Applicant Guide - Assurance Systems Stream

1.0 Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide you, the Applicant, with information about the AgriMarketing Program and its Assurance Systems stream. In addition, this guide will assist you in completing and applying for funding under this stream.

2.0 Description of the AgriMarketing program

The AgriMarketing Program is a five-year (2013-2018), $341 million program comprising a combination of government initiatives and contribution funding for industry-led projects. Its objective is to improve the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector's competitiveness in domestic and international markets by supporting industry in gaining and maintaining access to markets and capitalizing on market opportunities. It will achieve this objective through activities to be grouped into four streams:

  • Breaking down trade barriers;
  • Building market success;
  • Market development; and
  • Assurance systems.

There are two contribution funding streams that support industry-led projects under the AgriMarketing Program: Market Development and Assurance Systems. This guide focuses on the Assurance Systems stream.

3.0 Assurance Systems stream

3.1 Description

The Assurance Systems stream will support the development of Canadian national assurance systems and standards. Examples include food safety systems, animal and plant health surveillance systems, market attribute/quality standards and traceability systems, and their related tools.

Increasingly, buyers and the markets are demanding that industry demonstrate that their agriculture products are produced using specific processes or that products have certain characteristics. Buyers and markets are also requiring industry to effectively manage risks to animal, plant and human health.

The objective of the Assurance Systems stream is to support the Canadian agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products industry in meeting buyer and market demand for assurance and to enhance its competitiveness, at home and abroad. To meet this objective, the industry must increase its ability to make credible and verifiable assurance claims regarding its products. To do this, industry must develop and use assurance systems, standards and related tools that are relevant to its market.

This stream builds on programs that supported assurance activities under previous agricultural frameworks such as Growing Forward and the Agricultural Flexibility Fund. Contribution funding under this stream focuses on assurance systems projects that show a progression from previous projects (where applicable) toward the completion of an assurance system. Integration and benchmarking may also be considered examples of progress in developing an assurance system. Given that assurance systems have become increasingly important in meeting market demands, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) gives priority to projects that can clearly demonstrate that they are relevant to the market and the results will be important and will impact the market in the short-term.

The department expects that funded projects will lead to processes and procedures that increase consumers' and buyers' confidence that industry is addressing food supply chain risks. The department also expects that funded projects will increase industry's ability to prove assurance claims, such as, food is safe, it is sourced from a healthy resource base and it incorporates the attributes that consumers seek and for which they pay.

  • Food Safety Systems – Projects should focus on industry-led development and completion of producer/enterprise manuals, training of auditors/trainers and the management system.
  • Surveillance Systems – Projects should focus on industry-led activities and tools to support the development of a national disease surveillance system for all farmed animals and/or cultivated plants. Projects cannot duplicate the surveillance activities of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or provincial/territorial governments.
  • Market Attribute/Quality Standards – Projects should focus on industry-led development of market relevant attributes or product standards and of the tools to help demonstrate that industry is adhering to the standards.
  • Traceability Systems – Projects should focus on development and implementation of an industry-led system that can track and trace a plant, animal or product to support claims of market attributes or for the purposes of emergency management in the plant or animal sector.

3.2 Duration

The Assurance Systems stream ends on March 31, 2018.

3.3 Eligible applicants

Eligible Applicants must be legal entities capable of entering into legally binding agreements.

Eligible Applicants are:

  • Not-for-profit industry organizations operating on a national basis along the Canadian agriculture and agri-food value chain;
  • Not-for-profit industry organizations operating on a regional basis along the Canadian agriculture and agri-food value chain that are not represented at the national level and can demonstrate their ability to deliver a national project;
  • Other non-governmental, not-for-profit entities if they can clearly demonstrate how they will achieve the objective and results of the Assurance Systems stream; and
  • Academic institutions if they can clearly demonstrate how they will achieve the objective and results of the Assurance Systems stream.

Ineligible Applicants include:

  • Individuals
  • For-profit organizations/businesses; and
  • Other levels of government

3.4 Maximum funding amount

The department will determine the approved funding amount for each eligible assurance systems project as part of the application review process. The maximum AAFC contribution will normally not exceed $1,000,000 per project.

