Grant program continues to support agriculture, forestry businesses

White County Lumber Company was a 2020 Agriculture Enterprise Fund (AEF) recipient. (Photo / White County Lumber Company website)

Record-setting number of meat processors receive funds

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. today announced 17 more businesses supported by the Agriculture Enterprise Fund (AEF), including 10 meat processing facilities. Four of the businesses are in the Upper Cumberland region.

“Any way we can support economic development and job creation is a win for families, their communities and the state,” Lee said. “TDA continues to be responsive to the needs of farmers and foresters who are, in turn, responsive to consumer demand. For many of these businesses, AEF grants mean they will secure greater access to consumer markets which goes a long way to strengthen the economy.”

The AEF awards grants to starting or expanding agricultural, food and forestry businesses in Tennessee and supports Governor Lee’s priorities in distressed counties. Awards are made to those who demonstrate a strong potential for impact on local farm income, access to markets, increased capacity or agricultural innovation.

“Now more than ever, we need agribusinesses to remain strong,” Hatcher said. “This round of AEF recipients includes the most meat processing projects in the program’s history. There is an interest for more meat processing capacity due to increased consumer demand across the state and nation. We’re proud to strategically support impactful businesses that are critical to keeping the food, fiber and fuel supply chain strong throughout Tennessee.”

One recipient will use the funds to purchase equipment for a new meat processing business. 

“This cost share opportunity won’t just impact us, it will have an effect on other farms and businesses in Van Buren County and throughout Tennessee,” Barry Austin of A&H Custom Meat and Processing said. “The equipment that we will buy with AEF assistance will allow us to provide a reliable and efficient service to livestock producers looking to add value to their farm operations.”

AEF grant recipients and projects announced include:

The custom meat processing projects will process livestock for the exclusive use of the livestock owners. Like a retail exempt plant, the facilities will still be subject to periodic, risk-based inspection. USDA-inspected projects process meat for retail sale and are required to have an inspector on site during this type of service. 

In total, the Agriculture Enterprise Fund has awarded nearly $4.3 million in funding to Tennessee businesses, leveraging more than $59 million in agriculture and forest-product economic development since the program’s launch in 2017. You will find more information about the Tennessee Agriculture Enterprise Fund at or by emailing Will Freeman at

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