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USDA RD Assists University with Energy and Business Development

Kathy Smith
Release Date
Jun 24, 2015

USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode and Area Director Joe Woody joined University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture Chancellor Larry Arrington Tuesday in Knoxville to mark the kickoff of work backed by two grants that will have broad impacts in energy conservation and the state’s economy.


As a recipient of a Rural Energy Development Assistance Program grant, UTIA received $99,800 to conduct energy audits for 28 poultry growers. The primary goal of this project is to assist in prioritizing, planning and implementing farm energy conservation and energy efficiency improvements and planning renewable energy projects.


The poultry industry is the second largest source of farm income in Tennessee, with growers in 31 counties producing more than 161 million broilers. Research shows that electricity costs for these growers can exceed $700 per month per broiler house, so the project’s effort to educate growers about energy conservation and efficiency will enhance grower profitability. The project’s renewable energy component can also help educate growers on the use of heating systems that employ local, renewable and alternative fuels such as biomass. These systems are desirable in situations when propane is in short supply, which happened as recently as the winter of 2014. Thousands of birds were at risk due to the extremely cold weather and the shortage of fuel.


In addition to the Rural Energy Development Assistance Program grant, UTIA also received a $25,033 Rural Business Development Grant to conduct an economic feasibility study after the closure of a large pulpwood mill. The study will investigate the feasibility of alternative businesses such as bioenergy wood pellets to generate employment and income opportunities to forest landowners, loggers, truckers and others in the supply chain in more than 26 counties. The mill had a significant impact in the region with the estimated total value added to the state's economy of more than $26 million.


UTIA Chancellor Larry Arrington said the projects are both examples of UTIA’s commitment to serve its constituents.


“These grants from USDA Rural Development will allow our biosystems engineers to serve the state’s poultry industry with research and educational components that can have an immediate positive effect on producer profitability. Also, the efforts of our forestry faculty can help many communities recover from a blow to their local economies,” Arrington said. 


Others participating in the event include Representative for Congressman John Duncan Jr. Jenny Stansberry, Dean of UT AgResearch Bill Brown, UTIA Chief Business Officer Tim Fawver, UTIA Marketing and Communications Doug Edlund, UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Assistant Professor Neelam Poudyal, UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Assistant Professor Andy Taylor, UT Extension Specialist Tim Prather, USDA RD Assistant State Director Harriet Cannon, USDA RD Area Specialist Chuck Morris and USDA RD Intern Amanda Derryberry.


USDA Rural Development is moving investments to rural America with housing, business and infrastructure loans and grants to create jobs and strengthen rural economies with an emphasis to assist areas of persistent poverty.  Since 2009, the agency has assisted more than $1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses in 230 communities in all 95 counties of Tennessee, investing more than $5.4 billion through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants.


For more information on USDA Rural Development programs available in East Tennessee contact the Knoxville Area Office at 865-523-3338 x 4, or 800-342-3149 x 1491. Visit us online at www.rd.usda.gov/TN.