3.5 Cost sharing

Eligible costs related to a project, as defined in section 3.8 Eligible costs, are to be shared between AAFC and the successful Applicant (and others where relevant, for example other industry supporters and other governments).

Cash contributions to eligible costs demonstrate industry's commitment to assurance systems and are seen as a proof of the importance of the project to the industry. It is expected that Applicants will contribute a certain amount of cash for each project.

A minimum of 25% contribution to eligible costs is expected, from you, the Applicant. As an Applicant, your contribution can be made up of your own funds and those of your collaborators or other levels of government, but for all eligible projects a minimum cash contribution of 15% is required.

When including funds from other government sources to meet the Applicant's 25% share, the stacking limit must be respected. The stacking limit refers to the maximum level of total Canadian government funding (federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal) a successful Applicant can receive towards the total eligible costs of a project.

The maximum level of total government funding will generally not exceed 85% of eligible costs per project.

3.5.1 Cash contributions

When eligible costs are resourced by an approved cash outlay, they would either be eligible for reimbursement by AAFC or be part of the Applicant's contribution to the project.

For example, if a project requires specific human resources to undertake direct project activities and an Applicant devotes existing staff with the required skills to meet that requirement, then the cost of those resources is considered a cash outlay. These labour costs would either be considered eligible for reimbursement by AAFC or be part of the Applicant's cash contribution to the project.

3.5.2 In-kind contributions

In-kind contributions are goods and services that are contributed to a project and that require no outlay of cash by the Applicant or industry supporter. In-kind contributions form part of the Applicant's project share and therefore are not reimbursable by AAFC.

To be eligible, in-kind contributions:

  • Must be essential to the project's success;
  • Are resources that would, if not provided, have to be purchased or contracted by the Applicant or industry supporters;
  • Reflect fair valueFootnote * and be substantiated by the Applicant in their application, and be confirmed by AAFC during the project assessment process and throughout the project lifecycle; and
  • Will not normally exceed 10% of the total eligible costs to complete the project.

3.6 Application intake

Applications can be submitted at any time until September 30, 2017 or until all funding has been fully committed. Applications will be assessed based on individual merit and the criteria outlined in section 5.1 Assessment criteria.

3.7 Eligible activities

While there are a number of different types of assurance systems, the types of activities involved in developing these industry-led systems are generally similar.

Eligible activities are of the following nature and type:

  • Systems and standards development activities that are national in scope such as:
    • assessments, analysis, consultations, and/or comparative studies
    • generic models, methodologies, manuals, codes of practice and management systems;
    • training and audit materials to prepare in implementing the system;
    • pilot projects, technology assessment, testing and adoption; and
    • recognition/verification processes.
  • Development of national assurance systems tools that support implementation such as those that enable:
    • data collection, standardization, storage, management systems, services, verification and reporting;
    • measurement collection to demonstrate compliance with an assurance system; and
    • increasing network/information sharing capacity.
  • Communication, knowledge transfer and awareness activities such as:
    • training-the-trainer/auditor workshops;
    • dissemination of national standards, systems and tools information; and
    • development of communications materials such as newsletters, web sites and online resources directed to industry or for national/international promotion.
  • Integration of national assurance systems
  • Benchmarking of national systems/standards to international or private standards
  • Management of a single, national multi-species traceability database and/or zoning site

Note: The fish and seafood sector may only apply for projects to develop traceability systems.

Ineligible activities:

  • re-benchmarking or certification renewal to an international or private standard after initial benchmarking status has been received;
  • payment of annual fees, regular reviews and regular reporting associated with maintaining benchmarking or recognition status; and
  • project activities intended to directly influence/lobby governments.

3.8 Eligible costs

Eligible costs are the costs directly related to the project that fall within the recognized cost categories and respect all conditions and limitations set out in this guide and the contribution agreement if the project is approved.

Eligible costs are categorized under standard cost categories for all funding projects. Eligible cost categories under the Assurance Systems stream include:

  • Administration
  • Salaries/Benefits
  • Contracted Services
  • Travel
  • Capital/Assets
  • Other Direct Project Costs

Eligible costs must be presented, in the budget, under the standard categories for all funding projects, as identified in Annex B: Cost categories.

