Documents for Applying

In this section, you will find documents helpful in preparing your proposal submission. This includes templates, budgetary information, and hints for strong proposal writing.

It will also be useful to review archived Calls, grantwriting webinars,  reporting expectations and materials and the subaward process for current grantees. 

Submission Process 

Submitted proposals that fulfill the submission requirements will undergo the evaluation of a Technical Review Panel – researchers, educators, and agricultural producers- following the scoring review criteria included in the Call for Proposal.  The Technical Review Panel ranks and provides recommendations of proposals. The Western SARE Administrative Council selects the proposals to be funded during its winter and summer meetings. You will be notified of the status of your submission shortly after the final selection.     

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Budgetary Details

Western SARE is a federally funded USDA-NIFA program hosted by Montana State University (MSU). As stewards of these federal funds, Western SARE/MSU staff review proposed project costs to make certain they are reasonable, allocable and allowable per Title 2: 2 CFR Part 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. Please see the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR).

To help in the review of proposal budgets, as well as to expedite the award process, applicants must submit a detailed line-item project budget and Budget Justification that provides narrative details for each proposed line-item cost. All items should be described in the Budget Justification in sufficient detail that would enable Western SARE to determine that the costs are reasonable and allowable for the project per the Code of Federal Regulations referenced above.  Please review the WSARE Budget Guidance document to learn about the Western SARE – and MSU – approved budget categories as well as allowable and unallowable costs under the SARE program.

Additionally, MSU, as well as all recipients of Western SARE grants (subrecipients) are held to the same Research Terms and Conditions and NIFA Agency Specific Terms and Conditions (dated 6/2017).  A PDF link is provided below. 


Complimentary to the Code of Federal Regulations and the Agency Specific Terms and Conditions, the NIFA Federal Assistance Policy Guide also provides direction for recipients of NIFA-funded grants.  A link to the PDF is provided below.

Indirect Cost Guide

The information that follows should serve as a guide for understanding and calculating Indirect Costs (also commonly referred to as F&A or Facilities & Administrative costs) as a part of your proposed budget.  Please note: these guidelines apply to all WSARE grant opportunities (Research & Education; Professional + Producer; Graduate Student Grants in Sustainable Agriculture; Professional Development Program Grants; Research to Grass Roots; and, State Implementation and Enhancement Grants) with the exception of Farmer and Rancher Grants; this is because all funds go directly to the producer and therefore are not eligible to receive IDCs. 

USDA NIFA may apply legislative limits on IDCs for its various programs.  Under the SARE program, NIFA states IDCs may not exceed 10% of the Total Federal Funds Awarded (TFFA); this calculates to roughly 11.111% of Total Direct Costs (TDC).  Note: the 10% limit is a cap on the portion of an applicant’s[1] budget that may be requested for IDCs; it is not an IDC rate.  An example of how this is calculated is illustrated below: 

Allowable IDCs =              0.10 TFFA

Total Direct Costs =          0.90 TFFA 

0.10 TFAA / 0.90 TFAA = 11.111% IDC rate applied to Total Direct Costs 

Below is an example of how to calculate your Indirect Costs using the USDA cap of 10% TFFA which equates to an IDC rate of 11.111% of Total Direct Costs. 

Example: The Call for Proposals (CFP) for the grant program to which you are applying states TFFA is limited to $50,000 and the IDC cap is 10% of TFFA. 

$50,000 TFFA x .10 IDC CAP =      $5,000 IDCs (rounded to nearest dollar)

$50,000 TFFA – $5,000 IDCs =      $45,000 Total Direct Costs

                             Award Total =       $50,000


IDCs calculated using 11.111% of TDC results in the same IDC amount:

$45,000 TDC x .11111 IDC rate = $5,000 IDCs (rounded to nearest dollar) 

Per Federal Uniform Guidance, institutions and organizations that do not have a Federally Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA) may request the 10% de minimis rate.  If your organization falls into this category, the 10% de minimis rate is applied to Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC).  For Western SARE grants, MTDC is total direct costs related to the award (e.g., salaries and fringe benefits, materials and supplies, consultant services, travel costs, etc.) excluding each subaward in excess of $25,000, tuition remission (allowed only on Research and Education grants) and participant support.[2]  A simplified example of how an organization using the 10% de minimis rate calculates their budget is illustrated below: 

Example: The CFP for the grant program to which you are applying states TFFA is limited to $75,000 and the IDC cap is 10% of TFFA.  You are an organization without a NICRA and will use the 10% de minimis rate. 

