Seven agricultural projects will receive funding in Berks, Lebanon, Lancaster Counties through the First Industries Fund.

These projects, located in three counties, will help existing farms expand their operations, bring in additional revenue, and transition agribusinesses to the next generation of farmers.

“Pennsylvania’s economy is powered by its agriculture industry, so it is imperative that we continue to support projects that will lead to growth and investments in communities across the commonwealth,” said Gov. Wolf.

“COVID-19 has drastically impacted so many of our state’s critical industries, and this funding will provide needed support to our agribusinesses, helping them grow, create jobs, and continue their critical services.”

Gerry and Darlene Noecker, through the Greater Berks Development Fund, were approved for a 15-year, $400,000 PIDA loan at a 0.75 percent reset rate for the construction of a single 20,000-square-foot duck breeding facility, including a 600,000-gallon liquid manure lagoon.

The 6,600-head barn will be equipped with laying boxes that are located over a conveyor belt to move the eggs to the end of the barn for collection. This will be one of the first barns in the United States to utilize this system. The current industry standard is hand-picking eggs daily and this will significantly cut labor requirements. The use of this technology will also put the Noecker’s in a strong position to add an additional barn in the future. The total project cost is $1,147,000.

Jay and Lorelle Nolt, through the Greater Berks Development Fund, were approved for a 15-year, $400,000 PIDA loan at a 0.75 percent reset rate for the construction of a 20,000-square-foot duck breeding facility in Centre Township.

The duck breeder house will hold 6,650 birds and will be a under a 15-year contract with Joe Jurgielewicz & Son, Ltd. The operation will be one of the first in the United States with a conveyor system under the layer boxes for the ducks. The total project cost is $1,200,000.

Gary and Victoria Wessner of KCLW, LLC, through the Greater Berks Development Fund, were approved for a 15-year, $325,000 PIDA loan at a 0.75 percent reset rate to acquire a 57.16-acre farm property located in Albany Township.

The property contains 25 tillable acres, a two-story stone dwelling, a stone barn, and a 480-square-foot stone recreational building. The property’s 25 acres of open farmland is currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and Gary plans to crop farm the property as soon as the CREP expires. Gary and Victoria will also be selective timbering the property. The total project cost is $650,000.

Theodore and Christine Auman of Hex Provisions, LLC, through the Greater Berks Development Fund, were approved for a 15-year, $189,148 PIDA loan at a 0.75 percent reset rate for the construction of a small-scale meat processing facility and the acquisition of meat processing equipment.

The system is made up of “lockers,” which are repurposed sea containers that are retrofitted for refrigeration and designed for expedited approval for USDA approved inspection. As part of the overall purchase of the locker system, the manufacturer, Dirigo Food Safety, assists the purchaser with all food safety regulatory approvals in addition to securing USDA granted inspection in an expedited fashion. The total project cost is $378,296.

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