An Applicant may use cash and/or in-kind contributions towards their percentage of contributions towards eligible costs (see section 3.5 Cost sharing). In-kind contributions cannot exceed 10% of eligible project costs. The remainder of the Applicant's contribution must be made in cash.

The program start date is April 1, 2013 and in no instance will any costs incurred prior to that date be eligible for reimbursement. Any costs incurred after the program end date March 31, 2018, will not be eligible for reimbursement, or considered as an industry contribution toward the project.

Note: AAFC may allow eligible costs to be incurred after a complete funding proposal has been received by the Program, but prior to the signing of a contribution agreement if AAFC deems this necessary for the achievement of objectives under the project and if such costs are reasonable and required to carry out the eligible activities to which they relate. Please note, however, that even if an Applicant is advised that their project is approved and the Applicant starts incurring costs, no costs can be reimbursed unless a contribution agreement is ultimately signed between the Applicant and AAFC. Thus, any costs incurred prior to the signing of a contribution agreement would be incurred solely at the applicant's risk without obligation of payment by AAFC.

3.9 Ineligible costs or limitations

Ineligible project costs include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • the refundable portion of the GST, HST or any value-added taxes, or other items for which a refund or rebate is received;
  • costs being reimbursed under an existing federal, provincial, territorial, or municipal program;
  • the purchase of land or buildings;
  • capital items not specifically required for the execution of a project;
  • legal fees associated with the incorporation of an organization;
  • entertainment and alcohol costs;
  • annual fees for credit cards;
  • planning costs to apply for funding; and
  • any other cost incurred by eligible recipients in relation to approved projects, and not otherwise listed as eligible, may be ineligible for reimbursement at the discretion of AAFC.

Limitations of eligibility:

  • To be eligible, all activities must show a progression from previous work/projects, where applicable, and/or market relevance.
  • Program contribution funding may not be used to pay for costs incurred by federal government departments, agencies and/or employees.
  • All international travel must be pre-approved by the Minister in writing.
  • All hospitality costs must be pre-approved by the Minister in writing.

4.0 How to apply

Please note that the submission of an application creates no obligation on the part of AAFC to provide funding for the proposed project. As an Applicant, you must ensure that you meet all eligibility criteria before submitting your application.

You can submit an application for review at any time until September 30, 2017 or until the funding has been fully committed.

You are encouraged to contact a program officer by e-mail (assurance@agr.gc.ca) to discuss your project proposal.

Online

AAFC offers you the ability to apply online, simplifying the application process and making it faster and easier for your information to get to us. The Apply Online Project Application Form is a dynamic form, combining the Project Work Plan and Budget templates which are required for your application to be considered complete.

A complete online application package consists of a completed AAFC Online Project Application Form which includes the Project Work Plan and Budget, and such additional supporting documentation (listed in section 4.3 Additional Requirements) required by the program to fully assess the project can be attached and submitted electronically.

Fax/Mail or Email

For those applying by fax/mail or email, please see the contact information provided in section 7.0 Contact information to obtain your Project Application Form, a Project Work Plan and Budget template along with the necessary instructions.

A complete hard copy application package consists of a completed AAFC Application Form, a Project Work Plan, a Budget, and such additional supporting documentation (listed in section 4.3 Additional Requirements) required by the program to fully assess the project's merit to be funded.

4.1 Work plan

The Work Plan provides a description of all project activities and timelines, as well as overall project outcomes. Applicants must complete a Project Work Plan template for the work being performed under a contribution agreement.

4.2 Budget

Applicants are encouraged to review the standard cost categories (Annex B: Cost categories) for assistance with the categorization of costs within the Budget form.

For Project Costs set out in this Budget to be considered Eligible Costs they must fall within the recognized cost categories (Annex B: Cost categories) and respect all conditions and limitations set out in this Program Applicant Guide, whether or not the Budget is approved by the Parties. For greater certainty, these Eligible Costs must also be reasonable, reflect Fair Market Value and be directly related to the project.

