Governor Bill Lee, the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group, and Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) on Monday, Sept. 21 announced Coronavirus Agricultural and Forestry Business (CAFB) Fund awards to farm and forestry businesses.

TDA established the CAFB Fund with CARES Act resources to help ensure stability of the food supply chain and agribusiness economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Just like all sectors of our economy, the agribusiness economy was hit hard by the pandemic,” said Gov. Lee. “The CAFB Fund assistance for ag-related businesses will provide immediate aid to those who work in Tennessee’s number one industry of ag and forestry, and the funds will have a wide-reaching and long-lasting impact on Tennessee’s economic recovery.”

Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) added, “The coronavirus has touched every sector of our economy. Among the hardest hit was our agriculture community. The pandemic fundamentally altered the supply chain our farmers relied on to make their living. I am grateful these dollars will be made available to help those in agriculture who have struggled mightily in these trying times.”

And House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said, “The CAFB Fund further strengthens the state’s supply chain to ensure our farmers can continue to deliver to Tennesseans and their families during the ongoing pandemic.

“We have always supported a strong business climate that drives farming, agribusiness and forestry in Tennessee, and this solution maintains this strong climate, which will ensure our local and statewide economies continue their successful recovery.”

CAFB Fund provides financial assistance to agricultural, food, forestry, and nonprofit agricultural entities in Tennessee. Recipients were awarded based on four categories relative to COVID-19 impact and response: business disruption, pandemic response, supply chain enhancement, and increased meat processing capacity. Applicants who had not received COVID-19 relief funding from other available programs were given priority.

Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said, “There was a tremendous response to the agricultural and forestry business relief opportunity. We appreciate the support from Governor Lee and our state leaders who designated the financial relief program and who continue working to preserve these businesses.

“We made an effort to spread these dollars statewide fairly and equitably, and 60% of fund recipients were small businesses with an annual revenue of less than $1 million per year. Our TDA Business Development team worked in conjunction with the Department of Finance and Administration (F&A) to allocate the money fairly and equitably.”

TDA reports that more than 1,000 applications with more than $335 million in requests were received. CAFB Fund relief will fund approximately 80% of applications. Approximately 40% of the funds were awarded to resolve supply chain issues and 60% to cover COVID-19 losses and expenses. Priority areas of the relief funding were meat processors, forestry businesses, milk processors, and agricultural fairs. TDA will continue working with F&A on management of funds that will be distributed on a reimbursement basis.

The Financial Stimulus Accountability Group includes Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, Speaker Cameron Sexton, Comptroller Justin Wilson, Sen. Ramesh Akbari, Sen. Bo Watson, Rep. Harold Love, Rep. Pat Marsh, and Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley.