Applications are now being accepted for Maine's Dairy Improvement Fund
February 17, 2023
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) is pleased to announce that Dairy Improvement Fund (DIF) applications are now being accepted. DIF provides financing to help Maine dairy businesses undertake projects to enhance their viability and vitality and improve product manufacturing, marketability, and production. DIF provides eligible borrowers loans of up to $250,000 at a 1% fixed interest rate for capital improvements.
To be eligible, borrowers must be a dairy enterprise, farm, or business making milk products. Eligible borrowers must: keep cows, sheep, or goats that contribute milk to their products; be in Maine and currently producing milk products that are sold commercially; and propose a project that is an eligible use of the fund.
Eligible uses include:
- Designing, constructing or improving milking parlors, dairy barns, and structures, and dairy feed storage structures; or
- Purchasing, constructing, or renovating buildings, land, and equipment to maintain and enhance the viability of an established dairy enterprise, dairy farm, or business making milk products
DIF has financed improvements at a dozen Maine dairy businesses. Past funded projects range from purchasing a vat/pasteurizer, cooling tanks, ice cream maker, and storage tanks; to constructing a cheese cave; to creating a milking parlor, milk storage space, and new animal housing.
What Farmers Are Saying About DIF
The owners of The Milkhouse Dairy Farm and Creamery, Caitlin Frame and Andy Smith, applied for DIF financing because of the low-interest rate. The couple used the loan to build a new milking parlor and used funds to purchase a pickup truck and loader tractor to improve their hay operation. "Locking in a 15-year loan at 1% greatly assisted our farm's cash flow and improved the efficiency and ergonomics of our daily chores. We highly recommend the program to other Maine dairies," - Caitlin Frame and Andy Smith.
The owners of Balfour Farm, Heather and Doug Donahue, applied for DIF financing because of the interest rate and interest-only period, and because they have aged out of some Farm Service Agency programs. They used their loan to increase solar power on the farm, upgrade well pumps, and scale-up cheesemaking equipment. "The interest rate is very attractive and the interest-only period allowed us to get the equipment in place and scale up before the full payments started. To everyone considering applying, plan and organize financial documents in advance, and be patient, the program takes time to work through the system," - Heather and Doug Donahue
How to Apply
Begin by learning more about the program and completing the Project Eligibility Form. Curious applicants are invited to contact DACF's Agricultural Resource Development Division by emailing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (207) 287-3491.
DIF is a partnership between the DACF and the Finance Authority of Maine.