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View the recent DBIA Grant "Helpful Hints" Webinar!

Request access to the recent Dairy Business Builder "Helpful Hints" Webinar using the button below! If you are interested in applying to a future DBIA grant cycle, you can begin reviewing the application requirements on this page.

View the webinar here!
Award Benefits and Terms

The Fall 2022 application is now open, with the deadline on November 10, 2022 at 5pm Central Standard Time.

  • Reimbursement grants of up to $100,000 each (for eligible expenses) will be awarded.
  • Successful applicants must accept the award in writing as well as submit their Employer Identification Number (EIN) for verification.
  • Successful applicants will be reimbursed in full based on eligible expenses listed in the award letter upon providing valid documentation of payment (e.g., canceled checks, paid invoices, etc.).
  • All reimbursement submittals must occur within 12 months of the date of award.
  • Recipients must complete the Dairy Business Innovation Alliance (DBIA) six-month and twelve-month surveys. Failure to submit reports on time may result in reduced funding.

The following criteria must be satisfied to be deemed eligible for Dairy Business Builder grants:

  • Applicants must operate or endeavor to operate a dairy farm or dairy manufacturing or processing facility in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The goal of the DBIA grant program is to promote the dairy industry within the 11-state region. To that end, businesses must have a business address and manufacturing locations in one or more of the eligible states. The final decision on a company’s eligibility is at the discretion of the DBIA leadership team.
  • Applicants must have an EIN and be in good standing with the IRS at the time of the award announcement.
  • Applicants must have no immediate family members working for the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) or the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) or serving on the grant review committee.
  • Milk used in proposed grant projects to produce a beverage fluid milk product must meet Grade A requirements. All projects must meet all relevant state and federal requirements.
  • Applicants who have previously received grant funding from the DBIA must demonstrate that this proposed grant project represents a different project or a different phase, sales stream, etc.
  • Applicants must have a proposal that strives to meet at least one of the stated DBIA goals, which are:
    • Dairy farm diversification through dairy product development, specialization, packaging and/or marketing strategies;
    • Creation of value-added dairy products (use milk to manufacture cheese, yogurt, beverages, etc.);
    • Enhancement of the value of a dairy commodity or by-product through product development or alternate use (e.g., converting liquid whey permeate for animal feed into a product for human consumption);
    • Creation or expansion of a program for exporting dairy products.

Application Components

The application includes:

  1. Contact Information
  2. Business/Project Introduction
  3. Project Details
    1. Project Summery
    2. Work Plan and Timeline
    3. Business Plan
    4. Project Management Budget and Budget Explanation
  4. Vendor Estimates to support budget (recommended)
  5. Certification/Signature

Please see “Helpful Hints” below for ways to get started on the application process before the application opens.

If you need assistance completing the application, or you are unable to submit an application online, please contact the DBIA Program Coordinator as soon as possible at or 608-301-7751.

Application: How to Apply

All sections of the application must be complete prior to the application deadline of November 10, 2022, 5pm CT, in order to advance to the review process. Please follow the instructions below to complete the application.

Step 1: Watch the grant webinar.

The webinar contains the most detailed overview of the program and the application process, including many questions that you might have. This should be the first introduction to this year's application process.

Step 2:
Please click here to view the sample application so that you can prepare your answers in advance.

The online application is designed to be completed in a single session. Please have all of the documents ready before you begin the application in Step 3 below.

  • The Project Summary must be either typed directly in the form or copied and pasted in.
  • The Work Plan and Timeline and Business Plan may be typed directly in the form (or copied and pasted in) OR an applicant can upload a Word document or PDF from their computer. If an applicant does not already have a business plan, this link is a good starting point.
  • The Project Management Budget Template must be downloaded, completed, and uploaded directly into the application form. This is the only format accepted for the application. If you do not have a written cost estimate from a vendor, please note “verbal vendor estimate” or “personal research” for the dollar figure you state on the budget template. If you do have vendor quotes, please upload them (see note below).
  • Vendor estimates (if available) may be uploaded directly with the application.

