2 CFR Part 215, and OMB Circular A-122, (Cost Principles for Non-Profit Organizations) relocated to 2 CFR Part 230.

The USDA authority for this RFA is contained in section 7406 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008. Under this authority, subject to the availability of funds, the Secretary may award competitive research grants, for periods not to exceed five years, for the support of research projects to further the programs of the USDA. This program is subject to the provision found at 7 CFR Part 3430. These provisions set forth procedures to be followed when submitting grant applications, rules governing the evaluation of applications and the awarding of grants, and regulations relating to the post-award administration of grant projects.

D. Specific Research Areas of Interest/Expected Outputs and Outcomes
Note to applicant: The term output means an environmental activity or effort, and associated work products, related to a specific environmental goal(s), (e.g., testing a new methodology), that will be produced or developed over a period of time under the agreement. The term outcome means the result, effect, or consequence that will occur from the above activity(ies) that is related to an environmental, behavioral, or health-related objective.

This solicitation seeks proposals to [1] develop methods to quantitatively estimate the variety of potential ecosystem services associated with a given agricultural setting and to portray the range of possible combinations of such services that could be produced over space and time and [2] develop quantitative strategies to reduce the negative environmental impacts of agriculture while enhancing the ecosystem services provided by these working lands. As noted by the National Academy of Sciences (2004), the translation from ecosystem structure and function to ecosystem goods and services is described by an ecological production function, i.e., the goods and services that can be produced from inputs of natural and human capital, labor, and other resources. The following graphic provides a heuristic view of such production functions, comparing the type and relative magnitude of example services that are provided from natural systems, from intensive farmlands, and from croplands with restored ecosystem services.


Figure 1. Three hypothetical landscapes illustrating the types and magnitude of services associated with different types of ecosystems. Natural ecosystems can support many ecosystem services at high levels, but not food production. An intensive cropland produces food in abundance, but comparatively little of the other services. A managed cropland can support a broad portfolio of ecosystem services (Foley et al. 2005, with permission).

This program seeks to:

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of current managed agricultural systems or practices and determine the consequences of change due to biological, environmental, economic, or other factors on the sustainability of ecosystem services;
  • Provide a scientific framework to identify ways in which providing for ecosystem services can be integrated with management of agricultural ecosystems; and
  • Enable producers, resource managers, and policy makers to better understand ecosystem functions and optimizing services, including the response of these systems to changing environmental conditions and future agricultural scenarios. With this understanding, they can have an informed scientific basis for managing agricultural lands and develop strategies to continue to optimize ecosystem services.

Proposals must: (1) describe a selected agroecosystem that is at high risk of losing multiple high value ecosystem services; (2) address all three Project Activity areas (below) and select an appropriate spatial scale(s) for the development of management and decision support tools; and (3) select one or more environmental stressor(s) impacting the chosen agroecosystem of study. Projects can link multiple stressors. Applicants are encouraged to incorporate a multi-disciplinary approach and have stakeholder involvement.

High Risk Agroecosystems

Agroecosystems of interest are those that are at high risk of losing existing ecosystem services due to land use conversion or change and environmental impacts. Priority will be given to agroecosystems that produce high economic value products and/or have potential for high value market or non-market ecosystem services. Agroecosystems must be subject to the specific environmental stressors mentioned below over various temporal and geographic scales. They could include those that are at tipping points or altered to the point that it would be difficult for the system to revert to its previous state even if the stressor causing the change is reduced or eliminated.

Project Activities

  1. Baseline: Identify and quantify the quality and quantity of the multiple ecosystem services provided by the selected agroecosystem at the farm, watershed, or regional scale;
  2. Ecosystem change: Evaluate how ecosystem services and agricultural practices under changing ecological thresholds/functioning are impacted by major environmental stressors (see stressor list below); and
  3. Management strategies and tools: Develop quantitative strategies to mitigate and respond to environmental impacts caused by stressors on agricultural lands so that ecosystems function sustainably to optimize ecosystem services. Physical, biological, and economic benefits and trade-offs of various agricultural practices supporting ecosystem services should be considered. Management strategies should be used to develop scale specific decision support tools for: a) producers of agricultural systems at the whole farm level, and/or b) managers and policy makers of natural resources at a watershed or regional scale.

Stressor Emphasis:

    Climate Change: Climate change has the potential to irreversibly alter ecological processes in agricultural ecosystems, such as agricultural lands, forests and rangelands that provide ecosystem services. Research should focus on climatecoupled modeling to describe and predict thresholds or trends in resilience of agricultural lands, forests or rangelands that affect their ability to provide ecosystem services under altered seasonal or extreme climate-driven conditions, such as changes in precipitation, temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Projects should also identify options for managing these agroecosystems as climate-driven physical, ecological and societal thresholds are approached to avoid irreversible changes in ecological processes that support ecosystem services.
    Water Availability: Agricultural practices account for the single largest use of water supplies around the world. While climate influences where crops will grow, water availability is necessary for crop success. Research should evaluate risks and economic options for balancing water supplies for agricultural production and processing with desired ecosystem services such as protection of endangered aquatic plant and animal species in wetlands, water quantity and quality, flood control, ground water recharge, biodiversity.
    Reactive Nitrogen: Nitrogen from farms and feedlots is a major source of ecosystem pollution (i.e., air, soil, and water systems). Agroecosystem projects impacted by reactive nitrogen should develop methods to increase nitrogen efficiency in the system by improved uptake and availability to plant and animal systems that result in improved ecosystem services; and determine effective ways to interrupt the nitrogen cycle to reduce the impairment of ecosystems services by nitrogen. Projects should develop process-based models to estimate leakage of nitrogen in agroecosystems and to predict where improvements in ecosystem services are likely through better nitrogen management.
    Pests, Weeds and Invasive Species: Agricultural pests, weeds, and invasive species are major culprits in the reduction of worldwide crop yields, not to mention post-harvest losses. Projects focusing on these issues should seek to quantify, provide valuation and forecast changes in the services provided by agroecosystems brought about directly or indirectly through pests, weeds, and/or invasive species. Proposed research might investigate how pests, weeds, and/or invasive species impact the ability of agroecosystems to provide food, fuel, fiber, as well as those processes affecting air and water quality, climate, erosion control, and human diseases.
    Soil and Land Degradation: Changing land use and land cover can sometimes lead to degradation of the soil resource due to erosion and structural changes, soil saturation, salinization, acidification, and contamination. This degradation of soil and landscapes puts stress on agroecosystems (including agricultural, forest, and range lands) and diminishes their capacity to provide important ecosystem services. Research under this stressor should use, improve, or develop process-based models to evaluate risk and determine effective strategies to avoid or mitigate the loss of ecosystems services in areas sensitive to these stressors. Applicants who choose this topic must link it to one of the four stressor emphasis areas listed above (i.e., climate change; water availability; reactive nitrogen; or pests, weeds, and invasive species).

Proposals must describe the rationale for selecting a portfolio of two or more services to be investigated. For example, some of these services are relatively specific to particular times and geographic locations, such as regulating water quantity and quality in certain wetlands or river reaches. Others are more broadly regional, such as uptake of nutrients to reduce hypoxia in estuaries. Still others can be regional to global in scope, such as sequestering carbon or reducing greenhouse gases. Proposals should describe the benefits of the study design for enhancing the production of ecosystem services from agricultural ecosystems at the regional and sub-regional scales of analysis, including geographic networks of lands at the rural / urban interface. Areas that are at high risk of losing existing ecosystem services or those that have the greatest potential for restoring or improving ecosystem services are of special interest.

Successful proposals will describe the types of products and outputs anticipated from the research and the role of these outputs in yielding environmental outcomes; e.g., measurable changes in services, contributions to human welfare, or improved ecological condition. The following types of outputs are especially desired: maps and other spatial-analysis products, predictive models, quantitative information on ecosystem services and associated ecological production functions, and decision-support tools. These outputs are not necessarily mutually exclusive; some research results may contribute to more than one output. It is expected that a wide range of analytical methods may be employed, including dynamic modeling, neutral terrain modeling, scenario-building, and optimization procedures. Proposals must describe the data used to develop, parameterize, and test these analytical methods.

Estimates of ecosystem services produced from the research should be expressed as quantitatively as possible and with explicit reference to dimensions of space and time. For example, ecosystem services could be expressed as rates, stocks, or flows; as changes to baseline conditions; or other quantitative measures. These measures of ecosystem services should be chosen for their relevance to managing natural resources, managing risks to people or the environment, and to making market decisions. Examples of market decisions include those related to water quality trading, selection and purchase of conservation easements to achieve specific conservation objectives, and carbon offset markets. For example, a useful research result would be to quantify that a given management practice could reduce pesticide use by X% over a specified spatial area, and reduce peak annual floods and associated sedimentation by Y% over a twenty mile river segment over a Z- year time horizon. Estimates of associated economic costs or benefits associated with the ecosystem services are strongly encouraged.

For maps and other spatial-analysis products, proposals should describe how multiple services associated with a given location will be addressed. For example, wetlands might yield multiple benefits such as denitrification, flood storage capacity, and maintenance of bird communities that reduce pest species. For ecological production functions, proposals should describe how the research is anticipated to provide information about the effect of management options on the type, magnitude, and timing of services provided, and to advance issues related to identifying and evaluating trade-offs among services.

