Choose Iowa Dairy Innovation Grant Program

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Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced the launch of the brand-new Choose Iowa Dairy Innovation Grant Program, which has been created to increase on-farm dairy processing, reduce farm labor costs, and expand the availability of Iowa dairy products for consumers.

The grant program, which was authorized during the 2023 legislative session and is administered by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, has an overall budget of $750,000 for the first year. With the legislative intent of assisting smaller dairies and farmers, the highly competitive program will match up to $100,000 per project. The concept builds off the success of other recent Iowa cost-share grant programs, including the Choose Iowa Value-Added Grant and the Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Program, both of which are also aimed at increasing the availability of local food and boosting local processing capacity.

“Choose Iowa is our state’s signature brand for local food and beverages, and it is about connecting consumers to the great Iowa products that are grown, raised and made here in Iowa. By helping Iowa dairy farms cost-share the addition of new on-farm processing equipment or labor-saving technology through Choose Iowa Dairy Innovation Grant Program, Iowa consumers will ultimately benefit from the availability of more Iowa-made and locally produced dairy products,” said Secretary Naig. “We are excited to identify the most innovative and creative dairy projects through this program, which we know will create new markets for farmers, more choices for consumers, and additional economic activity in our rural communities.”

The cost-share grants could, for example, help dairies invest in pasteurization equipment, processing vats, packaging and labeling products, robots, health monitoring, automated feeding systems or cleaning assistance. The program funds are not eligible to cover start-up costs, advertising, public relations, salary/benefits/wages, existing debt or any expenses incurred prior to awarding the grant.

The following are example scenarios that would be eligible for the cost-share grants.

  • Farmer A wants to purchase a $120,000 rotary cup filling machine to fill yogurt. Farmer A requests $60,000. Farmer A must have $60,000 of his own funding with either personal cash or financing to match.
  • Farmer B is purchasing health monitoring equipment for his herd for $65,000. Farmer B is requesting $32,500. Farmer B must have $32,500 in funding with cash or financing for the match.
  • Farmer C is purchasing two robotic milkers for $380,000. Farmer C can apply for up to $100,000. Farmer C must provide the remaining $280,000 to receive $100,000.

Successful applicants must be located in Iowa, have fewer than 50 employees, and be in good standing with pertinent regulatory agencies. Only dairies permitted and inspected by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship are eligible. Full details about the cost-share grant program, including financial matching requirements, application, eligibility and scoring are available on the Choose Iowa website.

Applications should be submitted through the online portal on the Choose Iowa website and are due by 12:00 p.m. on Friday, February 9, 2024. Grant recipients will be announced in March 2024. Questions about the Choose Iowa Dairy Innovation Fund Grant Program may be directed to Choose Iowa Director Beth Romer at [email protected].

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