Tennessee State Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens has announced that beginning July 1, 2007, producers who have successfully completed the 12-week Master Beef Producer course will be eligible for increased cost share on cattle genetic and handling facilities improvements.

“If the increased profits enjoyed by those who become Master Beef Producers isn’t reason enough, we’re about to give Tennessee cattlemen another reason,” said Givens. “Next year, producers who complete the Master Beef course will be eligible for a larger slice of cost share under the Cattle Improvement Initiative.”

Tennessee cattle producers who become Master Beef Producer certified will be eligible for reimbursement of 50 percent, up to $1,000, for genetic improvements in their herds. Certified producers will also be eligible to receive a 50 percent reimbursement, up to $1,250, for improvements to their cattle handling facilities.

In the current round of cost share disbursements, approved producers get a 35 percent cost share up to $700 on genetics and up to $850 on handling equipment.

The Master Beef Producer Program is an educational program designed to help Tennessee cow-calf producers improve management skills and profitability and to ultimately help raise industry competitiveness with other states. The 12-session course, led by a team of University of Tennessee Extension specialists, covers business planning, marketing, genetics, feeding and forage, health management and cattle reproduction. Producers can learn more or sign up for the course through county UT Extension offices.

The Cattle Improvement Initiative is one of the cost share programs made possible through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program, an agricultural development initiative proposed by Governor Phil Bredesen and supported by the Tennessee General Assembly with an $11 million appropriation in the first two years.

“The great thing about the whole Cattle Improvement Initiative,” said Givens, “is that we accomplish so much for our cattlemen with every approved application. We don’t just reimburse these serious producers, we also help individuals and the industry as a whole by first making sure these folks have the most current knowledge and certification they’ll need to succeed in the future.

“By setting these high standards for a successful application, we get the greatest possible value of the cost share dollars the state contributes to a farm.”

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is now offering a $100 scholarship to cover the total cost to producers interested in participating in the course. In order to be eligible for the scholarship and cost share, producers must register their farms with the National Animal Identification System and have completed the Beef Quality Assurance course. The scholarship program is also made possible through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program.

“The most important thing producers need to realize at this point,” says Givens, “is that these classes are only offered a few times a year. Producers need to take the classes now so they can qualify for the greater cost share percentage next year.

“Producers who do not take the course will still be eligible to receive the 35 percent cost share,” said the commissioner, “but of course we’d like to see everyone get the most help possible.”

Additionally, equipment not previously accepted for cost share reimbursement, including hay rings and creep feeders, will be eligible items in next year’s round of applications, according to Givens. As previously established, producers must be approved before making their purchases.

Applications for the program will be available June 2007 at county UT Extension offices, county Farm Bureau offices and local co-ops.

For more information about farmer cost share opportunities through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program, visit online at www.picktnproducts.org.