Agriculture businesses receive big grants from state

GREENBACK, Tenn. (WATE) - Half a dozen agricultural companies in Tennessee were awarded big grants Monday aimed at helping businesses in rural counties grow.

It is all part of the state's new Agriculture Enterprise Fund. This first year $400,000 was awarded.

There was a presentation for the recipients at AgCentral Co-Op in Greenback. AgCentral Co-Op is one of the grant recipients.

"The grant that was presented to us was $105,000," said John Walker, AgCentral Co-Op CEO.

The other recipients were AgLaunch in Memphis, Edgefield Prime Meat Company in Dunlap, Light Hill Meats in Lynnville, Seven Springs Farm in Maynardville and 3 Roots Capital in Knoxville. 

"It's really about adding value to Tennessee farm commodities," said Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton.

The goal of the program is to help businesses like these expand, especially those in at-risk or distressed counties which will help not only themselves but their communities.

"These grants may not generate a lot of jobs at the production level, but it is giving capacity to processing that will generate opportunities back on the Tennessee farms," Templeton said.

Walker explained, "This is what we're trying to do is to keep products that are produced here and put them into the feeds that are given to that livestock rather than purchasing them outside."

AgCentral Co-Op is using their money to build up their two locations in East Tennessee.

"One was for the facility here in Greenback which is a soybean roasting operation, and it's to expand our storage capacity here. The other piece is in our feed mill in Athens which is where we make the livestock feeds, mainly dairy and beef, and that grant has to do with the batching operations there," Walker said.

All of this effort is hopefully helping to raise awareness of the importance of agriculture across the state.

"We say there's 67,000 farm families in Tennessee, and that's true, but there are also 6.7 million people in Tennessee who rely on agriculture every single day," Templeton said.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture says they hope to continue giving these grants in the future to businesses that will use the money for meaningful projects.