Agricultural Enterprise Fund far exceeds expectations, returning $17.55 for every $1 invested

NASHVILLE — A recent analysis shows that for every dollar Tennessee is investing into Agricultural Enterprise Fund (AEF) projects, $17.55 is returned to local economies.

A University of Tennessee study reviewed projected economic effect of AEF projects when leveraged with the investments by agribusiness firms statewide to determine the impact of the fund.

“This analysis confirms what we’ve believed since AEF started in 2017 – that these strategic investments make a meaningful, long-term difference,” Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “We appreciate our partners at UT for assisting us with this analysis. This information will allow us to award AEF cost share dollars more effectively.”

AEF awards grants to starting or expanding agricultural, food and forestry businesses in Tennessee and supports Governor Lee’s priorities in rural areas. Awards are made to those who demonstrate a potential for measurable impact on local farm income, access to markets, increased capacity or agricultural innovation. Priority is given to businesses located in or adjacent to economically at-risk or distressed counties.

“From local forest landowners to international customers, the AEF support we received in 2018 has created substantial advancements in an industry that is extremely important here in Clay County,” GF Hardwoods co-owners Nick and April Patterson said. “We appreciate the opportunity to participate in a program designed to benefit businesses like ours, and we’ve seen first-hand how the program has a return on investment to this scale.”

In total, AEF has awarded nearly $5.3 million in funding to Tennessee businesses, leveraging more than $82 million in agriculture and forest-product economic development since the program’s launch.

The next Agricultural Enterprise Fund deadline is Sept. 1, 2021, and the application for the program is available now online. You will find more information about AEF at or by emailing Will Freeman at

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