The Agricultural Enterprise Fund (AEF) program, developed under former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's Governor's Rural Task Force, is currently awarding grants to start or expand agricultural, food, and forestry businesses in the volunteer state.
With priority going to at-risk or rural areas, grant funds will provide up to 25 percent cost share assistance to expanding businesses that show the most potential of having an economic impact on the ag economy around them.
"We are planning to assist a wheat row cropping operation that has diversified into barley production for local breweries," says Will Freeman, business consultant, Tennessee Department of Agriculture. "They will use the funds to purchase equipment to clean the barley before it is shipped. This will also be an incentive for other row crop operations around them to consider barley now that they have access to a local facility where it may be cleaned."
A number of Tennessee saw mills have already been supported through the AEF program to strengthen markets for timber and log production operations in the state that have been adversely impacted by the ongoing trade war with China.
"Market impact from the trade war on these two Tennessee industries has received little publicity but they have incurred a 62 percent and 73 percent loss in market value, respectively, to China since the trade war began," says Andrew Muhammad, professor, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, University of Tennessee.
Continued support and increased funding for the program has full support from Charlie Hatcher, Tennessee's commissioner of agriculture, who looks to continue the program for the next few years.
The AEF Program is administered by the Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the Department of Economic and Community Development."