Proposals must also describe the environmental outcomes that might reasonably be expected from successful implementation of their research findings. For example, outcomes related to improved ecosystem integrity and resilience might include the following: nutrients are recycled in-place, not exported downstream; rivers, lakes, and coastal areas are not over-fertilized, noxious weeds and dead-zones are avoided; spring flood waters are held on fields, reducing downstream flooding, transport of pollutants, and associated damages; soil erosion is minimized, reducing land degradation and pesticide transport, and improving air and water quality; pesticide uses that disrupt natural pollination and natural pest control are avoided; biodiversity is enhanced.

Finally, proposals should discuss how research results could be used to create or improve decision-support tools in order to enable resource managers, agricultural producers, and decision-makers to proactively manage agricultural ecosystems and the services they provide. These decision tools should provide ways to describe and compare multiple ecosystem attributes, including information on the availability, reliability, and possible synergies among ecosystem services over space and time. In particular, the proposed research should enable development of testable hypotheses about when and where enhanced ecosystem services would be expected to be observed and to describe the expected lag-times between management decisions and observed environmental outcomes. Ideally, decision support tools supported by this solicitation will enable users to compare trade-offs in ecosystem services provided by agricultural lands at farm to regional scales. Research teams that involve farmers associations, resource managers, economists, and financial analysts in the testing and demonstration of these support tools are strongly encouraged.

E. References
American Farmland Trust. 2006. http://www.farmland.org/ exit EPA

Bhatia, A., Pathak, H., and Aggarwal, P. K. 2004. Inventory of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils in India and their global-warming potential. Current Science 87:317-324.

Cassman, K.G., Dobermann, A., and Walters, D. 2002. Agroecosystems, nitrogen-use efficiency, and nitrogen management. AMBIO 31:132-140.

Cleveland, C.J. et al. 2006. Economic value of the pest control service provided by Brazilian free-tailed bats in south-central Texas. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 4(5):238-243.

Foley, J. A. et al. 2005. Global consequences of land use. Science 309 :570-574. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/309/5734/570 exit EPA

Kremen, C., Williams, N.M., Thorp, R.W. 2002. Crop pollination from native bees at risk from agricultural intensification. PNAS, 99:16812-16816.

Martinetto, P., Teichberg, M., and Valiela, I. 2006. Coupling of estuarine benthic and pelagic food webs to land-derived nitrogen sources in Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts, USA. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 307:3748.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being. vol. 1. Current State and Trends. Washington DC: Island Press.

National Academy of Sciences. 2004. Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision-making. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11139 exit EPA

Smil, V. 2000. Phosphorous in the environment: natural flows and human interferences. Annu. Rev. Energy Environ. 25:53-88.

Turner, R. E., Rabalais, N. N., Swenson, E. M., Kasprzak, M., and Romaire, T. 2005. Summer hypoxia in the northern Gulf of Mexico and its prediction from 1978 to 1995. Mar. Environ. Res. 59:65-77.

USDA 2002 (http://www.ers.usda.gov/StateFacts/US.htm)

F. Special Requirements
Multiple Investigator applications may be submitted as: (1) a single Lead Principal Investigator (PI) application with Co-PI(s) or (2) a Multiple PI application (with a single Contact PI). If you choose to submit a Multiple PI application, you must follow the specific instructions provided in Sections IV. and V. of this RFA. For further information, please see the EPA Implementation Plan for Policy on Multiple Principal Investigators and the CSREES, USDA, Implementation Plan for Recognizing Multiple Principle Investigators on Federally-Funded Research Projects, both at (http://rbm.nih.gov/toolkit.htm).

The application must include a plan (see Data Plan in section IV.B.5.c.) to make available to the public all data generated from observations, analyses, or model development (primary data) and any secondary (or existing) data used under an agreement awarded from this RFA. The data must be available in a format and with documentation such that they may be used by others in the scientific community.

These awards may involve the collection of Geospatial Information, which includes information that identifies the geographic location and characteristics of natural or constructed features or boundaries on the Earth or applications, tools, and hardware associated with the generation, maintenance, or distribution of such information. This information may be derived from, among other things, a Geographic Positioning System (GPS), remote sensing, mapping, charting, and surveying technologies, or statistical data.

EPA
Agency technical staff and managers are prevented from providing individual applicants with information that may create an unfair competitive advantage. Consequently, Agency employees will not review, comment, advise, and/or provide technical assistance to applicants preparing applications in response to RFAs, nor will they endorse an application or discuss in any manner how the Agency will apply the published evaluation criteria for this competition.

The most competitive proposals will involve local governments and/or state environmental managers. Successful applicants will direct their communicative efforts toward the appropriate user community, i.e., State, Tribal, or local agency. These efforts shall include, but are not limited to: disseminating research results, identifying potential research products (i.e., decision support tools, intervention strategies/techniques, etc.) and discussing a strategy for coordinating the demonstration of these tools and techniques to these communities.

II. AWARD INFORMATION

It is anticipated that a total of approximately $4.5 million will be awarded under this announcement, depending on the availability of funds and quality of applications received. USDA and EPA will commit up to approximately $3.5 million, and up to $1 million, respectively.  A total of approximately 9 grants or cooperative agreements are anticipated for funding.

EPA
The EPA anticipates funding approximately two awards under this RFA. Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $500,000, including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered. The total project period requested in an application submitted for this RFA may not exceed 4 years. The EPA reserves the right to reject all applications and make no awards, or make fewer awards than anticipated, under this RFA. The EPA reserves the right to make additional awards under this announcement, consistent with Agency policy, if additional funding becomes available after the original selections are made. Any additional selections for awards will be made no later than six months after the original selection decisions.

EPA may award both grants and cooperative agreements under this announcement.

Under a grant, EPA scientists and engineers are not permitted to be substantially involved in the execution of the research. However, EPA encourages interaction between its own laboratory scientists and grant Principal Investigators after the award of an EPA grant for the sole purpose of exchanging information in research areas of common interest that may add value to their respective research activities. This interaction must be incidental to achieving the goals of the research under a grant. Interaction that is incidental does not involve resource commitments.

Where appropriate, based on consideration of the nature of the proposed project relative to the EPAs intramural research program and available resources, the EPA may award cooperative agreements under this announcement. When addressing a research question/problem of common interest, collaborations between scientists and the institutions principal investigators are permitted under a cooperative agreement. These collaborations may include data and information exchange, providing technical input to experimental design and theoretical development, coordinating extramural research with in-house activities, the refinement of valuation endpoints, and joint authorship of journal articles on these activities. Proposals may not identify EPA cooperators or interactions; specific interactions between EPAs investigators and those of the prospective recipient for cooperative agreements will be negotiated at the time of award.

USDA
USDA-CSREES anticipates funding 7 grants or cooperative agreements under this announcement, depending on availability of funds. Projected awards are anticipated to be up to $500,000 for 2-4 years. Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $500,000, including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered. The total project period for an application submitted in response to this RFA may not exceed 4 years.

Applicants selected for USDA funding will be required to submit additional forms and documents as detailed in A Guide for Preparation and Submission of CSREES Applications via Grants.gov (PDF). (50 pp, 3.12 MB, about PDF) All awards made from USDA will be limited to an indirect costs cap of 22% of the total Federal funds awarded.  Revised budgets will be solicited if these guidelines are not met by an application to be awarded by USDA-CSREES.

III. ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION

A. Eligible Applicants
EPA
Public nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes public institutions of higher education and hospitals) and private nonprofit institutions/organizations (includes private institutions of higher education and hospitals) located in the U.S., state and local governments, Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments, and U.S. territories or possessions are eligible to apply. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive assistance agreements from the EPA under this program.

Eligible nonprofit organizations include any organizations that meet the definition of nonprofit in OMB Circular A-122, located at 2 CFR Part 230. However, nonprofit organizations described in Section 501(c) (4) of the Internal Revenue Code that lobby are not eligible to apply.

National laboratories funded by Federal Agencies (Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers, FFRDCs) may not apply. FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations. They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the applicant, but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization. The institution, organization, or governance receiving the award may provide funds through its assistance agreement from the EPA to an FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research. However, salaries for permanent FFRDC employees may not be provided through this mechanism.

Federal Agencies may not apply. Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on an assistance agreement, and may not receive salaries or augment their Agencys appropriations in other ways through awards made under this program.

The applicant institution may enter into an agreement with a Federal Agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector. Examples are purchase of satellite data, census data tapes, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere. A written justification for federal involvement must be included in the application. In addition, an appropriate form of assurance that documents the commitment, such as a letter of intent from the Federal Agency involved, should be included.

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact William Stelz (stelz.william@epa.gov) in NCER, phone (202) 343-9802

USDA
Except where otherwise prohibited by law, State agricultural experiment stations, all colleges and universities, other research institutions and organizations, Federal agencies, national laboratories, public and private organizations or corporations, and individuals are eligible to apply for and to receive a competitive grant through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the CSREES. Award recipients may subcontract to organizations not eligible to apply provided such organizations are necessary for the conduct of the project.