4.3 Additional requirements

Applicants should submit the following information, where applicable, to support the completed Project Application Form, Work Plan and Budget:

  • Executive Summary:
    • Applicants must submit a one-page executive summary of their project.
  • A copy of the Applicant organization's Certificate of Incorporation or Articles of Incorporation:
    • Certificates and Articles of Incorporation are issued and filed, respectively, by or with a provincial, territorial or federal government and document the applicant's status as a legal entity.
  • A copy of the Applicant organization's financial statements for the last two years and the most recent interim financial statement:
    • The organization's annual financial statements (audited or reviewed) for the past two years or since the date of business start-up where the business is less than two years old;
    • the latest interim (audited or unaudited) financial statements; and
    • the most recent annual report or audited financial statements of the parent company or principal owner (if applicable).
  • Annex A- Consent to Disclose Personal and/or Business Information Form:
    • Written consent for the disclosure of third-party personal and business information to AAFC. Third party information is information that is not in the public domain and is submitted about an individual and/or organization other than the applicant. The department will use this information to assess projects under AAFC program streams. It may also use the information to determine eligibility for other programs and to evaluate agricultural programming.
  • Annex C - Copyright Permission Form:
    • Permission form to grant AAFC the permission to reproduce or redistribute the whole or any part of documentation provided to third parties. Documentation is reproduced or redistributed in order to assess the application as well as to determine eligibility for other AAFC, Government of Canada or provincial programs from which the Applicant may benefit.
  • Project Endorsement Letters/ Letters of Support (if available, not a requirement):
    • Letters of support from organizations indicating they believe there is a need for the proposed project and expressing hope that the proposed project will be accepted.
  • Documents to Demonstrate Market Relevance:
    • Supporting documentation that demonstrates market relevance and demand for the project and its activities. This could include public reports, economic analysis, and letters or other forms of formal requests from buyers or markets.
  • Information supporting Strategic Importance of Proposal:
    • A statement of the project's long-term goals. This statement should indicate why it is important that the project's goals be achieved and how and when the Applicant will achieve them. The statement must also indicate how the Applicant will maintain the assurance system (developed in the course of the project) in the long term.
  • Project Team Description:
    • This document describes various working groups, committees and project teams, their responsibilities and tasks, as well as how they are accountable to the organization.

Confidentiality: It is the Applicant's responsibility to clearly identify, on any documentation submitted to AAFC, the information that is considered commercially confidential. This information will not be disclosed unless required by law, including the Access to Information Act, or upon the express authorization of the applicant.

5.0 Assessment and approval

5.1 Assessment criteria

Once you have submitted your application to AAFC, the application will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • the completeness of the application;
  • the Applicant has met all eligibility criteria;
  • the Applicant has the capacity to deliver the project;
  • the proposed activities, including outcomes, support the program/stream objective;
  • the degree to which the proposed project can demonstrate a current or potential market opportunity or need;
  • the degree to which the issue to be addressed by the proposed project will affect the sector(s) in question within the next 5-10 years (the immediacy of the demand or need);
  • the proposed activities and costs are eligible, reasonable and required to meet the project objectives;
  • the proposed activities show a progression from previous projects or advance an assurance system towards completion, where applicable;
  • all sources of funding, including any in-kind support, for the project to be funded under this program are identified; and
  • whether the project fits within one of the current priorities.

Priorities are determined on an on-going basis. Currently, market relevance, livestock traceability and projects related to food for human consumption have been identified as priorities. Preference may be given to project proposals with higher levels of industry contributions.

If you are successful, AAFC will provide a written decision letter outlining the level of assistance awarded and any other conditions if applicable.

5.2 Contribution agreement

Successful Applicants who enter into a Contribution Agreement (CA) with AAFC will be referred to therein as Recipients. Recipients are required to enter into a CA that outlines the amount of funding AAFC will provide to the Recipient toward eligible costs, as well as the Recipient's responsibilities and obligations.

5.2.1 Payments to recipients

AAFC will make payments based on claims submitted for eligible costs incurred and paid by the Recipient in accordance with the terms and conditions of the CA. Each claim must be supported by details of the costs being claimed and certified by an authorized official of the Recipient.

Advances may be made available based on AAFC's assessment of the project risk (see section 6.1 Risk framework) and where need is substantiated.