Step 3: Collect any project or business information required for the application.

Ensure you have the contact information and demographic information easily accessible before you begin the application (questions #1-21).

Step 4: Draft responses to the 4 major Project Details components (Project Summary, Work Plan and Timeline, Business Plan and Project Management Budget with Budget Explanation).

These documents should be prepared ahead of time so that you can easily enter them in the application form. We encourage applicants to meet with the Small Business Development Centers to improve the business plan and project management budget in particular. The mandatory template for the Project Management Budget can be found here.

Step 5: Solicit vendor quotes to support the Project Management Budget.

This is optional, but strongly recommended to ensure the proposed budget is realistic.

Step 6: Click on the online application link here:

You may be able to make changes after submitting your application if you use the same computer/tablet and the same internet browser; however, we encourage all applicants to please review the questions ahead of time in order to complete the application in one session. This allows you greater opportunity for revision and will reduce errors when completing the online form.

All submitted applications will receive a confirmation email from the DBIA team.

If you need assistance completing the application, or you are unable to submit an application online, please contact the DBIA Program Coordinator as soon as possible at or 608-301-7751.

Helpful Hints

Before the application opens

We recommend that interested applicants prepare a business plan as soon as possible. The DBIA Resources webpage offers a variety of local and regional resources to assist in framing your project and writing your application, such as articles, examples and contact information.

Applicants are also encouraged to meet with their local Small Business Development Center for additional support. We also recommend soliciting vendor quotes before applying for any items that will be requested in the application.

A business plan is a large component of the application. For any application who does not already have a business plan, this link is a good starting point. This is also something that can be developed with the Small Business Development Centers referenced previously.

The DBIA strongly encourages all applicants/potential applicants to review the recent “Let’s Get Started” webinar series posted on the DBIA website.

The DBIA grant webinar was recorded on September 20, 2022. Applicants are encouraged to plan ahead and watch this webinar before starting their applications.

During the application period

  • The main application components must be submitted directly on the application form (unless otherwise specified). While you may begin to prepare documents and gather information before the application form is available, please be prepared to enter the information directly onto the form.
  • A list of commonly approved reimbursement items can be found here. Please note that these items may not be eligible depending on the context of the project, and we recommend that applicants reach out with any questions well before the application deadline.
  • The project management budget should be realistically completed. This is not an operating budget, but a project management budget that demonstrates what it will take to complete the project presented in the application from a financial perspective. This would include such entries as:
    • Permit or labor costs;
    • Real estate related costs;
    • Sales and/or marketing costs where relevant; and
    • Costs or quotes and alignment for specialized equipment.
  • Applications should contain estimates on the intended business impacts of the grant funds. Examples would include:
    • Would the grant funds allow you to release or gain access to other funds (e.g., a bank loan) for a non-reimbursable project cost?
    • Would the grant funds allow you to gain knowledge from a consultant that will allow you to increase sales, productivity, production capabilities, etc.?
    • What is the estimated job creation or retention as a result of this project/initiative? (Overall size is not a factor here; e.g., a two-person company hiring one more person would be an increase of 50%.)
    • Would the project result in estimated increases in sales volume, the opening of new sales outlets and/or the opening of new markets?
    • Would the project result in improvements, efficacies, or expansions in product delivery (e.g., opening an e-commerce site)?
    • Would there be projected increases in transportation efficiencies or logistics?
    • Are there other expected business benefits as a result of this grant?
Evaluation Criteria

Applications will be scored individually by a grant review committee comprised of representatives from each of the DBIA states, Midwest Dairy, CDR, and WCMA. Each committee member will assign a score of up to 100 points to each application. All scores will then be averaged, and applications will be ranked according to the average scores. Funds will be allocated starting with the application receiving the highest average score and work downward until the funds for this cycle are exhausted. Applications will be scored based on the following criteria:

1 Overall Grant Application: (0-10 Points)

Is the project or initiative thoroughly described, well-organized, and easy to follow?