B. Cost-Sharing
Institutional cost-sharing is not required.

C. Other
Applications must substantially comply with the application submission instructions and requirements set forth in Section IV of this announcement or they will be rejected. In addition, where a page limitation is expressed in Section IV with respect to parts of the application, pages in excess of the page limit will not be reviewed. Applications must be received by Grants.gov (see Section IV.E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements for further information, or through any authorized alternate submission methods described in Section IV) on or before the solicitation closing date and time in Section IV of this announcement or they will be returned to the sender without further consideration. Also, applications exceeding the funding limits or project period term described herein will be returned without review. Further, applications that fail to demonstrate a public purpose of support or stimulation (e.g., by proposing research which primarily benefits a Federal program or provides a service for a Federal agency) will not be funded.

Proposals must: (1) describe a selected agroecosystem that is at high risk of losing multiple high value ecosystem services; (2) address all three Project Activity areas (below) and select an appropriate spatial scale(s) for the development of management and decision support tools; and (3) select one or more environmental stressor impacting the chosen agroecosystem of study. Projects can link multiple stressors. Applicants are encouraged to incorporate a multi-disciplinary approach and have stakeholder involvement.

High Risk Agroecosystems

Agroecosystems of interest are those that are at high risk of losing existing ecosystem services due to land use conversion or change and environmental impacts. Priority will be given to agroecosystems that produce high economic value products and/or have potential for high value market or non-market ecosystem services. Agroecosystems must be subject to the specific environmental stressors mentioned below over various temporal and geographic scales. They could include those that are at tipping points or altered to the point that it would be difficult for the system to revert to its previous state even if the stressor causing the change is reduced or eliminated.

Project Activities

  1. Baseline: Identify and quantify the quality and quantity of the multiple ecosystem services provided by the selected agroecosystem at the farm, watershed, or regional scale;
  2. Ecosystem change: Evaluate how ecosystem services and agricultural practices under changing ecological thresholds/functioning are impacted by major environmental stressors (see stressor list below); and
  3. Management strategies and tools: Develop quantitative strategies to mitigate and respond to environmental impacts caused by stressors on agricultural lands so that ecosystems function sustainably to optimize ecosystem services. Physical, biological, and economic benefits and trade-offs of various agricultural practices supporting ecosystem services should be considered. Management strategies should be used to develop scale specific decision support tools for: a) producers of agricultural systems at the whole farm level, and/or b) managers and policy makers of natural resources at a watershed or regional scale.

Stressor Emphasis:

    Climate Change: Climate change has the potential to irreversibly alter ecological processes in agricultural ecosystems, such as agricultural lands, forests and rangelands that provide ecosystem services. Research should focus on climatecoupled modeling to describe and predict thresholds or trends in resilience of agricultural lands, forests or rangelands that affect their ability to provide ecosystem services under altered seasonal or extreme climate-driven conditions, such as changes in precipitation, temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Projects should also identify options for managing these agroecosystems as climate-driven physical, ecological and societal thresholds are approached to avoid irreversible changes in ecological processes that support ecosystem services.
    Water Availability: Agricultural practices account for the single largest use of water supplies around the world. While climate influences where crops will grow, water availability is necessary for crop success. Research should evaluate risks and economic options for balancing water supplies for agricultural production and processing with desired ecosystem services such as protection of endangered aquatic plant and animal species in wetlands, water quantity and quality, flood control, ground water recharge, biodiversity.
    Reactive Nitrogen: Nitrogen from farms and feedlots is a major source of ecosystem pollution (i.e., air, soil, and water systems). Agroecosystem projects impacted by reactive nitrogen should develop methods to increase nitrogen efficiency in the system by improved uptake and availability to plant and animal systems that result in improved ecosystem services; and determine effective ways to interrupt the nitrogen cycle to reduce the impairment of ecosystems services by nitrogen. Projects should develop process-based models to estimate leakage of nitrogen in agroecosystems and to predict where improvements in ecosystem services are likely through better nitrogen management.
    Pests, Weeds and Invasive Species: Agricultural pests, weeds, and invasive species are major culprits in the reduction of worldwide crop yields, not to mention post-harvest losses. Projects focusing on these issues should seek to quantify, provide valuation and forecast changes in the services provided by agroecosystems brought about directly or indirectly through pests, weeds, and/or invasive species. Proposed research might investigate how pests, weeds, and/or invasive species impact the ability of agroecosystems to provide food, fuel, fiber, as well as those processes affecting air and water quality, climate, erosion control, and human diseases.
    Soil and Land Degradation: Changing land use and land cover can sometimes lead to degradation of the soil resource due to erosion and structural changes, soil saturation, salinization, acidification, and contamination. This degradation of soil and landscapes puts stress on agroecosystems (including agricultural, forest, and range lands) and diminishes their capacity to provide important ecosystem services. Research under this stressor should use, improve, or develop process-based models to evaluate risk and determine effective strategies to avoid or mitigate the loss of ecosystems services in areas sensitive to these stressors. Applicants who choose this topic must link it to one of the four stressor emphasis areas listed above (i.e., climate change; water availability; reactive nitrogen; or pests, weeds, and invasive species).

Proposals must also describe the following:

  1. Rationale for selecting a portfolio of two or more services to be investigated.
  2. Data used to develop, parameterize, and test these analytical methods.
  3. Environmental outcomes that might reasonably be expected from successful implementation of their research findings.

In addition, to be eligible for funding consideration by EPA, a projects focus must consist of activities within the statutory terms of EPAs financial assistance authorities; specifically, the statute(s) listed in I.C. above. Generally, a project must address the causes, effects, extent, prevention, reduction, and elimination of air pollution, water pollution, solid/hazardous waste pollution, toxic substances control, or pesticide control depending on which statute(s) is listed in I.C. above. These activities should relate to the gathering or transferring of information or advancing the state of knowledge. Proposals should emphasize this learning concept, as opposed to fixing an environmental problem via a well-established method. Proposals relating to other topics which are sometimes included within the term environment such as recreation, conservation, restoration, protection of wildlife habitats, etc., must describe the relationship of these topics to the statutorily required purpose of pollution prevention and/or control.

Applications deemed ineligible for funding consideration will be notified within fifteen calendar days of the ineligibility determination.

IV. APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION

Formal instructions for submission through Grants.gov follow in Section E.

A. Internet Address to Request Application Package
Use the application package available at Grants.gov (see Section E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements). Note: With the exception of the budget form, the current and pending support form, and the conflict of interest list (available at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms), all necessary forms are included in the electronic application package.

An email will be sent by NCER to the Lead/Contact PI and the Administrative Contact (see below) to acknowledge receipt of the application and transmit other important information. The email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov; emails to this address will not be accepted. If you do not receive an email acknowledgment within 30 days of the submission closing date, immediately inform the Eligibility Contact shown in this solicitation. Failure to do so may result in your application not being reviewed. See Section E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements for additional information regarding the application receipt acknowledgment.

B. Content and Form of Application Submission
The application is made by submitting the materials described below. Applications must contain all information requested and be submitted in the formats described.

  1. Standard Form 424

    The applicant must complete Standard Form 424. This form will be the first page(s) of the application. Instructions for completion of the SF424 are included with the form. (However, note that EPA requires that the entire requested dollar amount appear on the 424, not simply the proposed first year expenses.) The form must contain the original (or electronic) signature of an authorized representative of the applying institution.

    Applicants are required to provide a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number when applying for federal grants or cooperative agreements. Organizations may receive a DUNS number by calling 1-866-705-5711 or by visiting the web site at http://www.dnb.com exit EPA.

    Executive Order 12372, Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs, does not apply to the Office of Research and Development's research and training programs unless EPA has determined that the activities that will be carried out under the applicants' proposal (a) require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), or (b) do not require an EIS but will be newly initiated at a particular site and require unusual measures to limit the possibility of adverse exposure or hazard to the general public, or (c) have a unique geographic focus and are directly relevant to the governmental responsibilities of a State or local government within that geographic area.

    If EPA determines that Executive Order 12372 applies to an applicant's proposal, the applicant must follow the procedures in 40 CFR Part 29. The applicant must notify their state's single point of contact (SPOC). To determine whether their state participates in this process, and how to comply, applicants should consult http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/grants/spoc.html. If an applicant is in a State that does not have a SPOC, or the State has not selected research and development grants for intergovernmental review, the applicant must notify directly affected State, area wide, regional and local entities of its proposal.

    EPA will notify the successful applicant(s) if Executive Order 12372 applies to its proposal prior to award.

  2. Key Contacts

    The applicant must complete the Key Contacts form as the second page of the application. An Additional Key Contacts form is also available at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms. The Key Contacts form should also be completed for major sub-agreements (i.e., primary investigators). Please make certain that all contact information is accurate.

    For Multiple PI applications: The Additional Key Contacts form must be completed (see Section I.F. for further information). Note: The Contact PI must be affiliated with the institution submitting the application. EPA and CSREES will direct all communications related to scientific, technical, and budgetary aspects of the project to the Contact PI; however, any information regarding an application will be shared with any PI upon request. The Contact PI is to be listed on the Key Contact Form as the Project Manager/Principal Investigator (the term Project Manager is used on the Grants.gov form, the term Principal Investigator is used on the form located on NCERs web site). For additional PIs, complete the Major Co-Investigator fields and identify PI status next to the name (e.g., Name: John Smith, Principal Investigator).