5.3 Reporting requirements

Recipients will be required to provide progress reports using forms to be provided by AAFC, describing the activities completed and progress made towards deliverables, as described in the Project Work Plan (see section 4.1 Work plan).

Recipients will also be required to provide performance reports annually and at the end of projects, using forms provided by AAFC. Those reports will track progress against project performance measures.

Financial reporting will be required with each request for reimbursement of expenditures, in addition to year-end accounting and other financial reports.

Other reports may be required at AAFC's discretion.

  • Periodic updates (as required at AAFC discretion)
  • Status reports (as required at AAFC discretion)

Note: When completing your Budget form, please ensure that you have allowed sufficient resources to perform this function (see section 4.2 Budget).

6.0 Notes

6.1 Risk framework

Once a project is approved for contribution funding, AAFC will conduct a risk assessment to determine the overall risk level of the project.

The result (risk level) of this assessment does not determine eligibility for funding but will affect, among other things:

  • The frequency of progress reporting;
  • How often advances can be provided to the Recipient for contribution funding;
  • The amount of funds to be held back (holdback);
  • The frequency of site visits; and
  • Percentage of supporting documentation required for claim verification

AAFC's contribution agreement template has been designed to accommodate this framework and its results. A letter will accompany the CA to outline the requirements for the above.

6.2 Intellectual property

By signing the application form you are allowing AAFC to reproduce and distribute the whole or any part(s) of your application for the purposes outlined in section 6.6 Business information.

The Assurance Systems stream is an initiative pursuant to which contribution funds may be paid to recipients.  Title to the intellectual property developed by the recipient of contribution funding will vest in the recipient or in a third party, as may be negotiated by the recipient and the third party.

However, AAFC will engage in program administration activities and in other follow-up activities. AAFC may require the inclusion of a non-exclusive, world-wide and royalty-free and perpetual license or sub-license, as applicable, allowing AAFC to reproduce and to distribute by any means the whole or any part of documents generated by or for the recipient for these purposes, within the Department, within the Government of Canada, or to other governments, as part of the CA.

In the context of the Assurance Systems stream, AAFC may, in certain cases, also require the inclusion of an option to license or sub-license the Intellectual Property resulting from the activities undertaken under the Work Plan, including the Intellectual Property in the standard(s) and I or system(s) developed under the Work Plan, on a non-exclusive, world-wide, royalty-free basis. The purpose of such an option to license or sub-license would be to allow the Minister to make the standard(s) and I or system(s) available to not-for-profit organizations on a non-commercial basis, or to allow one or more such party (ies) to grant a sub-license or sub-sub-license for these purposes, for a period no greater than ten (10) years, at a price that is free of a profit margin.

6.3. Retention and disposition of assets

The department will include terms in the CA to allow AAFC to direct that assets purchased with contribution funds or needed to meet the Recipient's obligations under the CA be retained until the completion of the project or the repayment of AAFC contribution funding (if any). If the Recipient wishes to dispose of the assets beforehand, they will be disposed of in the manner that AAFC determines or to such person as AAFC authorizes. This means that, if the Recipient wishes to dispose of assets that are purchased using contribution funds or needed to meet the Recipient's obligations under the CA, the Recipient must send a request for authorization to do so to the Minister or his representative before disposition. The terms of the CA also allow AAFC to direct, at the completion of the Project or upon an earlier termination of this Agreement, the Recipient to keep, or to dispose of the capital assets acquired by the Recipient using the Minister's Contribution. Note that AAFC will have no property ownership or security interests in any assets purchased with contribution funds.

6.4 Official languages

6.4.1 Language of service

Applicants and Recipients are encouraged to communicate with AAFC in the official language of their choice. AAFC reviews and assesses applications and project deliverables in both official languages.

6.4.2 Language obligations of recipients

Depending on the nature of the program, the type of Recipient, and specific project activities to be undertaken, the Government of Canada may require the Recipient to make information available to and interact with the public in one or both official languages on terms and conditions to be specified in the CA.

In all cases the Recipient must publicly acknowledge AAFC's support for the project and project-specific communications products. The department may request that such acknowledgment include text in both official languages. Contribution funding from the Assurance Systems stream can be used to help cover the cost of conducting activities and communicating with the public in Canada's official languages as long as the costs fall within the definition of eligible costs and are included within the project budget.