2 Project Summary, Work Plan/Timeline: (0-25 Points)

Does the project meet one or more of the DBIA goals? (0-5 points)

How well has the applicant explained the project and their goals? Is the plan sufficiently detailed and considered? (0-10 points)

What is the quality of the work plan or timeline? (clear timelines, milestones, etc.) (0-10 points)

3 Business Plan (0-25 Points)

What is the quality of the project business plan? (clear timelines, costs, deliverables, etc.) (0-10 points)

How well has the applicant demonstrated their ability to successfully implement the project/initiative described and achieve their commercial objectives? (activities described, risk management, experience, collaborators, etc.) (0-10 Points)

How has the applicant shown leverage in this application by including their own financial equity, either through direct cash contributions or through contributing the use of existing property to this project?
(0-5 Points)

4 Project Budget: (0-25 Points)

How complete is the project budget scope? Does it include such factors as labor costs, permits, and other sources of funding as well as any planned expenditures such as equipment purchases, service installation costs, etc.? (0-15 Points)

How reasonable are the estimated costs? Where appropriate, are the budget numbers supported by service provider quotes, the applicant’s written assumptions, equipment estimates, etc.? (0-10 Points)

5 Outcomes: (0-15 Points)

Does the initiative result in improved profitability and/or productivity for the applicant? (0-5 Points)

Does the initiative result in the development of a new product, an improved process, or a market expansion?
(0-5 Points)

Does the initiative support the retention or addition of jobs? (0-5 Points)

USDA Eligible and Ineligible Costs

The following summarizes some of USDA-AMS allowable and unallowable costs. The categories listed below were selected based on the most popular grant requests during the previous cycle.

Final decisions regarding eligibility will be based on the AMS published list of allowable/unallowable costs found in the link below. DBIA staff is available to assist with any questions regarding what would qualify as an eligible cost. A list of commonly approved reimbursement items can be found here.


Unallowable for the acquisition of buildings, facilities, or land or to make additions, improvements, modifications, replacements, rearrangements, reinstallations, renovations or alterations of an existing building or facility (including site grading and improvement, and architecture fees). This also includes construction and construction-related materials,

Allowable for rental costs of land and building space. However, lease agreements to own (i.e., lease-to-own or rent-to-own) are not allowable. The lease or rental agreement must terminate at the end of the grant cycle.


Allowable subject to limitations below. Contractual/consultant costs are expenses associated with purchasing goods and/or procuring services performed by an individual or organization other than the recipient in the form of a procurement relationship.

Allowable for contractor/consultant employee rates that do not exceed the salary of a GS-15 step 10 Federal employee in the area. This does not include fringe benefits, travel, indirect costs, or other expenses.


Unallowable for acquisition costs of general-purpose equipment or lease agreements to own (i.e., lease-to-own or rent-to-own).

Allowable for rental costs of general-purpose equipment. Vehicles may be leased, but not purchased. The lease or rental agreement must terminate at the end of the grant cycle.

Allowable for acquisition costs and rental costs of special purpose equipment provided specific criteria are met: See Link for details.


General Purpose Equipment means equipment that is not limited to technical activities. Examples include office equipment and furnishings, modular offices, telephone networks, information technology equipment and systems, air conditioning equipment, reproduction and printing equipment, and motor vehicles.

Special Purpose Equipment is equipment used only for research, scientific, or technical activities.


Allowable as part of employee compensation for personnel services in proportion to the amount of time or effort an employee devotes to the grant-supported project or program during the period of performance under the Federal award, including salaries, wages, and fringe benefits. Such costs must be incurred under formally established policies of the organization, be consistently applied, be reasonable for the services rendered, and be supported with adequate documentation.

