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The TAEP advantage

State’s farmers encouraged to apply Oct. 1-15 for cost-share funds through Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program
Story by: Sarah Geyer, photos by: Sarah Geyer, Glen Liford, and Chris Villines 9/30/2019


Lascassas farmers and long-time friends Howard “Bubba” Arnold, far left, and Ernie Brown, far right, both used Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program cost-share funds last year to purchase grain bins. The entire process, from ordering to installation of both bins, was facilitated by John Henderson, third from left, manager of Rutherford Farmers Cooperative, and his staff and Tennessee Farmers Cooperative’s Hardware Department, including Bryan Wrather, second from left. The application window to apply for the 2019-2020 TAEP cycle is Oct. 1-15.
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The state’s farmers have two more reasons to apply for cost-share funding through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP), the Tennessee Department of Agriculture has added two new programs: hay equipment and cattle herd health.

The new hay equipment program will focus on hay production. That means the purchase of new hay mowers, mower-conditioners, tedders, rakes, and balers are now eligible for cost-share funds. The second new program, cattle herd health, provides reimbursement of some expenses related to implementing preventative protocols for dairy and beef cattle.

Established in 2005, TAEP cost-share funds assist producers in improving operational safety, increasing farm efficiency, maximizing farm profits, and adapting to changing markets.

Cost-share programs have included genetics, hay storage, livestock equipment and solutions, working facility cover, grain storage, poultry grower, and producer diversification. To date, TAEP has invested more than $168 million in more than 57,000 producer projects. For every cost-share dollar a farmer receives, an estimated $3.89 is generated in the local economy.

There’s a two-week application window — Oct. 1-15 — for those interested in receiving the next cycle of TAEP funds.

Applications are available at every Co-op location, and employees are ready to assist producers in each step of the process, from applying and purchasing decisions to installation.

Co-op members from across the state discuss how TAEP has benefited their operations:

Ernie Brown, Bubba Arnold, and Bobby Holbrook, Lascassas

Three Rutherford County farmers – Ernie Brown, Howard “Bubba” Arnold, and Bobby Holbrook – own farms but help each other with labor, equipment, and storage needs.

Ernie raises corn and soybeans on 950 acres on the same Lascassas land his family has farmed for more than 200 years. Ernie’s father, Buddy, owned and operated the popular Brown’s Store in that community for several decades. Bubba is the third generation to live on the family’s Lascassas farm. He raises 450 acres of corn and soybeans, 130 head of Angus cattle, and produces about 50,000 square bales of hay each year. Bobby, also a lifetime resident of Lascassas, raises hay, corn, and soybeans on more than 400 acres in Rutherford County.

Each farmer is a long-time participant in TAEP. All three began with livestock equipment, followed by a hay barn (or, in Bubba’s case, four hay barns), and a grain bin and auger.

In 2012, they decided to create a grain bin conglomeration for convenience. Ernie’s farm was the logical choice with its centralized location. They poured concrete pads, relocated five bins from their farms, and, using TAEP funds, installed drying floors. Since then, Ernie has added a sixth grain bin.

Last year, both Ernie and Bubba purchased grain bins for the centralized location. According to Bubba, the TDA now allows farmers to buy bins that will be installed on someone else’s property because a growing number of farmers are renting land for long-term use.

With the two additional bins ready for this year’s harvest, Ernie estimates that the eight bins will be able to store close to 105,000 bushels of corn.

“With the market the way it is right now, the grain bins give us some options,” say Bubba. “If you need some cash flow, you can sell two or three loads while you’re waiting for the price to go up, or you can sell at intervals to spread out your risk. Also, having your own grain bins means you can spend more time in the field instead of sitting in line at the granary.”

As members of Rutherford Farmers Cooperative, all three men turn to the Co-op for help with TAEP purchases, from ordering to installation – even grain bins; the Hardware staff at Tennessee Farmers Cooperative works closely with member Co-ops to help facilitate the installation.

“That’s a huge service when it comes to grain bins,” says Ernie. “If we had to find someone to install them and try to check on the project ourselves, it would be a huge hassle. All we have to do is get the pad ready, and then Ernie Herrod and John Henderson [both with Rutherford Farmers Co-op] handle the rest of it. Both bins were installed at the same time, and they have stayed on top of the project the entire time.”

As for this year’s TAEP application, Ernie plans on purchasing another grain bin.

“One more bin should do it,” he says. “After that, I would love to have a set of augers across the top so that we could set the transport auger at one place.”

Bubba says he’s not sure what he’ll apply for this year but is interested in both of the new programs. One thing he is sure about is where he’ll go after he’s approved — the Co-op.

