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Grant program helps beginning farmer

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 07/15/2013 9:56 AM

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WASECA — The state of Minnesota is lending a helping hand to beginning farmers through its Livestock Investment Grant program.

The Livestock Investment Grant program began in 2009. It will be funded for the next two years through the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation program, which is funded at $20 million over the biennium.

In fiscal year 2013, 75 percent of the $1.1 million in grant dollars awarded went to farmers age 35 and younger who had been farming for less than 10 years, said Mary Hanks, director of the Agricultural Marketing and Development Division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Grant dollars also go to more experienced farmers, but a priority has been placed on beginning farmers and farmers who are taking over the family farm.

Michael Singlestad, 28, fits the latter category. The Waseca man is taking over his parents' hog operation. He is one of about 100 producers who received a Livestock Investment Grant in fiscal year 2013.

Singlestad had already started remodeling the hog barns before he received the grant, but the grant reduced the amount of money he had to borrow.

His parents had a farrow-to-finish operation; he had modified the barns to work for a wean-to-finish hog operation.

The gestation barn was converted to finishing space and the farrowing barn to a nursery room. A bin was added and a new feed line installed. Singlestad purchased a loading chute for hogs and changed sprinkler tips. Singlestad showed the improvements to Hanks and Charlie Poster, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, on a June 24 farm tour.

On June 24 and 25, Poster and Hanks toured several sites where farmers and small businesspeople have put state dollars to work to expand their business or farm.

"These grants will help them improve and expand their operations to stay competitive," Poster said in a press release. "They are investing their own money and getting a little boost from the state. Some of the grantees have also been able to create jobs as a result of their expansions."

Singlestad raises pigs from 12 pounds to 270 pounds or 285 pounds, depending on the buyer. The hogs arrive at three weeks old. They are in the nursery for eight weeks and in the finishing barn for four months. He has the capacity for 650 pigs in the nursery and 1,300 in the finishers.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture began accepting applications for a new round of grants on July 1. The department has budgeted $2 million for Livestock Investment Grants. Grants cover up to 10 percent of a project's cost.