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Request For Proposals: Vermont Grain Industry Assessment - Market Study

The Northern Grain Growers Association (NGGA), UVM Extension, VHCB, and Vermont Farm to Plate did some initial research on grain infrastructure needs, which included a visit to a grain aggregation center in Quebec that does business with La Milanaise (a large organic grain mill/baked goods processor in Quebec). While the group came away feeling strongly that Vermont ultimately needs a similar infrastructure for grain production to thrive in Vermont, there was an acknowledgment that more needs to be understood about market conditions and demand for Vermont grain in the Northeast before moving ahead with a grain aggregation center feasibility analysis. As a result, the group settled on a two-phase approach. Representing phase 1, the below RFP encompasses the group's desire to more formally define the market opportunities for Vermont grown grains in the Northeast (markets of interest include grains for baked goods, spirits and beer, beans, and animal feed and cover cropping seed). Depending on the results and recommendations from this first phase of research, a second phase of analysis would then be supported to determine the feasibility of siting and profitably operating (including examining different ownership models) a grain aggregation center in Vermont.

Request For Proposals Vermont Grain Industry Assessment - Market Study

 

Collaborating Organizations:

Northern Grain Growers Association

UVM Extension

Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program

Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund/Farm to Plate

 

Contact Information:

Jake Claro, Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, jake@vsjf.org

Katie Michels, VT Farm & Forest Viability Program, katie@vhcb.org

 

Timeline:

Request for Proposals released June 13th, 2019

Responses to RFP due by July 19th, 2019; Contractor selected by July 29th, 2019

Final report due by October 25th, 2019

 

Project background:

With prolonged struggles in Vermont’s dairy industry there is a growing urgency amongst agricultural stakeholders in the state to identify and develop financially viable agricultural enterprises, and accompanying supply chain relations and infrastructure, that can successfully utilize a dairy land base that is increasingly under threat of going out of agricultural production. Grain production has emerged as one potential candidate due to larger acreage requirements that are compatible with existing dairy land, extensive agronomic research available to producers that has been conducted by UVM Extension, an engaged trade association with a history of industry market development and a membership spanning businesses across the grain growing supply chain, and a diverse and growing value-added industry with demand for grains that spans products such as tortillas, bean burgers, bread and baked goods, and spirits and beer. For example, at the 2018 Northern Grain Growers Association (NGGA) Annual Conference companies such as Vermont Tortilla Company, All Souls Tortilleria, Vermont Bean Crafters, Peterson Quality Malts, Maine Grains, and La Milanaise all expressed interest and demand for more locally grown grains.

The demand expressed at the 2018 conference initiated a deeper investigation, led by members of NGGA and UVM Extension with support from VSJF and the chair of the Farm to Plate Network’s Production and Processing Working Group, of grain market demand and supply chain gaps. Part of the deeper investigation involved traveling to Quebec to meet with staff from La Milanaise and tour a

grain aggregation center that conducts the majority of its business with La Milanaise. While previous attention on grain development in Vermont centered on the need for greater milling capacity, the grain center tour brought to light the important function of grain aggregation centers, mainly their role in managing quality, volumes, and grain mixes for value-added wholesale buyers including those with existing large-scale milling capacity. The group came away with a clearer understanding of how Vermont’s lack of a grain center acts as a major bottleneck for accessing wholesale markets and creating opportunity for more farmers interested in grain production. While the key functional role and need for a grain center was clear, further conversations amongst NGGA, UVM, VSJF, and VHCB, which also included a meeting with representatives from King Arthur Flour, identified the need for a two phase process for determining the feasibility of operating a grain center in Vermont.

Before assessing the finer aspects of building and operating a grain center in a financially viable way, the group recognized it was necessary for a first phase to more formally define the magnitude of demand in the Northeast (i.e., beyond what is anecdotally known amongst a select group of Vermont value-added businesses) for Vermont grown grains, including particular heritage varieties or attributes in demand, and price points wholesale buyers in the region would be willing to pay for these varieties or attributes. Without determining the scale and prospective growth of the market, and price ranges for Vermont grown grains, the decision to move forward with an analysis of the feasibility of operating a grain center would be premature. Thus, the market research focused on the Northeast in phase one will be foundational for deciding whether or not to move ahead with further feasibility analysis and development of a grain center.

