Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens recently announced the Department of Agriculture will begin accepting applications for cost share assistance Jan. 1, 2007 from state farmers interested in building new hay storage structures.

“The quality of hay production and storage has a direct impact on the quality and health of cattle,” said Givens. “If we can help farmers improve forage nutrition and handling, then we can make a difference on their bottom line through better cattle management and marketability of their livestock. This is simply an expansion of our ongoing efforts to increase farm profitability through better cattle genetics, health and handling.”

Givens is expected to formally announce the program during the annual Tennessee Forage and Grassland Council Meeting on Nov. 3 at Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville.

The department has allocated $1 million for the hay storage initiative from the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP), established by Governor Phil Bredesen and funded by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Beginning Jan. 1, cattle and hay producers can apply for 35 percent cost share assistance, up to $3,500, toward the construction of a new hay storage structure, or an addition to an existing structure. Building sites must be well-drained and flooring must be concrete or 4 to 6 inches of gravel on plastic. Acceptable roofing materials include metal, shingles or polymer coated fabric.

To be eligible, farmers must be a Tennessee resident and operate a farm or agri-business located in the state with at least 10 head of cattle or 50 acres of hay production. Producers with livestock must also register their premises with the National Animal Identification System. Livestock premises can be registered at most Farm Service Agency, UT Extension, Farm Bureau or Co-op locations, or online at www.tennessee.gov/agriculture/tpis.

Only projects that are approved in advance by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture will be eligible for cost share assistance. Farmers will be limited to one application per fiscal year, and funding is on a “first come, first serve” basis. Once approved, farmers will have until Dec. 31, 2007 to complete approved activities and reimbursement requirements.

Applications for hay storage cost share are expected to be available Dec. 1 on the department’s Web site and at most local farm service centers and farm suppliers. Only applications postmarked Jan. 1, 2007 or after will be accepted, and farmers will have until April 1, 2007 to apply. For more information about the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program’s hay storage initiative call (615) 837-5323 or visit online at www.picktnproducts.org.