Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson has announced Producer Diversification cost share awards totaling nearly $900,000.

The funds will help 173 Tennessee farmers invest in new or expanding areas of agriculture.

The Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program was established in 2005 and supported by the General Assembly to increase farm income by helping farmers invest in better farming practices and by encouraging diversification and innovation.

“More than ever, it is important for farmers to look at ways to diversify their operations to ensure profitability,” Johnson said.

“These business investments and opportunities will not only help farmers keep their operations profitable but they will help strengthen our rural economy in communities across the state.”

In its seventh year, the Producer Diversification cost share opportunity is helping farmers expand or improve their operations through production of varied agricultural products.

Diversified agricultural products include agritourism, aquaculture, fruits and vegetables, honey bees, horticulture, organics, value-added products, viticulture and others as approved by TDA.

“This program is making a real difference for producers who want to be farming in the future, and have continued success. We’re proud to be able to help them achieve their goals and to help support local communities that depend on agriculture,” Johnson said.

The Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program also includes cost share funding aimed at cattle improvement, hay and feed storage and animal health improvement. Through the Producer Diversification cost share opportunity, Tennessee farmers can apply for reimbursement of 35-50 percent, up to $15,000 in some instances, for eligible cost share activities.

The dollars are meant to help farmers who want to install farm infrastructure, purchase

specialty equipment and market their diversified farm products. Applications are then reviewed for eligibility, ranked and approved on a competitive basis, based on project plans and the potential to increase farm income.

The 173 projects funded this year represent a wide range of new and emerging agricultural investments.

Funding by project category for this year breaks down as follows:

• Agritourism — 32

• Fruits and vegetables — 45

• Honey bees — 45

• Horticulture — 23

• Organics — 10

• Value-added products — 8

• Viticulture — 10

Farmers interested in submitting a proposal for funding will have a chance to apply again next year.

For more information on TAEP, visit www.TN.gov/agriculture/enhancement/. For more information about specific projects in your area, contact Jon Frady at 615-837-5344 or Producer.Diversification@TN.gov.