Unallowable for salaries, wages and fringe benefits for project staff who devote time and effort to activities that do not meet the legislated purpose of the grant program.


Unallowable for costs designed solely to promote the image of an organization, general logo, or general brand.

Unallowable for costs for promotion of specific venues, tradeshows, events, meetings, programs, conventions, symposia, seminars, etc. that do not align with the legislated purpose of the grant program.

Unallowable for promotional items, swag, gifts, prizes, memorabilia, and souvenirs.

Allowable with conditions for projects funded under “Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program” (FMLFPP) for marketing activities directly related to the funded project. Promotional items include point-of-sale materials, promotional kits, signs or streamers, automobile stickers, table tents and place mats.

Allowable for costs designed to promote products that align with the purpose of the grant program.

  • Can I re-apply if I am not selected for an award? What if I’ve already received a DBIA grant in the past?

Applicants who did not receive an award in a previous cycle are strongly encouraged to re-apply. Applicants who were successful in a previous cycle may also re-apply, but the subsequent application must be for a different project phase or project than the one that was previously awarded and must demonstrate the success of the previous award through key benchmarks and indicators. Examples of a different project phase or project would include a new product line or a new initiative.

  • Can my company submit more than one application? Can my industry partner and I each submit separate applications related to the same project?

There is no limit on the number of applications submitted per company. However, we strongly recommend that only the best project is submitted rather than multiple applications. No more than one award would be offered per company.

We will not accept applications from more than one company related to the same project. If you have an industry partner on your project who is also interested in submitting, please do so jointly.

  • Do I need a detailed business plan?

Applicants must submit some form of a business plan. This may be either a lean business plan or a traditional business plan. There are resources available on-line and in-person to assist small businesses to develop a business plan if you do not already have one. Detailed business plans greatly assist reviewers in evaluating submitted applications. We recommend reviewing the U.S. Small Business Administration's business plan guide. More information about business plans can be found here.

  • How many Dairy Business Builder grants will be awarded?

The number of awards granted will vary depending on the number and quality of the applications received.

  • Why do you need my EIN?

To ensure that we are good stewards of USDA funding, DBIA must verify that award recipients are businesses in good standing with the IRS before finalizing an award.

  • Are matching funds required?

No, matching funds are not required.

  • What if I need to change my proposal after I receive an award?

We understand that applicants’ circumstances may change between the time they apply for a Dairy Business Builder grant and the time the funding is awarded. If a successful applicant wishes to change the details of their grant proposal, they must notify the DBIA before the changes are made. A written amendment stating the reasons for the change is required, along with details of the changes and how they affect the application goals. The DBIA will reply in writing to approve or deny the change request. In general, change requests are acceptable, as long as there is no change to the scope of the original application and all funds requested support the original application.

  • How are Dairy Business Builder grant applications evaluated?

This is a competitive grant process, with eligible applications being reviewed by members of the DBIA scoring committee. The scoring committee will include a representative of each state in the region. Please see the Review Criteria section for more detailed information about the evaluation process.

Please note that the DBIA reserves the right to reject any proposal received or to offer to partially fund applications.

  • Is the information I submit confidential?

Funding applications and project reports are subject to disclosure to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). DBIA reserves the right to post funded proposals, summary reports, and survey findings in media reports and on our website ( DBIA’s grant review committee will otherwise maintain confidentiality, including of proprietary information included in project proposals.

  • What happens after I am notified of winning a Dairy Business Builder grant?

Award recipients will be notified via email of their successful application. This notification will include a list of approved items for reimbursement and the total award amount. Instructions for submitting reimbursement requests will also be included at that time.

Awardees have 12 months from the date of the award notification to make the eligible expenditures and submit reimbursement requests. A 6-month and 12-month survey will be sent by the DBIA team as required by the USDA. If an applicant requires an amendment or an extension, this must be requested prior to the 12 month initial grant term.