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From item choice to installation

Co-op ready to assist producers with TAEP-approved purchases
Story by Sarah Geyer; photos by Sarah Geyer, Glen Liford, and Chris Villines 1/25/2018


Jon Foutch of Liberty is one of the thousands of producers taking advantage of cost-share funding through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP). The cattle-working system and livestock facility cover behind Jon were purchased with TAEP assistance.
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Nearly 6,000 Tennessee farmers have been chosen to participate in the 2018 Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP). These farmers have received approval to receive cost-share funds for nearly 7,000 projects.

Created by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture in 2005, TAEP has helped the state’s producers improve their operations through more than 51,830 on-the-farm projects in the areas of livestock genetics and equipment, hay storage, and feed and grain storage, as well as a wide range of producer diversification opportunities.

“Our customers comment every year about how much they appreciate this program, and we’re proud they turn to us for help with many of their purchases,” says Jimmy Ogilvie, manager of Tennessee Farmers Cooperative’s Hardware Department. “As always, the Co-op is ready to assist farmers in making the best buying decisions for their operation, with expert advice and outstanding service through every step of the process, from item choice to installation.”

As in years past, the standard cost-share funding is 35 percent while producers who have completed advanced coursework related to their operations are eligible for 50 percent cost share (on select programs as indicated in the TAEP application brochure). Funding maximums range from $2,000 to $15,000, depending on the project.

A few changes have been made to the program for 2018. Maximums have increased for livestock equipment, livestock working facility covers, hay storage, livestock feed storage, and grain storage. On the approved products list, size specifications for bins have been removed, and portable bins, hay unrollers, spin-off bale unrollers, and cattle sprayers have been added.

The reimbursement deadline for livestock equipment is now April 1 instead of May 1. The reimbursement date for all other programs remains Sept. 1.

“The program has allowed many to invest in their operations at a much greater pace than they would have on their own,” says Jimmy. “Particularly by improving their farm safety, management practices, and operational efficiency.”

From a producer in DeKalb County who has participated every year to a first-generation farmer in East Tennessee applying for the second year, five Co-op members discuss how TAEP has benefited their livestock operations:

Jon Foutch, Liberty

DeKalb Utility District Manager Jon Foutch runs a commercial cow/calf operation with his father Joe and brother Dan. The Foutches, who raise nearly 80 cows on approximately 400 acres in DeKalb County, have participated in TAEP every year since its inception in 2005. After the first year, Jon and Joe attended Master Beef Producer classes to increase their savings from 35 to 50 percent.

Through the cost-share program, they’ve purchased two working systems, a working system cover, a Tru-Test scale, Herdsman mineral feeders, Co-op bulk feeders, three hay barns, catch pens, troughs, and Co-op gates.

“It’s turned our whole operation around,” says Jon. “It’s safer — that’s the No. 1 thing — and the No. 2 thing is, it cuts down so much on our time. In just a couple of hours, we are in and out and gone and working on something else.”

This year, they plan to add genetics, and, in the future, possibly a grain bin.

As in past years, the Rutherford Farmers Cooperative members will depend on the Co-op for purchase advice.

“Practically everything I’ve bought with TAEP has come through Co-op,” says Jon. “They really go out of their way to help us. I tell Corey [Poss, salesman at the DeKalb location] what I’d like to purchase, and he looks up the options for me and helps me to find the best for my budget. With the 50-percent [cost share], I want to buy the best that I can get because I need for it to last.”

Roger Martin, Woodbury

Cannon County’s Roger Martin has been a faithful participant and staunch supporter of the cost-share program since its inception.

“People who don’t use the program are missing out, for sure,” says the livestock producer who runs some 140 commercial mama cows, manages a 50-head calf backgrounding operation, and grows hay and corn on 700 owned-and-leased acres in Woodbury. “You have to keep expanding to be able to survive as a farmer these days.”

One of the first additions Roger made was building a hay barn and later adding lean-to sheds on both sides of the barn to double its capacity. Having this facility, he says, has allowed him to preserve the quality of the hay he offers to his cattle. Roger and Austin also sell some of their hay and perform custom hay work.

Roger, a longtime member of Rutherford Farmers Cooperative, has worked closely with the Co-op’s Woodbury branch store to purchase livestock equipment. He’s added Co-op Super Heavy Duty Mineral Feeders, an Applegate HD Hay Feeder, B&W Farm & Ranch Equipment Metal Bunk Feeders, an Apache Creep Feeder, and Co-op 12-by-6-foot Range Panels

Roger has also used the TAEP support for genetics to bolster his herd through the purchase of high-performance bulls. He’s purchased four Angus bulls through the program thus far and has been approved for funding again in 2018.

“Without ag enhancement, I wouldn’t have been able to get such top-notch bulls,” Roger stresses. “When we sell feeder calves, just about every one of them will grade choice. There’s no doubt that’s because of the quality bull that they came from.

“We’ve been able to do a lot through TAEP and it’s made a big difference, especially in our [cattle] genetics. I don’t know why a person wouldn’t participate — I really don’t.”

Billy and Jamie Steele, Lutts

For Billy Steele and his son, Jamie, Wayne County livestock producers who have an 188-head cattle herd on 250 acres, participation in this year’s TAEP isn’t about improvement; it’s about rebuilding.

In 2015, a devastating tornado tore through their small community of Lutts, and left a path of destruction through Billy’s home place and part of the family’s 1,000 acres of farmland, destroying four barns and six miles of fencing, and shifting his two-story brick house off its foundation.

The tornado damaged several trucks, tractors, and two of their three working systems purchased through TAEP over the years, even ripping the cover off of one of them.

This is the first year since the disaster that the two have applied for TAEP, with plans to buy a much-needed hay shed, their second barn purchased through TAEP, to replace the first, which was destroyed in the storm.

“Having a program like TAEP to pay a portion of the cost has really helped us,” says Jamie, who works full time with the Tennessee Division of Forestry. “The losses we had from the tornado have really drained us.”

He says they hope to purchase a cover for their working facility and genetics in the future, adding, “We’ve got more projects than money with the way everything has gotten torn up.”

“My project is just living another day,” says Billy, who is a longtime member of Wayne Farmers Cooperative and currently serves on its board of directors. “I survived a heart attack three years ago, followed by the storm two years ago. So I’m just blessed and thankful for every day.”

Cody Witherspoon, New Market

First-time farmer Cody Witherspoon and his wife, Nancy, transitioned last year from raising fainting goats as a hobby on their 31-acre farm to breeding Boer goats as a full-time business.

Having reached the program’s minimum herd requirement, Cody was excited for the opportunity to participate in TAEP. As a Master Goat Producer, he used the cost-share program to buy much-needed pens for their budding business.

This year, the Jefferson Farmers Cooperative member says he plans on purchasing a bulk grain feeder and, through the genetics program, a semen tank.

“I’m a big proponent of this program,” he says. “It is great for young farmers or farmers just getting started. It has definitely helped us get off the ground.”

State agriculture experts again this year urge TAEP participants to spend their entire approved amounts, cautioning that an unused budget could cause legislators to limit or even end the program.

To learn more about items eligible for TAEP cost share, contact your local Co-op or visit to view available products.

For more information on TAEP, visit or email

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