  3. Table of Contents

    Provide a list of the major subdivisions of the application indicating the page number on which each section begins.

  4. Abstract (1 page)

    The abstract is a very important document in the review process. Therefore, it is critical that the abstract accurately describes the research being proposed and conveys all the essential elements of the research. Please note that these abstract instructions follow EPA guidelines; USDA will inform successful applicants of its separate agency-specific abstract guidelines. Also, the abstracts of applications that receive funding from EPA will be posted on the NCER web site and the CSREES-funded applications on the USDA-CSREES web site.

    The abstract should include the information described below (a-h). Examples of abstracts for current grants may be found on the NCER web site (http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/research.search/rpt/abs/type/3) or USDAs web site (http://www.csrees.usda.gov/funding/nri/nri_abstracts.html).

    1. Funding Opportunity Title and Number for this proposal.
    2. Project Title: Use the exact title of your project as it appears in the application. The title must be brief yet represent the major thrust of the project. Because the title will be used by those not familiar with the project, strike a balance between highly technical words and phrases and more commonly understood terminology. Do not use general phrases such as research on.
    3. Investigators: For applications with multiple investigators, state whether this is a single Lead PI (with co-PIs) or Multiple PI application (see Section I.F.). For Lead PI applications, list the Lead PI, then the name(s) of each co-PI who will significantly contribute to the project. For Multiple PI applications, list the Contact PI, then the name(s) of each additional PI. Provide a web site URL or an email contact address for additional information.
    4. Institution: In the same order as the list of investigators, list the name, city and state of each participating university or other applicant institution. The institution applying for assistance must be clearly identified.
    5. Project Period and Location: Show the proposed project beginning and ending dates and the geographical location(s) where the work will be conducted.
    6. Project Cost: Show the total dollars requested from the funding agency (include direct and indirect costs for all years).
    7. Project Summary: Provide three subsections addressing: (1) the objectives of the study (including any hypotheses that will be tested), (2) the experimental approach to be used (a description of the proposed project), and (3) the expected results of the project and how it addresses the research needs identified in the solicitation, including the estimated improvement in risk assessment or risk management that will result from successful completion of the proposed work.
    8. Supplemental Keywords: Without duplicating terms already used in the text of the abstract, list keywords to assist database searchers in finding your research. A list of suggested keywords may be found at: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms.
  5. Research Plan, Quality Assurance Statement, Data Plan and References
    1. Research Plan (15 pages)

      Applications should focus on the research objectives that adequately and clearly demonstrate that they meet the RFA requirements. Explicitly state the main hypotheses that you will investigate, the data you will create or use, the analytical tools you will use to investigate these hypotheses or analyze these data, and the results you expect to achieve. Research methods must be clearly stated so that reviewers can evaluate the appropriateness of your approach and the tools you intend to use. A statement such as: we will evaluate the data using the usual statistical methods is not specific enough for peer reviewers.

      This description must not exceed fifteen (15) consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins. While these guidelines establish the minimum type size requirements, applicants are advised that readability is of paramount importance and should take precedence in selection of an appropriate font for use in the proposal.

      The description must provide the following information:

      1. Objectives: List the objectives of the proposed research and the hypotheses being tested during the project, and briefly state why the intended research is important and how it fulfills the requirements of the solicitation. This section should also include any background or introductory information that would help explain the objectives of the study. If this application is to expand upon research supported by an existing or former assistance agreement awarded under the STAR or AFRI program, indicate the number of the agreement and provide a brief report of progress and results achieved under it.
      2. Approach/Activities: Outline the research design, methods, and techniques that you intend to use in meeting the objectives stated above.
      3. Expected Results, Benefits, Outputs, and Outcomes: Describe the results you expect to achieve during the project (outputs) and the potential benefits of the results (outcomes). This section should also discuss how the research results will lead to solutions to environmental problems and improve the publics ability to protect the environment and human health. A clear, concise description will help NCER, CSREES, and peer reviewers understand the merits of the research.
      4. General Project Information: Discuss other information relevant to the potential success of the project. This should include facilities, personnel expertise/experience, project schedules, proposed management, interactions with other institutions, etc. Applications for multi-investigator projects must identify project management and the functions of each investigator in each team and describe plans to communicate and share data.
      5. Appendices may be included but must remain within the 15-page limit.
    2. Quality Assurance Statement (3 pages)

      For projects involving environmental data collection or processing, conducting surveys, modeling, method development, or the development of environmental technology (whether hardware-based or via new techniques), provide a Quality Assurance Statement (QAS) regarding the plans for processes that will be used to ensure that the products of the research satisfy the intended project objectives. Follow the guidelines provided below to ensure that the QAS describes a system that complies with ANSI/ASQC E4, Specifications and Guidelines for Quality Systems for Environmental Data Collection and Environmental Technology Programs. Do not exceed three consecutively numbered, 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.

      NOTE: If selected for award, applicants will be expected to provide additional quality assurance documentation.

      Address each applicable section below by including the required information, referencing the specific location of the information in the Research Plan, or explaining why the section does not apply to the proposed research. (Not all will apply.)

      1. Identify the individual who will be responsible for the quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) aspects of the research along with a brief description of this persons functions, experience, and authority within the research organization. Describe the organizations general approach for conducting quality research. (QA is a system of management activities to ensure that a process or item is of the type and quality needed for the project. QC is a system of activities that measures the attributes and performance of a process or item against the standards defined in the project documentation to verify that they meet those stated requirements.)
      2. Discuss project objectives, including quality objectives, any hypotheses to be tested, and the quantitative and/or qualitative procedures that will be used to evaluate the success of the project. Include any plans for peer or other reviews of the study design or analytical methods.
      3. Address each of the following project elements as applicable:
        1. Collection of new/primary data:
          (Note: In this case the word sample is intended to mean any finite part of a statistical population whose properties are studied to gain information about the whole. If certain attributes listed below do not apply to the type of samples to be used in your research, simply explain why those attributes are not applicable.)
          1. Discuss the plan for sample collection and analysis. As applicable, include sample type(s), frequency, locations, sample sizes, sampling procedures, and the criteria for determining acceptable data quality (e.g., precision, accuracy, representativeness, completeness, comparability, or data quality objectives).
          2. Describe the procedures for the handling and custody of samples including sample collection, identification, preservation, transportation, and storage, and how the accuracy of test measurements will be verified.
          3. Describe or reference each analytical method to be used, any QA or QC checks or procedures with the associated acceptance criteria, and any procedures that will be used in the calibration and performance evaluation of the analytical instrumentation.
          4. Discuss the procedures for overall data reduction, analysis, and reporting. Include a description of all statistical methods to make inferences and conclusions, acceptable error rates and/or power, and any statistical software to be used.
        2. Use of existing/secondary data (i.e., data previously collected for other purposes or from other sources):
          1. Identify the types of secondary data needed to satisfy the project objectives. Specify requirements relating to the type of data, the age of data, geographical representation, temporal representation, and technological representation, as applicable.
          2. Specify the source(s) of the secondary data and discuss the rationale for selection.
          3. Establish a plan to identify the sources of the secondary data in all deliverables/products.
          4. Specify quality requirements and discuss the appropriateness for their intended use. Accuracy, precision, representativeness, completeness, and comparability need to be addressed, if applicable.
          5. Describe the procedures for determining the quality of the secondary data.
          6. Describe the plan for data management/integrity.
        3. Method development:
          (Note: The data collected for use in method development or evaluation should be described in the QAS as per the guidance in section 3A and/or 3B above.)

          Describe the scope and application of the method, any tests (and measurements) to be conducted to support the method development, the type of instrumentation that will be used and any required instrument conditions (e.g., calibration frequency), planned QC checks and associated criteria (e.g., spikes, replicates, blanks), and tests to verify the methods performance.

        4. Development or refinement of models:
          (Note: The data collected for use in the development or refinement of models should be described in the QAS as per the guidance in section 3A and/or 3B above.)
          1. Discuss the scope and purpose of the model, key assumptions to be made during development/refinement, requirements for code development, and how the model will be documented.
          2. Discuss verification techniques to ensure the source code implements the model correctly.
          3. Discuss validation techniques to determine that the model (assumptions and algorithms) captures the essential phenomena with adequate fidelity.
          4. Discuss plans for long-term maintenance of the model and associated data.
        5. Development or operation of environmental technology:
          (Note: The data collected for use in the development or evaluation of the technology should be described in the QAS as per the guidance in section 3A and/or 3B above.)
          1. Describe the overall purpose and anticipated impact of the technology.
          2. Describe the technical and quality specifications of each technology component or process that is to be designed, fabricated, constructed, and/or operated.
          3. Discuss the procedure to be used for documenting and controlling design changes.
          4. Discuss the procedure to be used for documenting the acceptability of processes and components, and discuss how the technology will be benchmarked and its effectiveness determined.
          5. Discuss the documentation requirements for operating instructions/guides for maintenance and use of the system(s) and/or process(s).
        6. Conducting surveys:
          (Note: The data to be collected in the survey and any supporting data should be described in the QAS as per the guidance in section 3A and/or 3B above.)

          Discuss the justification for the size of the proposed sample for both the overall project and all subsamples for specific treatments or tests. Identify and explain the rational for the proposed statistical techniques (e.g., evaluation of statistical power).

