Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Request For Pre-proposals (RFP)

About the Leopold Center's annual RFP

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (LCSA) was established by the Iowa Legislature as part of the Iowa Groundwater Protection Act of 1987.  Its mission is to identify and reduce negative environmental and socio-economic impacts of agricultural practices, contribute to the development of profitable farming systems that conserve natural resources, and cooperate with Iowa State University Extension to inform the public of new findings.

The Leopold Center’s annual competitive grants program consists of two main categories:

  1. Research: Proposals with a specific hypothesis-driven question designed into the work will make up the largest category of Center grant funding.  
  2. Project:  Proposals designed to carry out demonstration, educational, planning, capacity building or outreach efforts fall into this category.

For the LCSA RFP, these two main categories are divided into 10 subject portals (long-standing core interests) and five specific focus areas (varied by year). The LCSA will give priority to pre-proposals whose outcomes contribute to increased resilience on Iowa landscapes and demonstrate a systems approach to the identified problem or situation rather than investigating single-tactic solutions. Innovative research and project ideas are highly encouraged. Projects may be one to three years duration.

Subject portals and managers

  • Water: water quality, hydrology, water use and water infrastructure. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Soil: soil health and systems: knowledge and practices that positively impact the self-renewing capacity of soil. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Landscape: adoption of multiple sustainable practices in targeted Iowa agricultural systems and landscapes. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Crops:  alternative crops, crop selection, crop development, cultivation practices and factors contributing to plant health or productivity. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Integrated Farming Systems: crop-livestock production systems (mixed or integrated farming systems) designed to clearly demonstrate improvement to the quality of soil, water, air, wlidlife habitat and the landscape. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Energy:  production and utilization of energy in agriculture and food production. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Livestock Systems:  livestock enterprises, nutrition, housing and other practices used in livestock husbandry. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Policy: economic, legal, and business aspects of agriculture and farming as well as public programs which impact agriculture. (Mary Adams)
  • Social: interactions of various stakeholders, organizations and interest groups focused on food and farming. (Mary Adams)
  • Marketing and Food Systems:  Local Food and Farm Initiative interests, but also including issues related to food safety. (Craig Chase)

Focus areas

The Center encourages pre-proposals in these areas:

  • Soil health
  • farming options for a more diverse landscape
  • how to increase adoption of conservation practices
  • challenges to beginning farmers
  • food hubs/food distribuTION BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

FAQs about the RFP process

Who may submit a pre-proposal?  Investigators representing any Iowa nonprofit organization, agency, and/or educational institution (i.e., soil and water conservation districts, schools and colleges, and regional development groups). Farmers, landowners, and farm-based businesses cannot apply independently, but are encouraged to partner with an eligible investigator in the pre-proposal process.

What to include in your pre-proposal? Please refer to the subject portal section (above) to find the appropriate fit for your pre-proposal. Prepare a two- or three-page concept paper with these required elements. (Note that letters of support are not a consideration at this pre-proposal stage.)

  1. Separate cover page with project title, complete contact information for the principal investigator including mailing address, phone number and email address; dollar request per year; and the portal that best fits your pre-proposal.  (Do not count the cover page as part of your page total.)
  2. Anticipated Outcome(s)—What will be the outcomes, both end-of-project and long-term, if you achieve your objectives? How will the pre-proposal contribute to more sustainable agricultural systems or increased resilience on the Iowa landscape?   For more information on how best to describe your desired outcome(s), please take time to view the short explanatory presentation
  3. Strategies—What activities will help you achieve project outcomes? Describe by outcome.
  4. Outreach—How (and with whom) will you share project results? You are strongly encouraged to outline plans to work with groups such as ISU Extension, NRCS, PFI, or other NGOs to help disseminate information about your work to producers, landowners and other interested parties.
  5. Budget— Estimates and financial explanation  
  • Estimate total expenses and describe briefly for these categories: Salary and Benefits; Equipment/Supplies/Materials;Travel; Subcontracts/Consultants; and Other.
  • Which of the following best describes your estimated budget? Options: 1) LCSA will provide all funding. 2) LCSA funds are a start, but work is contingent on other funds to meet all desired outcomes. 3) LCSA funds fill a gap in ongoing work sponsored by other funding. 4) LCSA funds will support completing part of the work even if funds from other sources are not received.


What criteria are used to assess each pre-proposal?

  1. Sustainability/resilience. How does the project contribute to increased agricultural sustainability and/or increased resilience* on Iowa landscapes? How will this project help farms adapt to accelerating climate change?

  2. Research/development basis. How does the project contribute to formation of new knowledge or to the application/extension of current research as it relates to sustainable agriculture? To what extent is this proposal unique or innovative?
  3. Outcomes. If this project is funded, how will it inform or encourage changes in behavior or  practices?
  4. Budget/Leverage. Does the preliminary budget realistically reflect the scope and cost of the project activities? Does the project demonstrate potential to obtain additional resources from other sources?
  5. Partnership development.  To what extent will this proposal increase or support the work of other Leopold Center partners? What new partners could potentially participate in this project?

*Resilience is the ability of a system to absorb a disturbance and yet retain its structure and function (Walker and Salt 2006).


Who should receive your pre-proposal?  Based on your assessment of the subject portals and this year’s focus areas, please submit your pre-proposal to the appropriate manager (listed with each portal) and CC a copy to the Leopold Center director, Mark Rasmussen:

Craig Chase, 515-294-1854, cchase@iastate.edu, Subject line: LCSA 2016 RFP; CC email: markras@iastate.edu
Malcolm Robertson, 515-294-1166, malcolmr@iastate.edu, Subject line: LCSA 2016 RFP; CC email: markras@iastate.edu
Mary Adams, 515-294-5832, madams@iastate.edu, Subject line: LCSA 2016 RFP; CC email: markras@iastate.edu
Mark Rasmussen, 515-294-3711, markras@iastate.edu, Subject line: LCSA 2016 RFP


How to submit?  An electronic copy (sent via e-mail or delivered on a CD) or one hard copy must be received by 5 p.m., July 7, 2015. No faxes, please. The electronic version should be a .doc, .docx, .txt file or PDF contained or attached with the e-mail. Be sure to combine all elements of your pre-proposal into one document. Send your copy to the appropriate manager listed in this RFP, who will acknowledge receipt of your pre-proposal. Also, CC the Leopold director with your submission.

Note to previous Leopold Center grantees: If you have a final report pending for a previously completed grant, it must be approved before we can consider a new pre-proposal from you. Please check with the appropriate manager if you have questions.


What happens after submission?  Pre-proposals will be screened for adherence to requirements found in this RFP as well as economic, environmental, community/social sustainability and fit with the Leopold Center mission priorities.  An invitation to submit a full proposal will be based upon review of all pre-proposals by the Leopold Center Advisory Board and staff. The Center will notify all applicants in September as to whether they will be invited to submit a full proposal. Full proposals will be due October 30 and funding decisions made by early January.


March 1, 2016