Funds should assist TN dairy farms with diversification

KNOXVILLE, TN — Help is now available for Tennessee dairy businesses.

As part of a recent grant from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, the University of Tennessee Department of Animal Science and the Center for Profitable Agriculture have teamed with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to support eligible Tennessee dairies as they seek to modernize and diversify their operations. Approximately $227,000 has been set aside for sub-awards to individual Tennessee dairy businesses, and the process to apply for an award is now open.

Promoting business development that diversifies dairy farmer income through processing and marketing innovation, such as the processing of specialty cheeses, is among the goals of the Tennessee Dairy Business Innovation Initiative sub-awards. Image of specialty cheeses by P. Tankilevitch from Pexels.

To qualify for a grant, dairy businesses must use the funds to improve their operations in one of the following three areas:

  • Modernization, specialization, and grazing transition on dairy farms

  • Value chain and commodity innovation and facility and/or process updates for dairy processors

  • Dairy product development, packaging, and/or marketing

Dairy businesses are businesses that develop, produce, market, or distribute dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and more. Each applicant can apply for a maximum of $25,000 per application until all funds are awarded.

UT Extension Dairy Specialist Liz Eckelkamp is leading the project. She says the goals of the overall grant as well as the sub-awards are three-fold:

  • To diversify dairy product markets so as to reduce risk and develop higher-value uses for dairy products

  • To promote business development that diversifies farmer income through processing and marketing innovation

  • To encourage the use of regional milk production.

Applicants may apply for funds to receive training, create business or marketing plans, conduct feasibility studies, develop a food safety plan or purchase equipment.

Additional information about the program and the application for a sub-award is available online.

The committee will accept applications until February 15, 2021. Depending on the total awards funded and number of applications received, additional application periods may open after February 15, 2021.

For additional questions, please contact Eckelkamp at or Hal Pepper, financial specialist with the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture at

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.

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