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Tipping the scales

Cost share funds help farmers improve farming operations
Story and Photos by Morgan Graham 9/29/2020

 

Gary runs 30 Angus cows that produces 23 commercial Angus heifers yearly. He raises the yearly offspring and consigns them to TAEP-approved bred heifer sales. In addition to his cattle herd, Gary also row crops 160 acres split between soybeans and corn.
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For the past 15 years and counting, the Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program (TAEP) has been helping farmers like Gary Walters improve their farms and operations. 


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


“With this being the 15th anniversary of TAEP, we are excited to see the impact it has had on Tennessee agriculture and rural communities,” says Assistant Commissioner for Business Development Keith Harrison. “Every dollar that is reimbursed through TAEP generates $6.09 that goes back into rural communities throughout the state.”


Gary has farmed a little bit of everything from dairy cows and hogs during his time in East Tennessee, to tobacco, corn, soybean, and commercial Angus heifers in West Tennessee. 


The 68-year-old farmer once lived in East Tennessee and ran a 150-head Holstein dairy with an additional 150 heifers. As the area began to become more heavily populated, Gary and his wife began to think about moving west to be near their son, who lives in Henry County. On a visit, they located a dairy for sale and decided to sell their East Tennessee farm. They moved to Paris in Henry County in 2005.


In December 2012, Gary decided it was time to sell the dairy. “It was a lot for an old man to keep up by myself,” he says. “After my wife passed away in 2009, I decided it was time for a change.” 


Today, Gary specializes in commercial Angus heifers and grows row crops. He uses TAEP cost-share funds to help with livestock equipment and genetics. 


“TAEP was designed to help farmers like like Gary, who are looking to transition from one farm industry to another, or help farmers improve their current operations,” says Commissioner Harrison. “Whether it’s from the dairy to beef industry or its from row crop to agritourism, we want to be able to help farmers transition and remain in agriculture.” 


Cost share programs in the past have included livestock equipment, herd health, genetics, working facility structures, hay storage, dairy and livestock solutions, row crop solutions, producer diversification, and poultry grower support. Since its inception, TAEP has reimbursed over $185 million on almost 63,000 producer projects across the state. 


This year Gary bought a new Tru-Test scale that will help get a more accurate weight on his heifers and help him be more efficient on medicine dosage. 


“It’s an all-around better management tool,” says Henry Farmers Co-op Outside Salesman Kaine Winstead who works closely with Gary on his farming needs.


“The Co-op is an integral part of my operations, and I love working with Co-op,” Gary says. “I shopped at the local store when I lived in East Tennessee, and I shop at the Henry Farmers store now. I can have peace of mind knowing everything I buy there is high quality, and the service is even better.”  


The Henry County farmer also sells 15 bred-Angus heifers in a TAEP-eligible Kentucky/Tennessee Livestock market every November.  


Farmers interested in learning more about items eligible for TAEP cost share should visit Co-op’s TAEP-focused website, www.ourcooptaep.com. This website features a catalog of TAEP-approved products available through Co-op. 


The extensive selection includes bunk feeders, chutes, feed bins, feeders, gates, guidance systems, handling equipment, head gates, mineral feeders, panels, scales, sprayers, spreaders, sweep systems, and working products from a variety of manufacturers. The site also includes addresses of participating Co-op stores, access to a Co-op customer service representative, and information on tips about TAEP including the reimbursement process. 


“TFC works closely with these vendors to provide discounts to our co-op customers and members," says Jeff Wilkerson with Faithway Alliance Marketing. 


The one-week application window is open Oct. 1-7 for those interested in the next round 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 decision to installation. 


 
 
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