      4. Discuss data management activities (e.g., record-keeping procedures, data-handling procedures, and the approach used for data storage and retrieval on electronic media). Include any required computer hardware and software and address any specific performance requirements for the hardware/software configuration used.
    3. Data Plan (2 pages)

      Provide a plan to make all data resulting from an agreement under this RFA available in a format and with documentation/metadata such that they may be used by others in the scientific community. This includes both primary and secondary or existing data, i.e., from observations, analyses, or model development collected or used under the agreement. Applicants who plan to develop or enhance databases containing proprietary or restricted information must provide, within the two pages, a strategy to make the data widely available, while protecting privacy or property rights.

    4. References: References cited are in addition to other page limits (e.g. research plan, quality assurance statement, data plan)
  6. Budget and Budget Justification
    1. Budget

      Prepare a budget table using the guidance and form found at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/, and select All required forms. Note: The budget table should be attached to the Project Narrative Attachment Form electronic file [see Section IV.E.3.(d) Project Narrative Attachment Form]. If a subaward, such as a subagreement with an educational institution is included in the application, provide a separate budget and budget justification for the subaward. Include the total amount for the subaward under Other in the master budget. Applicants may not use subagreements to transfer or delegate their responsibility for successful completion of their EPA assistance agreement. Therefore, EPA expects that subawards or subcontracts should not constitute more than 40% of the total direct cost of the total project budget. If a subaward/subcontract constitutes more than 40% of the total direct cost, additional justification may be required before award, discussing the need for the subaward/subcontract to accomplish the objectives of the research project.

      For proposals selected for funding by USDA, the awardee will need to submit R&R Budget forms in addition to the budget narrative. Information will be provided prior to the awarding of the grant.

      Please note that institutional cost-sharing is not required. However, if cost-sharing is proposed, a brief statement concerning cost-sharing should be added to the budget justification, and estimated dollar amounts must be included in the appropriate categories in the budget table.

      Please note that when formulating budgets for proposals/applications, applicants must not include management fees or similar charges in excess of the direct costs and indirect costs at the rate approved by the applicants cognizant audit agency, or at the rate provided for by the terms of the agreement negotiated with EPA. The term "management fees or similar charges" refers to expenses added to the direct costs in order to accumulate and reserve funds for ongoing business expenses, unforeseen liabilities, or for other similar costs that are not allowable under EPA assistance agreements. Management fees or similar charges may not be used to improve or expand the project funded under this agreement, except to the extent authorized as a direct cost of carrying out the scope of work.

    2. Budget Justification [2 pages in addition to the Section IV.B.5. page limitations, not including additions under Nos. (6) and (7) below to support contracts and subawards]

      Describe the basis for calculating the personnel, fringe benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, and other costs identified in the itemized budget. The budget justification should not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.

      Budget information should be supported at the level of detail described below:

      1. Personnel: List all staff positions by title. Give annual salary, percentage of time assigned to the project, and total cost for the budget period.
      2. Fringe Benefits: Identify the percentage used and the basis for its computation.
      3. Travel: EPA: Specify the estimated number of trips, locations, and other costs for each type of travel. Explain the need for any travel, paying particular attention to travel outside the United States. Include travel funds for annual STAR program progress reviews (estimate for two days in Washington, D.C.) and a final workshop to report on results. USDA: (1) Domestic Travel Costs (Incl. Canada, Mexico, and U.S. Possessions) Funds Requested ($) Identify the total funds requested for domestic travel. Domestic travel includes Canada, Mexico and U.S. Possessions. In the budget justification section, include purpose, destination, dates of travel (if known), and number of individuals for each trip. If the dates of travel are not known, specify estimated length of trip (e.g., 3 days). Foreign Travel Costs Funds Requested ($) - Identify the total funds requested for foreign travel. Foreign travel includes any travel outside of North America and/or U.S. Possessions. In the budget justification section, include purpose, destination, dates of travel (if known) and number of individuals for each trip. If the dates of travel are not known, specify estimated length of trip (e.g., 3 days). Travel and subsistence should be in accordance with organizational policy. Irrespective of the organizational policy, allowances for airfare will not normally exceed round trip jet economy air accommodations. Please note that 7 CFR Part 3015.205 is applicable to air travel.
      4. Equipment: Identify all tangible, non-expendable personal property to be purchased that has an estimated cost of $5,000 or more per unit and a useful life of more than one year. (Personal property items with a unit cost of less than $5,000 are considered supplies.)
      5. Supplies: Supplies means tangible property other than equipment. Identify categories of supplies to be procured (e.g., laboratory supplies or office supplies). Specifically identify computers to be purchased or upgraded.
      6. Contractual: Identify each proposed contract for services/analyses or consultants and specify its purpose and estimated cost. Contracts must have a separate itemized budget and budget justification, not to exceed one additional page each, included as part of the application.
      7. Other: List each item in sufficient detail for the EPA to determine the reasonableness of its cost relative to the research to be undertaken. Note that subawards, such as those with other universities for members of the research team, are included in this category. Subawards must have a separate itemized budget and budget justification, not to exceed one additional page each, included as part of the application.
      8. Indirect Costs: EPA: If indirect costs are included in the budget, indicate the approved rate and base with an explanation of how the indirect costs were calculated. USDA: Section 7132 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, amended the National Agriculture Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 (7 U.S.C. 3310(a)), limiting indirect costs to 22 percent of the total Federal funds provided under each award. Therefore, when preparing budgets, applicants should limit their requests for recovery of indirect costs to the lesser of their institutions official negotiated indirect cost rate or the equivalent of 22 percent of total Federal funds awarded. This same indirect cost limitation applies to subcontracts.
  7. Resumes

    Provide resumes for each investigator and important co-worker. The resume for each individual must not exceed two consecutively numbered (bottom center), 8.5x11-inch pages of single-spaced, standard 12-point type with 1-inch margins.

  8. Current and Pending Support

    Complete a current and pending support form (provided at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms) for each investigator and important co-worker. Include all current and pending research regardless of source.

  9. Conflict of Interest

    For applications for all topics with this RFA, complete the Conflict of Interest list (provided at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms). 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 three years, including pending publications and submissions
    • All collaborators on projects within the past three 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 three 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.

  10. Guidelines, Limitations, and Additional Requirements
    1. Letters of Intent/Letters of Support

      Letters of intent to provide resources for the proposed research or to document intended interactions are limited to one brief paragraph committing the availability of a resource (e.g., use of a person's time or equipment) or intended interaction (e.g., sharing of data, as-needed consultation) that is described in the Research Plan. Letters of intent are to be included as an addition to the budget justification documents.

      All letters that do not commit a resource vital to the success of the proposal are considered letters of support. Letters of support, and letters of intent that exceed one brief paragraph (excluding letterhead and salutations), are considered part of the Research Plan and are included in the 15-page Research Plan limit.

      Note: Letters of intent or support must be part of the application; letters submitted separately will not be accepted. Any transactions between the successful applicant and parties providing letters of support or intent financed with EPA grant funds are subject to the funding restrictions described in Section IV. D.

    2. Funding Opportunity Number(s) (FON): At various places in the application, applicants are asked to identify the FON.

      The Funding Opportunity Number for this RFA is:
      Enhancing Ecosystem Services from Agricultural Lands: Management, Quantification, and Developing Decision Support Tools, EPA-G2008-STAR-K1

    3. Confidentiality

      By submitting an application in response to this solicitation, the applicant grants the EPA permission to make limited disclosures of the application to technical reviewers both within and outside the Agency for the express purpose of assisting the Agency with evaluating the application. Information from a pending or unsuccessful application will be kept confidential to the fullest extent allowed under law; information from a successful application may be publicly disclosed to the extent permitted by law.

      In accordance with 40 CFR 2.203, applicants may claim all or a portion of their application/proposal package as confidential business information. EPA will evaluate confidentiality claims in accordance with 40 CFR Part 2. Applicants must clearly mark applications/proposals or portions thereof that they claim as confidential. If no claim of confidentiality is made, EPA is not required to make the inquiry to the applicant otherwise required by 40 CFR 2.204(c)(2) prior to disclosure. However, competitive proposals/applications are considered confidential and protected from disclosure prior to the completion of the competitive selection process.

C. Submission Dates and Times
Applications must be transferred to Grants.gov no later than 4:00 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date. Applications transferred after the closing date and time will be returned to the sender without further consideration.

It should be noted that this schedule may be changed without prior notification because of factors not anticipated at the time of announcement. In the case of a change in the solicitation closing date, a new date will be posted on the NCER web site (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/), on the CSREES web site (http://csrees.usda.gov), and a modification posted on www.grants.gov.

Solicitation Closing Date: May 26, 2009, 4:00 pm Eastern Time (applications must be submitted to Grants.gov by this time, see Section IV.E Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements for further information).

NOTE: Customarily, applicants are notified about evaluation decisions within six months of the solicitation closing date. Awards are generally made 9-12 months after the solicitation closing date.