6.5 M-30 Law (for Quebec organizations only)

The Act Respecting the Ministère du Conseil Exécutif (M-30) may apply to an applicant in the Province of Québec.  Applicants will be required to complete an additional information form and, if they are subject to the requirements of the Act, to obtain written authorization and approval from the Government of Québec prior to execution of any contribution funding agreement.

6.6 Business information

AAFC may collect, use and share an Applicant's information, which includes, but is not limited to, documentation prepared in the administration of the Assurance Systems stream of the AgriMarketing Program. AAFC will use and share this information for the purposes of assessing and reviewing the eligibility of the Applicant and the proposed project with:

  • Other AAFC programs and/or other AAFC Branches;
  • Other departments or agencies of the Government of Canada; and
  • Other levels of government in Canada.

The information may be shared with the parties mentioned above, for purposes that include, but are not limited to:

  • The use of the Applicant's information in the administration, including audit and evaluation, of the program;
  • Surveying for the Applicant's experience with AAFC;
  • Audit, analysis and risk assessment of the Applicant and/or the project; ;
  • Determining the possible availability of funding for the Applicant's project under another program or initiative;
  • Examining the scope and direction of agricultural programming in Canada; or
  • Ensuring efficiencies and effectiveness in setting up and administering agricultural and other government programs.

AAFC publishes a list of approved projects on the departmental website and may publish such list on other Government of Canada websites. This list would include the name of the Recipient, the project name, and the amount of the Assurance Systems stream contribution. AAFC may also publicize this information, along with a description of the project, in:

  • Project funding announcements or other promotions
  • In other government documents, including public reports on the progress of government initiatives

6.7 Environmental considerations

All projects receiving funding from AAFC must comply with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA2012). It is your responsibility to review whether your type of project is listed on the Regulations Designating Physical Activities and to contact the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Indicate in the "Project Description" section of the Application Form if your type of project is listed on the Regulations. Also indicate if the project's activities are located on Federal Crown land (includes federal and Aboriginal reserve land), on private land or another type of land. If you do not know, indicate that this information is "unknown."

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food will consider whether your project requires an environmental determination under section 67 of the CEAA 2012 and take the necessary steps if a determination is required and may inform you accordingly.

Provide details on any environmental risks in the "Risk Assessment" section in the Application Form, which includes confirming whether you have or will obtain federal, provincial, territorial or municipal authorizations and permits. AAFC reserves the right to request additional information.

7.0 Contact information

For further information please contact us toll-free at 1-877-246-4682, or by e-mail at assurance@agr.gc.ca.

Applications can be mailed to the following address:
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Tower 7, Floor 7, Room 221
1341 Baseline Road
Ottawa, ON K1A 0C5

Annex A: Consent to disclose personal and/or business information

See the Consent to Disclose Personal and/or Business Information form.

Annex B: Cost categories

Administration

Administration costs necessary to complete the project, such as:

  • Office supplies and materials
  • Office space
  • Telecommunications/Audiovisual
  • Postage and freight

Salaries/benefits

Salaries and benefits directly related to completing the activities of the project.

Contracted services

Professional or specialized services for which a contract is entered into, such as:

  • inspection
  • consultant/expert services
  • installation/construction
  • financial auditing (required for the project)
  • Environmental Assessment
  • project management
  • research

Travel

Travel costs directly related to the project, such as:

  • meals
  • incidentals
  • accommodations
  • transportation
  • hospitality (where eligible)

Capital/assets

Capital Assets are tangible assets that are purchased, constructed, developed or otherwise acquired and:

  • Are required for the execution of the project;
  • Have a useful life extending beyond one fiscal year and are intended to be used on a continuing basis; and
  • Are not intended for resale during the life of the project.

Costs such as:

  • equipment
  • computers
  • buildings

Other direct project costs

Other costs for project-related deliverables, such as:

  • shipping
  • printing
  • conference fees/registration fees
  • consumable materials
  • construction material costs
  • translation
  • marketing costs related to production of materials/documents/marketing plans

Annex C: Copyright permission

See the Copyright Permission form.


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