Cage-free Iowa egg producer gets funding

Cage-free Iowa egg producer gets funding

A new source of financing, Advantage Capital Agribusiness Fund, helps rural entrepreneurs build businesses and create jobs.

A northern Iowa company that produces eggs without requiring hens to live in cages received an investment from a new agribusiness fund in late February. Iowa Cage-Free, based in Goldfield, received an investment from the $154.5 million Advantage Capital Agribusiness Fund. The amount of the investment wasn't immediately released.

EGG LAW: Earlier this year a new law went into effect in California requiring eggs sold in that state to come from hens raised in roomier cages. Other states like Iowa can't meet this requirement and can't sell eggs in California, unless Iowa operations change how they produce eggs, such as in larger cages or no cages.

Iowa Cage-Free was founded in 2009 by a group of industry professionals and farm families to build layer houses for cage-free egg production. The fund's managing partner is Advantage Capital Partners, St. Louis, Mo. The company says the capital infusion will be used to help Iowa Cage-Free buy and renovate an egg production facility that previously was a caged-layer operation. The additional space is needed to fulfill a new larger contract with a current client who buys eggs.

New agribusiness fund provides entrepreneurs access to capital
Earlier this year, a new law went into effect in California that requires eggs sold in California to come from chickens raised in cages where the birds have enough room to spread their wings. It's a requirement that most egg producers in Iowa and elsewhere in the U.S. are unable to meet. Until this new law went into effect in January a significant number of eggs were shipped into California from other states, including Iowa.

The agribusiness fund is designed to provide access to capital that's critical to rural entrepreneurs who want to build businesses and jobs. The fund was formed through USDA's Rural Business Investment Program, with participation of nine Farm Credit System investors and several other partners. "This is a new and innovative approach to encourage private sector investment in rural America," says U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "Matching private investors with small businesses in rural communities helps these companies get the capital they need to grow and create jobs."

Iowa is the leader in egg production
Iowa egg production during January 2015 was 1.44 billion eggs, down 1% from the previous month but up 5% from the previous year, according to USDA's National Ag Statistics Service. Total number of layers in Iowa in January 2015 was 59.7 million, unchanged from December and the largest January inventory on record for Iowa. Eggs per 100 layers for the month of January in Iowa were 2,403, down 1% from December but up 3% from 2,331 a year ago.

The top 10 egg producing states for total egg production as of January 2015 are: Iowa is by far and away No. 1 with 1.435 billion eggs produced in January; followed by Ohio, 735 million; Pennsylvania, 664 million; Indiana, 622 million; Texas, 427 million; Georgia, 408 million; Michigan, 327 million; North Carolina, 315 million; California, 311 million. Minnesota ranks 10th with 288 million eggs produced.

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