“I like to spend my money where I can feel good about how they’re going to spend their money,” says Bubba, who served 12 years on Rutherford Farmers board of directors. “They do a great job, and I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

Ronnie Grantham, Bolivar

Ronnie Grantham runs a small cow/calf operation and a commercial backgrounding business on 140 acres of his Bolivar farm. Across the road, his son, Mike, produces 1,400 acres of row crops.

Ronnie and his wife Phyllis, who passed away last year, purchased the farm in the early 1970s as newlyweds and built a home on the land. The independent motel operator and his family briefly relocated to Sevier County in the 1990s. However, when he retired in 2007, the family returned to live full time on the Hardeman County farm. Since then, Ronnie has grown his cow/calf operation to a herd of 25 Angus/Hereford mamas and is backgrounding between 70 and 80 calves.

He submitted his first TAEP application in 2015 to receive cost-share funding for a 40-by-100-foot hay shed.

“My hay goes a third further now that I have hay storage,” says Ronnie. “I wrap my hay, but the ground moisture rotted it anyway. Now, since the bales are stored in the shed on top of pallets, we have an altogether different quality of hay. There’s no comparison.”

The following year, he purchased an Ag Spray 3-point, 500-gallon sprayer and a King Ag creep feeder. In 2017, he invested in genetics and an Arrowquip Q-Catch 86 Series cattle chute, and last year he purchased 16 8-foot concrete feed troughs and a Raven Cruizer II GPS.

“My son has a big sprayer I could use, but it takes so much to clean it out for use on row crops and pasture,” says Ronnie, who turns to Stockdale’s for all of his cattle needs and MidSouth Farmers Cooperative for the row crop operation. “On the other hand, if you get someone to spray for you, you’re at the mercy of their time. Now, when it’s time to spray, I can go on and do it myself with my own sprayer. And now that I’ve added the GPS, I’m saving money on my chemicals because I’m not skipping spaces or overlapping anymore.”

This year, he says he’ll probably take advantage of the new approved items available through the hay equipment program.

“You’re getting twice the amount for your money,” he says, adding that with a Master Beef Producer certification, he qualifies for the 50-percent cost share. “That’s basically what it boils down to. You can slice it any way you want to, but for every dollar you spend, you’re getting two dollars’ worth.”

Bill Dunning, LaFollette

Bill Dunning has participated in the state’s ag enhancement program for two years. Bill and his wife, Bonnie, relocated to Claiborne County from Flint, Mich., after Bill retired as a supervisor for the City of Flint Fire Department in 1994. The couple purchased a 70-acre, hillside farm and currently raise more than 80 Boer nanny goats and a beef herd of 36 commercial cows.

Bill first applied for TAEP cost-share funds for a hoop barn to house the 3x3x8 hay bales he purchases from Claiborne Farmers Cooperative. The hoop barn uses a 25-year rated tarp-type cover as an economical alternative to traditional roofing. The ventilation and the curved structure make it a good choice for hay storage, says Bill.

Last year, he added an addition onto his barn to house a cattle-working system that includes a Tarter Sheeted Sweep System and heavy-duty 2-inch gates purchased from the Co-op. The system makes it easier for the couple to safely work cattle, and the cover allows for chores out of the weather.

“TAEP is a good deal,” says Bill. “We wouldn’t have gotten all of that stuff without it. We pick out what we need the most first. I needed the hay barn really badly. I couldn’t put hay up there anymore. We were always going to put a lean-to on here and never did. We worked around it all the time. Finally, they came out with the cover. I said, ‘That’s what we ought to get next.’ It’s helped a lot.”

Mike Welch, the LaFollette Co-op store manager, has been a big help, says Bill, noting that the Co-op has helped source the products and provided expert advice.

Mike’s nephew, Andy Welch, has helped Bill with many projects, including building the hoop barn. The local contractor also relies on TAEP to bolster his own Claiborne County farming operation.

Bill says he’s not sure yet what he plans to add this year, but says he’s certain he will apply.

Information about the 2019-20 Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program

Program purchases can be made starting Oct. 1, 2019, and must be completed by the project’s final reimbursement request deadline identified in this year’s application booklet. Maximum reimbursements range from $2,000 to $20,000, and producers with master producer certifications at the time of application can qualify for a 50-percent cost share on eligible purchases instead of the program’s standard 35-percent reimbursement.

Participants of the hay equipment program must meet minimum (operation size) requirements of 100 head of cattle, 150 head of goats or sheep, or 100 acres of hay in production (first cutting only). The hay equipment portion of the program will have a deadline of April 1, 2020, the same as livestock equipment. Maximum reimbursement on the new hay program is $5,000. Applicants of the cattle herd health program must have a minimum of 30 cattle, and the maximum reimbursement for this program is $2,000.

Applications are available at all Co-op locations, UT Extension offices, and the TAEP webpage, Approval notifications are slated for mailboxes in mid-December.

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