D. Funding Restrictions
The funding mechanism for all awards issued under STAR solicitations will consist of assistance agreements from the EPA or USDA. All award decisions are subject to the availability of funds. In accordance with the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act, 31 U.S.C. 6301 et seq., the primary purpose of an assistance agreement is to accomplish a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by federal statute, rather than acquisition for the direct benefit or use of the Agency. In issuing a grant, the EPA anticipates that there will be no substantial EPA involvement in the design, implementation, or conduct of the research. However, the EPA will monitor research progress through annual reports provided by grantees and other contacts, including site visits, with the Principal Investigator(s). For USDA, funds may not be used for the renovation or refurbishment of research space (including energy retrofitting); purchase or installations of fixed equipment in such spaces; or planning, repair, rehabilitation, acquisition, or construction of buildings or facilities.

If you wish to submit applications for more than one STAR or AFRI funding opportunity you must ensure that the research proposed in each application is significantly different from any other that has been submitted to the EPA or CSREES or from any other financial assistance you are currently receiving from the EPA, CSREES, or other federal government agency.

Collaborative applications involving more than one institution must be submitted as a single administrative package from one of the institutions involved.

EPA and CSREES award funds to one eligible applicant as the recipient even if other eligible applicants are named as partners or co-applicants or members of a coalition or consortium. The recipient is accountable to EPA or CSREES for the proper expenditure of funds.

Funding may be used to provide subgrants or subawards of financial assistance, which includes using subawards or subgrants to fund partnerships, provided the recipient complies with applicable requirements for subawards or subgrants including those contained in 40 CFR Parts 30 or 31, as appropriate. Applicants must compete contracts for services and products, including consultant contracts, and conduct cost and price analyses to the extent required by the procurement provisions of the regulations at 40 CFR Parts 30 or 31, as appropriate. The regulations also contain limitations on consultant compensation. Applicants are not required to identify subawardees/subgrantees and/or contractors (including consultants) in their proposal/application. However, if they do, the fact that an applicant selected for award has named a specific subawardee/subgrantee, contractor, or consultant in the proposal/application EPA selects for funding does not relieve the applicant of its obligations to comply with subaward/subgrant and/or competitive procurement requirements as appropriate. Please note that applicants may not award sole source contracts to consulting, engineering or other firms assisting applicants with the proposal based solely on the firm's role in preparing the proposal/application.

Successful applicants cannot use subgrants or subawards to avoid requirements in EPA grant regulations for competitive procurement by using these instruments to acquire commercial services or products from for-profit organizations to carry out its assistance agreement. The nature of the transaction between the recipient and the subawardee or subgrantee must be consistent with the standards for distinguishing between vendor transactions and subrecipient assistance under Subpart B Section .210 of OMB Circular A-133 , and the definitions of subaward at 40 CFR 30.2(ff) or subgrant at 40 CFR 31.3, as applicable. EPA will not be a party to these transactions. Applicants acquiring commercial goods or services must comply with the competitive procurement standards in 40 CFR Part 30 or 40 CFR Part 31.36 and cannot use a subaward/subgrant as the funding mechanism.

Section V of the announcement describes the evaluation criteria and evaluation process that will be used by EPA and CSREES to make selections under this announcement. During this evaluation, except for those criteria that relate to the applicant's own qualifications, past performance, and reporting history, the review panel will consider, if appropriate and relevant, the qualifications, expertise, and experience of:

  1. an applicant's named subawardees/subgrantees identified in the proposal/application if the applicant demonstrates in the proposal/application that if it receives an award that the subaward/subgrant will be properly awarded consistent with the applicable regulations in 40 CFR Parts 30 or 31. For example, applicants must not use subawards/subgrants to obtain commercial services or products from for profit firms or individual consultants.
  2. an applicant's named contractor(s), including consultants, identified in the proposal/application if the applicant demonstrates in its proposal/application that the contractor(s) was selected in compliance with the competitive procurement standards in 40 CFR Part 30 or 40 CFR 31.36 as appropriate. For example, an applicant must demonstrate that it selected the contractor(s) competitively or that a proper non-competitive sole-source award consistent with the regulations will be made to the contractor(s), that efforts were made to provide small and disadvantaged businesses with opportunities to compete, and that some form of cost or price analysis was conducted. EPA may not accept sole source justifications for contracts for services or products that are otherwise readily available in the commercial marketplace.

EPA will not consider the qualifications, experience, and expertise of named subawardees/subgrantees and/or named contractor(s) during the proposal/application evaluation process unless the applicant complies with these requirements.

Each proposed project must be able to be completed within the project period and with the initial award of funds. Applicants should request the entire amount of money needed to complete the project. Recipients should not anticipate additional funding beyond the initial award of funds for a specific project.

E. Submission Instructions and Other Submission Requirements
Please read this entire section before attempting an electronic submission through Grants.gov.

If you do not have the technical capability to utilize the Grants.gov application submission process for this solicitation, call 1-800-490-9194 or send a webmail message to http://www.epa.gov/ncer/contact_us.html at least 15 calendar working days before the submission deadline to assure timely receipt of alternate submission instructions. In your message provide the funding opportunity number and title of the program, specify that you are requesting alternate submission instructions, and provide a telephone number, fax number, and an email address, if available. Alternate instructions will be e-mailed whenever possible. Any applications submitted through alternate submission methods must comply with all the provisions of this RFA, including Section IV, and be received by the solicitation closing date identified above.

Note: Grants.gov submission instructions are updated on an as-needed basis. Please provide your Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) with a copy of the following instructions to avoid submission delays that may occur from the use of outdated instructions.

  1. Preparing for Submission. The appropriate electronic application package available through the Grants.gov site must be used for electronic submissions. To begin the application process, go to http://www.grants.gov and click on the Apply for Grants tab on the left side of the page. Then click on Apply Step 1: Download a Grant Application Package to download the compatible Adobe viewer and obtain the application package. (Note: The PureEdge viewer is not needed to submit an application to this funding opportunity.) For more information on Adobe Reader please go to http://www.grants.gov/help/help.jsp.

    Note:Grants.gov is aware of a corruption issue when Adobe Reader application packages are saved in different versions of Adobe Reader. It is recommended that applicants uninstall earlier versions of Adobe Reader and then install the version available and compatible through Grants.gov.

    The application package may be quickly accessed from https://apply07.grants.gov/apply/forms_apps_idx.html using the appropriate FON. Be sure to download the electronic application package for the appropriate FON. Please register for announcement change notification emails. Note: With the exception of the budget form, the current and pending support form, and the conflict of interest list (available at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms), all necessary forms are included in the electronic application package.

    The electronic submission of your application package must be made by an official representative of your institution who is registered with Grants.gov and authorized to sign for Federal assistance. Most submission problems can be avoided by communicating with the AOR well before the solicitation closing date and allowing sufficient time for following the guidance provided below. Note for organizations not currently registered: the registration process may take a week or longer to complete. We recommend you designate an AOR and begin the registration process as soon as possible.

    For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov and click on Get Registered.

  2. Acknowledgement of Receipt. The complete application must be transferred to Grants.gov no later than 4:00 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date (see Submission Dates and Times). Grants.gov provides an on-screen notification of successful initial transfer as well as an e-mail notification of successful transfer from Grants.gov to EPA. While it is advisable to retain copies of these Grants.gov acknowledgements to document submission, the only official documentation that the application has been received by NCER is the e-mail acknowledgement sent by NCER to the Lead/Contact PI and the Administrative Contact. This email will be sent from receipt.application@epa.gov; emails to this address will not be accepted. If an email acknowledgment from NCER (not support@grants.gov) has not been received within 30 days of the solicitation closing date, immediately inform the Eligibility Contact shown in this solicitation. Failure to do so may result in your application not being reviewed.
  3. Application Package Preparation. The application package consists of a. though d. below.
    1. On the initial electronic Grant Application Package page, complete the Application Filing Name field by entering the Lead/Contact PIs name, starting with the last name. Note: Applicants do not need to complete the Competition ID field.
    2. Application for Federal Assistance (SF 424): Complete the form.
    3. EPA Key Contacts Form 5700-54: Complete the form. If additional pages are needed, see (d) below.
    4. Project Narrative Attachment Form (click on Add Mandatory Project Narrative): Attach a single electronic file labeled Application that contains the items described in Section IV.B.3. through IV.B.10.a (Table of Contents, Abstract, Research Plan, Quality Assurance Statement, Data Plan, References, Budget and Budget Justification, Resumes, Current and Pending Support, Conflict of Interest List, and Letters of Intent/Support) of this solicitation. In order to maintain format integrity, this file must be submitted in Adobe Acrobat PDF. Please review the PDF file for conversion errors prior to including it in the electronic application package; requests to rectify conversion errors will not be accepted if made after the solicitation closing date and time. If Key Contacts Continuation pages (see http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms) are needed, place them before the Table of Contents (Section IV.B.3.).

    Once the application package has been completed, the Submit button should be enabled. If the Submit button is not active, please call Grants.gov for assistance at 1-800-518-4726. Investigators should save the completed application package with two different file names before providing it to the AOR to avoid having to re-create the package should submission problems be experienced or a revised application needs to be submitted.

  4. Submitting the application. The application package must be transferred to Grants.gov by an AOR. The AOR should close all other software before attempting to submit the application package. Click the submit button of the application package. Your Internet browser will launch and a sign-in page will appear. Note: Minor problems are not uncommon with transfers to Grants.gov. It is essential to allow sufficient time to follow all trouble-shooting instructions, including contacting Grants.gov, before 4:00 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date.