Proposed Budget

Salaries & Fringe                               30,000

Supplies & Materials                       4,645

Travel                                                    2,900

Professional Services Fees           2,000

Subaward to XYZ Organization   29,000

Total Direct Costs Requested      $68,545


MTDC                                                    $64,545 ($68,545 – $4,000 for the portion of the subaward in excess of $25K)


IDCs Requested                                                $6,455 ($64,545 x .10)


Total Costs Requested                   $68,545 TDC

                                                                  $6,455 IDC

                                                                $75,000 Total Costs



 CFP        Call for Proposals

IDCs       Indirect Costs (also known as F&A – Facilities & Administrative Costs)

MTDC    Modified Total Direct Costs

NICRA   (Federally) Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement

TDC        Total Direct Costs

TFFA      Total Federal Funds Awarded

[1] Applies to institutions and organizations with a federally Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA) by their cognizant agency.

[2] Normally, capital equipment (single autonomous piece of equipment $5K or more) is also excluded when using the MTDC base, however, capital equipment purchases are not allowed under the Western SARE program.

Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart is a method of showing tasks or events over a specific timespan. On the left of the chart is a list of the specific activities and along the top is a suitable time scale. Each activity is represented by a bar. The position and length of the bar reflects the start date, the length of an activity and the end date.

A good Gantt chart allows you to see the following:

  • A list of activities
  • When each activity begins and ends
  • How long each activity is scheduled to last
  • Where activities overlap with each other.
  • The start and end date of the entire project 
  • A Gantt chart shows what is to be done and when it is to be done.

Simple Gantt charts are easy to make using spreadsheet software like Excel.

Find sample charts and more information.

Successful Objectives

An objective is a statement in specific and measurable terms that describes what you intend to achieve.

SMART Objectives:


What specifically is to be achieved? What results are to be achieved through the proposed actions? Keeping objectives simple ensures they are clear and specific. This also reduces the chance for disputes or confusion for reviewers. Complex objectives should be broken into sub-objectives. This allows individuals to focus their efforts and guides them in marshaling the resources necessary to achieve results.


How will you know how when an objective has been achieved? Some objectives can be measured quantitatively; others must be measured qualitatively. What data will be used to measure/track if the objectives are being accomplished? 


Accountability for performance objectives must specifically state who is accountable. A clear explanation of what is to be done will help reduce confusion for reviewers. Defining accountability will ensure a sense of urgency and purpose on the part of the proposal.


For an objective to be meaningful, it must be realistic and reasonable. A well written performance objective focuses on the goals required to meet the objective. Objectives should challenge the project team toward continuous accomplishment, but should not be unrealistic or unattainable.

Time bound

An achievable time frame must be set for reaching each objective. Consider assigning specific target dates not only for the performance objective itself, but also for each lesser milestone. Remember to be specific toward achieving results, and guide action in a results-oriented way toward the objective.

Logic Models

PDP Logic Model

Research and Education Logic Model (this model is used for R&E, Farmer/Rancher, Professional + Producer, and Graduate Student proposals)

Animal Welfare Guidelines and Assurance Statement

Please review the Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Research and Teaching.

Please download the Animal Welfare Assurance Statement for your proposal.

Signature Page

Please download this signature page for your proposal.

Conflict of Interest

Please download this Conflict of Interest statement

Special Farmer/Rancher Note: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Marshall Islands, and Palau

Due to special restrictions placed upon the island groups within the land grant administration of the College of Micronesia (Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Marshall Islands, and Palau), all Farmer/Rancher grant proposals must be submitted under the direction of a Principal Investigator from the College of Micronesia. This requirement allows the land grant Dean and Director at the College of Micronesia to have adequate fiscal and audit controls on these funds. 


  • For these special types of Farmer/Rancher grants, there would be no additional technical adviser, but this person associated with the College of Micronesia would become the Principal Investigator.
  • These special types of Farmer/Rancher grants will be administered as a Professional + Producer grant and handled as progress payment. This means Indirect Costs can be charged by the College of Micronesia and should be included in the budget of the proposed project.
  • For these special types of Farmer/Rancher grants, requirements that exist in the Farmer/Rancher Call for Proposal apply, such as up to $20,000 per proposal is allowed for a single producer and up to $25,000 for three or more producers.

It is important to remind those from the Pacific insular area (specifically those on Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Marshall Islands, and Palau) that although this requirement applies to Farmer/Rancher grants, these same island groups are fully authorized to submit regular Professional + Producer, PDP Competitive, and Research and Education proposals.