Former Bredesen Ag Commissioner says farmers continue to benefit from TAEP

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, October 10, 2018

To the Editor:
When former Gov. Phil Bredesen was elected in November 2002, I was the first member of his cabinet to be appointed. The position I was appointed to was Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Tennessee. Considering that my parents were lifetime farmers and that I grew up on a farm in Hawkins County milking cows by hand, growing tobacco, row crops and hay, I was honored to serve in that position.
Early on, Gov. Bredesen asked me to make recommendations as to what he could do to partner with farmers to grow the state’s number one industry — agriculture — and provide farmers with incentives to expand their operations and to offset the losses they incurred with the virtual loss of the tobacco production industry. After many conversations with Gov. Bredesen and working with the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, we developed a very fiscally conservative and well managed cost share program three years into his administration that we called “Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program.”
When the 2018 fiscal year numbers are tallied, over 58,000 individual projects have been paid for with an estimated $178 million dollars being paid to farmers for projects benefiting beef and dairy farmers, sheep, goat, poultry and pork producers and diversification programs of all types including agri-tourism venues, grape producers and nurseries, just to name a few. An estimated 13,500 farmers have utilized the cost share dollars and the program has been used in every county in the state.
Through the end of fiscal year 2017, in Carter County alone, cost share for 177 projects were paid out and the dollar amount paid to farmers was over $491,000.
Considering Phil Bredesen’s support of farmers with the cost share program, which was continued in a bipartisan way by Gov. Haslam, and the fact that Bredesen’s opposition in the U.S. Senate race has spent 16 years in Washington and never voted in support of a farm bill — the only way farmers get any financial support that includes the very important disaster assistance program — I hope farmers will support Phil Bredesen in the U.S. Senate race.

Respectfully submitted,
Ken Givens

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