Nature of services required: The collaborating organizations are seeking a contractor to conduct a market study of the Northeast for Vermont’s grain industry and develop a set of recommendations for northeastern markets most aligned with Vermont’s grain production strengths. We seek an experienced consultant who understands the landscape of Vermont agriculture, is willing to work collaboratively with the participating organizations, and has a strong background in market assessment and business. Depending on the results of the market study, and on available funding, a second phase of this work may include a feasibility assessment for an aggregation facility that would be necessary to access most markets for Vermont-grown grain. The project partners welcome proposals from individual consultants, individuals collaborating together on the project, or firms.

Payment:

A maximum of $10,000 is available for this assessment.

 

Qualifications:

The project partners are seeking a contractor (or contractors) with the following qualifications:

  • Demonstrated experience with market assessment
  • Demonstrated understanding of agricultural businesses, the food industry, and regional market development
  • Demonstrated experience with grain, value-added production, supply chains, and/or Vermont agriculture

 

Evaluation criteria

All proposals submitted will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. Qualifications of consultant (see Qualifications section above).
  2. Competitiveness of proposed rate.
  3. Ability to complete scope of work within required time frame.
  4. Ability to work collaboratively with the project partners.

 

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS

Please submit the following with your response to this bid:

  1. Project approach, background, and experience: Please provide a history of your firm, descriptions of relevant past work with other clients, a description of your firm’s experience with market research and analysis, and what makes your firm the right fit for this project.
  2. Proposed work plan and report outline including timeline.
  3. Resumes of project team leader and other team members.
  4. Project budget including matching funds: Please submit a budget, not to exceed $10,000, that is both realistic and reasonable to complete the scope of services. Budget must tie specific activities to deliverables, with clear cost associated with each component of the proposal. Proposal shall include an hourly rate for services and any related expenses to be billed. Proposals should include all relevant costs to complete the work as detailed in PERFORMANCE & DELIVERABLES, and should note any travel requirements.
  5. Two samples of similar research projects (preferred format: web links or a PDF).
  6. Any other useful information.

 

PERFORMANCE TIMELINE & DELIVERABLES

  1. Contractor will meet with project partners for initial kick-off in early August 2019.
  2. Contractor will draft a report and work with project partners to address any questions by September 27th 2019.
  3. Contractor will submit a final report by October 25th 2019.

 

STATEMENT OF WORK

The project partners seek a consultant to research and finalize a report assessing potential markets in the Northeast for Vermont-produced grain. Research will assess market demand, both from wholesale markets and direct-to-consumer, and include an assessment of the various product categories that are feasible for Vermont producers. We expect the report to include market analysis of the Northeast that includes product categories such as the beer & spirits industry, bakery industry (with an emphasis on opportunities for heirloom grains), seed market, and others (e.g., beans).

The report should include, but is not limited to, the following elements:

1. Executive Summary

a. Objectives and methodology overview

b. A summary of the most viable markets, key constraints, and opportunities for businesses

 

2. Market Conditions

a. Review of market conditions, notable trends in grain consumption and value-added production, innovative applications, opportunities, and constraints, with a focus on the Northeast and consideration of Quebec due to La Milanaise’s milling capacity and market access.

b. Production synopsis - overview of current state of VT grain production

 

3. Consumer Trends and Distribution Channels

a. Examination of key consumer trends, developments, insights into the typical consumer, with a focus on the Northeast

b. Other purchasing trends

 

4. Key opportunities to expand Vermont grain production, and key issues and constraints facing the industry

a. Exploration of a variety of market channels in the Northeast and Quebec, and their pros and cons, including:

i. ease of market access

ii. capital expense/infrastructure requirements

iii. suitability of grain varieties in demand for Vermont producers (e.g., price, volumes, and compatibility with production knowledge and growing conditions), and

iv. potential financial viability for farmers and processors

 

5. Recommendations and next steps, including:

a. recommendations for strengthening existing policies/programs/initiatives or recommending newly proposed initiatives to address opportunities and constraints

b. Consideration of whether a regional grain aggregation center is a feasible next step