This week USDA announced several important updates to its 9003 Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Manufacturing Assistance Program. (For an full overview, please see our post from July 1 announcing the latest iteration of the program.) 

Specifically, USDA released an updated, comprehensive Application Guide -- which includes detailed instructions for the Letter of Intent, Phase 1, and Phase 2 submissions -- and announced a National Stakeholder Forum scheduled for next Thursday, July 16, from 12:30 – 2:00pm ET in Washington, D.C., where interested parties can solicit feedback directly from program decision makers. Full details on the Stakeholder Forum can be found in the related Federal Register Notice of a Public Meeting including venue, webcast, registration information, and target audience. Please note that the registration deadline to attend in person or via webcast is next Tuesday, July 14.

In addition to these headline announcements, USDA also clarified several finer points related to the 9003 Program:

  1. USDA officially opened the first round of the new 9003 Program (which closes October 1st at 4:30pm ET) with its Notice of Solicitation of Applications (NOSA). The second round will begin immediately upon closing of the first. 
  2. In the same Notice, USDA also outlined application scoring criteria and eligibility information for Biobased-Product Manufacturing projects. Scoring criteria for Advanced Biofuel and Renewable Chemical projects can be found in the original Interim Final Rule
  3. USDA corrected the effective date from the Interim Final Rule from July 24 to August 24 in a Notice of Correction
  4. Lastly, in the Application Guide, USDA also clarified a new point with respect to being down-selected from a Phase 1 submission. Unlike prior iterations of the 9003 Program, a ranked Phase 1 application that is not invited to submit a Phase 2 application will be carried forward one additional application cycle, providing a second chance for being down-selected in later round.

We strongly encourage interested parties to carefully review the Application Guide and attend the National Stakeholder Forum. The Stakeholder Forum is a unique opportunity to pose clarifying questions and solicit feedback from program decision makers. However, as emphasized in our post last week announcing the 9003 Program, the most significant challenge in successfully pursuing a USDA loan guarantee remains securing a lender of record. This effort should be conducted in parallel to all other application efforts.