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CENTRALIA — The application process has begun for farmers seeking an agricultural grant.

The “Farm to Table” grants, formerly known as “Farm to School,” provides up to $200,000 to help improve the infrastructure of agricultural businesses that produces goods for institutions like schools or nursing homes. According to a news release, the funds can be used towards amenities such as freezers, coolers or bagging equipment. Farmers can apply to the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority until 5:00 pm on October 28, 2016.

Dustin Stanton is the co-owner and operator of Stanton Brothers, a farm that produces a variety of goods such as eggs, pork and ice cream.

“Technology is always upgrading, things are always changing," Stanton said. "The way you do now isn't the same you'll do five years ago or ten years ago, it's always evolving. The market is evolving, and so is the technology you need for it too."

Stanton said the business provides eggs to many of the schools in Mid-Missouri, from Hallsville and Centralia to the University of Missouri and Columbia College. He said he searches for ways to improve.

"It’s not in the forefront of your mind, but a worry that you have to keep looking forward to," Stanton said. "To keep becoming more efficient and better at what you do."   

The news release announcing the opening of the application said there are some requirements candidates must meet in order to be considered. A “small business” needs to make less than $5 million a year and candidates must be able to match at least 10 percent of the awarded grant. The money can’t be used towards certain categories like paying off debts or salaries, travel expenses or operating expenses.

Sarah Alsaeger, the Public Information Officer for the Missouri Department of Agriculture, said in an email that only one of the five recipients of the grant last year are eligible to reapply. The others already recieved the maximum amount of $200,000. 

There are other elements preventing some farmers from applying. Dan Kuebler, the owner of a produce farm called The Salad Garden, said his operation is too small to be able to create vegetables at a large enough scale for institutions.

“I would have to choose to produce a lot more at a lower cost,” Kuebler said. “I’m 66, at this point in my life I’m looking to gear down instead of gearing up.”

Bruce Arnett, the owner of Peachtree Farms, said he won’t apply because he doesn’t want to take money away from farmers who may need it more then he does.

“I don't accept government money and I don't believe in taking it if I don't need it,” Arnett said. “I’m not saying I never will, I think it's wrong for me to take the money from the government if I don't need it. I don't mean to sound self-righteous or proud, I just don't need it.”

The program expanded in June after Governor Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 665.

 

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