    A successful transfer will end with an on-screen acknowledgement. For documentation purposes, print or screen capture this acknowledgement. If a submission problem occurs, reboot the computer turning the power off may be necessary and re-attempt the submission. If submission problems continue, call Grants.gov for assistance (Telephone: 1-800-518-4726).

    Note: Grants.gov issues a case number upon a request for assistance.

  5. Transmission Difficulties. If transmission difficulties that result in a late transmission, no transmission, or rejection of the transmitted application are experienced, and following the above instructions do not resolve the problem so that the application is submitted to Grants.Gov by the deadline date and time, follow the guidance below. NCER may decide to review the application if it is clearly demonstrated that transmission difficulties were due solely as a result of problems associated with the transfer to Grants.gov and documentation that these instructions were followed is provided. The decision regarding acceptance of the application for review will be made by NCER management and provided to the applicant within ten working days of the request. All e-mails, as described below, are to be sent to Ron Josephson with the FON in the subject line.
    1. Late transfer due to electronic submission problems: Should electronic submission problems result in the application being transferred to Grants.gov after 4:00 pm but before 5:00 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date, send an e-mail before 5:00 pm Eastern Time on the deadline date. The email must document the problem and include the Grants.gov case number.
    2. Unsuccessful transfer of the application package: If a successful transfer of the application cannot be accomplished even with assistance from Grants.gov due to electronic submission issues, send an email before 5:00 pm Eastern Time on the solicitation closing date. The email must document the problem, include the Grants.gov case number, and attach the entire application.
    3. Grants.gov rejection of the application package: If a notification is received from Grants.gov stating that the application has been rejected for reasons other than late submittal, promptly send an email that includes any materials provided by Grants.gov and attach the entire application.

V. APPLICATION REVIEW INFORMATION

A. Peer Review
All eligible grant applications are reviewed by an appropriate external technical peer review panel comprised of individual experts using the criteria below. EPA and CSREES will conduct a joint peer review. This review is designed to evaluate each application according to its scientific merit. Each peer review panel includes non-EPA scientists, engineers, social scientists, and/or economists who are accomplished in their respective disciplines and proficient in the technical subjects they are reviewing. Reviewers are asked to individually assign a score of excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor to each application. EPA and CSREES translate the average of these individual scores into the final panel review score to determine ranking categories.

Individual external peer review panel members consider an applications merit based on the criteria below. Criteria 1-5 are listed in descending order of importance:

  1. Research Proposal (criteria 1a through 1f are essentially equal):
    1. The originality and creativity of the proposed research, the appropriateness and adequacy of the proposed research methods, and the Quality Assurance Statement.
    2. Practical and technically defensible approach that can be performed within the proposed time period.
    3. Research contributes to scientific knowledge in the topic area.
    4. Projected benefits of the proposed activity to society, such as improving the environment or human health.
    5. The results are disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding.
    6. The proposal is well prepared with supportive information that is self-explanatory or understandable.
  2. Investigators: The qualifications of the Principal Investigator(s) and other key personnel, including research training, demonstrated knowledge of pertinent literature, experience, and publication records. All key personnel must make a significant time commitment to the project.
  3. Responsiveness: The responsiveness of the proposal to the research needs identified for the research area. The proposal adequately addresses the objectives and special considerations specified by the RFA.
  4. Facilities and equipment: The availability and/or adequacy of the facilities and equipment proposed for the project. Note any deficiencies that may interfere with the successful completion of the research.
  5. Budget: Although budget information does not reflect on the applications scientific merit, the reviewers are asked to provide their view on the appropriateness and/or adequacy of the proposed budget and its implications for the potential success of the proposed research. Input on requested equipment is of particular interest.

B. Programmatic Review
EPA
Applications receiving scores of excellent or very good as a result of the peer review process will then undergo an internal programmatic review, as described below, conducted by technical experts from the EPA, including individuals from the Office of Research and Development (ORD) and program and regional offices involved with the science or engineering proposed. All other applications are automatically declined.

After the peer review, those applicants who received scores of excellent or very good as a result of the peer review process will be asked to provide additional information for the programmatic review pertaining to the proposed Lead PIs (in the case of Multiple-PI applications, the Contact PIs) "Past Performance and Reporting History." The applicant must provide the EPA Project Officer with information on the proposed Lead/Contact PI's past performance and reporting history under prior Federal agency assistance agreements (assistance agreements include grants and cooperative agreements but not contracts) in terms of: (i) the level of success in performing each agreement, and (ii) how progress towards achieving the results intended under each agreement was reported. This information is required only for the proposed Lead/Contact PI's performance under Federal assistance agreements initiated within the last three years that were similar in size and scope to the proposed project.

The specific information required for each agreement is shown below, and must be provided within three weeks of EPA's request. A maximum of three pages will be permitted for the response; excess pages will not be reviewed. Note: If no prior past performance information and/or reporting history exists, you will be asked to so state.

  1. Name of Granting Agency.
  2. Grant/Cooperative agreement number.
  3. Grant/Cooperative agreement title.
  4. Brief description of the grant/cooperative agreement.
  5. A description of how the agreement is similar in size and scope to the proposed project and whether or not it was successfully performed; if not successfully performed, provide an explanation.
  6. Information relating to the proposed Lead/Contact PI's past performance in reporting on progress towards achieving the expected results (outputs/outcomes) under the agreement. Include the history of submitting timely progress/final technical reports, describe how progress towards achieving the expected results was reported/documented, and if such progress was not being made, provide an explanation of whether, and how, this was reported.
  7. Total (all years) grant/cooperative agreement dollar value.
  8. Project period.
  9. Technical contact (project officer), telephone number, and E-mail address (if available).

The purpose of the programmatic review is to assure an integrated research portfolio for the Agency and help determine which applications to recommend for award. In conducting the programmatic review, the EPA will consider information provided by the applicant and may consider information from other sources, including prior and current grantors and agency files.

The internal programmatic review panel will assess:

  1. The relevance of the proposed science to EPA research priorities.
  2. The proposed Lead/Contact PI's past performance [under Federal agency assistance agreements (assistance agreements include grants and cooperative agreements but not contracts) initiated within the last three years that were similar in size and scope to the proposed project] in two areas: First, in successfully performing these prior Federal assistance projects, including whether there is a satisfactory explanation for any lack of success. Second, in reporting progress towards achieving results under these agreements, including the proposed Lead/Contact PI's history of submitting timely progress/final technical reports that adequately describe the progress toward achieving the expected results (outputs/outcomes) under the agreements. Any explanation of why progress towards achieving the results was not made will also be considered. Applicants whose proposed Lead PI/Contact PI has no relevant past performance and/or reporting history, or for whom this information is not available, will be evaluated neither favorably nor unfavorably on these elements.

USDA
USDA will convene an internal review panel, composed of CSREES National Program Leaders involved in management of research programs in Ecosystem that will evaluate applications for USDA funding that have been rated excellent or very good by the independent peer review panel. The evaluation procedure will center around USDAs mission and priorities and relevancy to the Stressor Emphasis areas listed in Section I. D.

C. Funding Decisions
EPA
Final funding decisions are made by the NCER Director based on the results of the peer review and internal programmatic review. In addition, in making the final funding decisions, the NCER Director may also consider program balance and available funds. Applicants selected for funding will be required to provide additional information listed below under Award Notices. The application will then be forwarded to EPAs Grants and Interagency Agreement Management Division for award in accordance with the EPAs procedures.

USDA
For USDA applications, the CSREES Authorized Departmental Officer will make final funding decisions.

VI. AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION

A. Award Notices
Customarily, applicants are notified about evaluation decisions within six months of the solicitation closing date. A summary statement of the scientific review by the peer panel will be provided to each applicant with an award or declination letter.

Applicants to be recommended for funding will be required to submit additional certifications and an electronic version of the revised project abstract. They may also be asked to provide responses to comments or suggestions offered by the peer reviewers, a revised budget, and/or to resubmit their proposal. EPA Project Officers or USDA National Program Leaders will contact the Lead PI/Contact PI to obtain these materials. Before or after an award, applicants may be required to provide additional quality assurance documentation.

EPA
Non-profit applicants that are recommended for funding under this announcement are subject to pre-award administrative capability reviews consistent with Sections 8b., 8c. and 9d. of EPA Order 5700.8 - Policy on Assessing Capabilities of Non-Profit Applicants for Managing Assistance Awards (http://www.epa.gov/ogd/grants/award/5700_8.pdf (PDF) (9 pp, 31 K, about PDF)). In addition, non-profit applicants that qualify for funding may, depending on the size of the award, be required to fill out and submit to the Grants Management Office the Administrative Capabilities Form with supporting documents contained in Appendix A of EPA Order 5700.8.

The official notification of an award will be made by the Agencys Grants and Interagency Agreement Management Division. Applicants are cautioned that only a grants officer is authorized to bind the Government to the expenditure of funds; preliminary selection by the NCER Director in the Office of Research and Development does not guarantee an award will be made.

USDA
The award document will provide pertinent instructions and information shall include at a minimum the following:

  1. Legal name and address of performing organization or institution to which the Administrator has awarded a grant under the terms of this RFA;
  2. Title of project;
  3. Name(s) and institution(s) of PDs chosen to direct and control approved activities;
  4. Identifying grant number assigned by the Department;
  5. Project period, specifying the amount of time the Department intends to support the project without requiring recompetition for funds;
  6. Total amount of Departmental financial assistance approved by the Administrator during the project period;
  7. Legal authority(ies) under which the grant is awarded;
  8. Appropriate Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number;
  9. Applicable award terms and conditions (see http://www.csrees.usda.gov/business/awards/awardterms.html) to view CSREES award terms and conditions);
  10. Approved budget plan for categorizing allocable project funds to accomplish the stated purpose of the grant award; and
  11. Other information or provisions deemed necessary by CSREES to carry out its respective granting activities or to accomplish the purpose of a particular grant.

B. Disputes
Disputes related to this assistance agreement competition will be resolved in accordance with the dispute resolution procedures set forth in 70 FR 3629, 3630 (January 26, 2005) which can be found at http://www.epa.gov/ogd/competition/resolution.htm. Questions regarding disputes may be referred to the Eligibility Contact identified below.

C. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
EPA
Expectations and responsibilities of NCER grantees and cooperative agreement holders are summarized in this section, although the terms grant and grantee are used. See http://www.epa.gov/ncer/guidance for the full terms and conditions associated with an award, including which activities require prior approval from the EPA.

  1. Meetings:
    EPA
    Principal Investigators will be expected to budget for, and participate in, All-Investigators Meetings (also known as progress reviews) approximately once per year with EPA scientists and other grantees to report on research activities and discuss issues of mutual interest.

    CSREES
    If a project is funded by CSREES, beginning in the first year of funding, the project director will be required to attend annual investigator meetings. Reasonable travel expenses should be included as part of the project budget. For more information about CRIS, visit http://cris.csrees.usda.gov/.

  2. Approval of Changes after Award: Prior written approval is required from the EPA if there will be a significant change from the work described in the application. Examples of these changes are contained in 40 C.F.R. 30.25. Note: prior written approval is also required from the EPA for incurring costs more than 90 calendar days prior to award.
  3. Human Subjects: A grant applicant must agree to meet all EPA requirements for studies using human subjects prior to implementing any work with these subjects. These requirements are given in 40 CFR § 26. Studies involving intentional exposure of human subjects who are children or pregnant or nursing women are prohibited by Subpart B of 40 CFR § 26. For observational studies involving children or pregnant women and fetuses please refer to Subparts C & D of 40 CFR § 26. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulations at 45 CFR § 46.101(e) have long required "... compliance with pertinent Federal laws or regulations which provide additional protection for human subjects." EPAs regulation 40 CFR § 26 is such a pertinent Federal regulation. Therefore, the applicant's Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval must state that the applicant's study meets the EPA's regulations at 40 CFR § 26. No work involving human subjects, including recruiting, may be initiated before the EPA has received a copy of the applicants IRB approval of the project and the EPA has also provided approval. Where human subjects are involved in the research, the recipient must provide evidence of subsequent IRB reviews, including amendments or minor changes of protocol, as part of annual reports.
  4. Animal Welfare: A grant recipient must agree to comply with the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-544), as amended, 7 U.S.C. 2131-2156. The recipient must also agree to abide by the "U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals used in Testing, Research, and Training" (50 Federal Register 20864-20865. May 20, 1985).
  5. Data Access and Information Release: After award, all data (including primary and secondary or existing data) must be made available to the NCER Project Officer without restriction and be accompanied by comprehensive metadata documentation adequate for specialists and non-specialists alike to be able to understand how and where the data were obtained and to evaluate the quality of the data. If requested, the data products and their metadata must be provided to the NCER Project Officer in a standard exchange format no later than the due date of the grant's final report or the publication of the data product's associated results, whichever comes first.

    Congress, through OMB, has instructed each federal agency to implement Information Quality Guidelines designed to "provide policy and procedural guidance...for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information, including statistical information, disseminated by Federal agencies." The EPA's implementation may be found at http://epa.gov/quality/exmural.html#genreqts. These procedures may apply to data generated by grant recipients if those data are disseminated as described in the Guidelines.

    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-110 located at 2 CFR Part 215 has been revised to provide public access to research data through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) under some circumstances. Data that are (1) first produced in a project that is supported in whole or in part with federal funds and (2) cited publicly and officially by a federal agency in support of an action that has the force and effect of law (i.e., a regulation) may be accessed through FOIA. If such data are requested by the public, the EPA must ask for it, and the grantee must submit it, in accordance with A-110 and the EPA regulations at 40 C.F.R. 30.36.

  6. Reporting:
    EPA
    A grant recipient must agree to provide annual progress reports, with associated summaries, and a final report with an executive summary. The summaries will be posted on NCERs website.

    A grant recipient must agree to provide copies of any peer reviewed journal article(s) resulting from the research during the project period. In addition, the recipient should notify the EPA Project Officer of any papers published after completion of the grant that were based on research supported by the grant. NCER posts references to all publications resulting from a grant on the NCER web site.

    USDA
    CSREES grantees are required to submit annual and summary evaluation reports via the CSREES Current Research Information System (CRIS). CRIS is an electronic, Web-based inventory system that facilitates both grantee submissions of project outcomes and public access to information on Federally-funded projects. Documentation must be submitted to CRIS before CSREES funds will be released.

  7. Acknowledgement of Support:
    EPA Funding
    EPAs full or partial support must be acknowledged in journal articles, oral or poster presentations, news releases, interviews with reporters and other communications. Any documents developed under this agreement that are intended for distribution to the public or inclusion in a scientific, technical, or other journal shall include the following statement:
      This publication [article] was developed under STAR Research Assistance Agreement No. __________ awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It has not been formally reviewed by the EPA. The views expressed in this document are solely those of [name of recipient] and the EPA does not endorse any products or commercial services mentioned in this publication.

    A graphic that may be converted to a slide or used in other ways, such as on a poster, is located at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/guidance/star_images.html. EPA expects recipients to use this graphic in oral and poster presentations.

    USDA Funding
    Proper acknowledgement of CSREES funding in published manuscripts, presentations and press releases is critical for the success of the agencys programs. Please use the following language to acknowledge CSREES support in your manuscripts, as appropriate:

    The project was supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, grant number #.

    Use of the CSREES logo for the acknowledgement slide of your PowerPoint presentations or posters at meetings is also encouraged. This graphic can be obtained from the CSREES National Program Leader contact for the award.

  8. Exchange Network:
    EPA
    EPA, states, territories, and tribes are working together to develop the National Environmental Information Exchange Network, a secure, Internet- and standards-based way to support electronic data reporting, sharing, and integration of both regulatory and non-regulatory environmental data. States, tribes and territories exchanging data with each other or with EPA, should make the Exchange Network and the Agency's connection to it, the Central Data Exchange (CDX), the standard way they exchange data and should phase out any legacy methods they have been using. More information on the Exchange Network is available at www.exchangenetwork.net. exit EPA
  9. Other Requirements:
    USDA
    For USDA-CSREES, several Federal statutes and regulations apply to grant applications considered for review and to project grants awarded under this program. These include, but are not limited to:

    2 CFR Part 215Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-Profit Organizations (OMB Circular A-110). 

    7 CFR Part 1, subpart AUSDA implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.

    7 CFR Part 3USDA debt collection regulations.

    7 CFR Part 15, subpart AUSDA implementation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

    7 CFR Part 331 and 9 CFR Part 121USDA implementation of the Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002.

    7 CFR Part 3017USDA implementation of Government wide Debarment and Suspension (Nonprocurement) and Government wide Requirements for Drug-Free Workplace (Grants).

    7 CFR Part 3018USDA implementation of Restrictions on Lobbying. Imposes prohibitions and requirements for disclosure and certification related to lobbying on recipients of Federal contracts, grants, cooperative agreements, and loans.

    7 CFR Part 3052USDA implementation of OMB Circular No. A-133, Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non-profit Organizations.

    7 CFR Part 3407CSREES procedures to implement the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended.

    7 CFR Part 3430CSREES procedures to implement Competitive and Noncompetitive Nonformula Grant ProgramsGeneral Grant Administrative Provisions and Program.

    29 U.S.C. 794 (section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and 7 CFR Part 15b (USDA implementation of statute)prohibiting discrimination based upon physical or mental handicap in Federally assisted programs.

    35 U.S.C. 200 et seq.Bayh-Dole Act, controlling allocation of rights to inventions made by employees of small business firms and domestic nonprofit organizations, including universities, in Federally assisted programs (implementing regulations are contained in 37 CFR Part 401).

VII. AGENCY CONTACTS

Further information, if needed, may be obtained from the EPA officials indicated below. Information regarding this RFA obtained from sources other than these Agency Contacts may not be accurate. Email inquiries are preferred.

Eligibility Contact: William Stelz (stelz.william@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8039
Electronic Submissions: Ron Josephson (josephson.ron@epa.gov); phone: 703-308-0442; email: josephson.ron@epa.gov
EPA Technical Contact: Anne Sergeant (sergeant.anne@epa.gov); phone: 703-347-8105; email: sergeant.anne@epa.gov
USDA Technical Contact: Diana Jerkins (djerkins@csrees.usda.gov); phone: 202-401-6996; email djerkins@csrees.usda.gov

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