FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (February 27, 2007) South Florida beekeeper David Rukin is the first recipient of a low interest rate, long-term loan from Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI), the world's leading natural and organic foods supermarket, as part of a company-wide initiative supporting local agriculture and food producers.

  Rukin is participating in Whole Foods Market's Local Producer Loan Program, through which the company intends to provide $10 million annually in loans to promote local agriculture in areas where it has stores.

“I have been supplying honey and other bee products to Whole Foods Market for years, and I am excited about using these funds to expand my business,” said Rukin. “I appreciate Whole Foods Market's willingness to partner with small-scale producers like me.”

Rukin will utilize the funds to buy equipment and supplies to add crystallized honey to his product line. Crystallized honey offers consumers a spreadable, nonfat alternative for topping breads and bakery products. At rates of five to nine percent, the interest rates currently offered through Whole Foods Market's pilot program to small agricultural producers like Buzzn Bee are lower than those they would generally receive from a bank. The program has other attributes geared to small producers: loan application paperwork is minimized, administrative fees range from $0 to $65; there are no penalties for early payment; and loan life may be from a few months to ten years.

“Whole Foods Market greatly values local producers like David Rukin,” said Juan N??ez, Florida regional president of Whole Foods Market. “We have carried Buzzn Bee products since 1997 when we opened the first Whole Foods Market stores in Florida. The loan program is a terrific example of how we work with producers to create win-win-win situations, providing benefits not only for the company, but for our suppliers and shoppers, as well.”

The Local Producer Loan Program is part of Whole Foods Market's renewed commitment to local agriculture. This includes hosting farmers markets at stand-alone stores, refocusing in-store marketing to highlight locally-produced products, and hiring regional staff focused specifically on sourcing local products.

“Whole Foods Market's intention is to support local agriculture all over the United States,” said John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market. “We are going to 'walk our talk' with financial support for farmers and other producers in close proximity to our stores. We believe this financial assistance of $10 million a year can make a very significant difference in helping local agriculture grow and flourish across the United States.” Interested producers can learn more about the Local Producer Loan Program at the Whole Foods Market website, http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/pressroomroducts/locallygrown/lplp/index.html.

 

Fact Sheet

 

Local Producer Loan Program

 

Whole Foods Market aims to:

 

  • Work with local producers to expand the availability of quality, local, differentiated products for our customers
  • Support the communities in which Whole Foods Market does business
  • Strengthen the partnership between Whole Foods Market and local producers
  • Reinforce the Whole Foods Market value of environmental sustainability

How:

  • Loan up to $10 million annually to independent local producers
  • Minimize fees, interest rates and paperwork
  • Begin with a pilot program and refine the process over time

Eligibility:

  • Must meet Whole Foods Market's Quality Standards
  • Use funds for expansion and capital expenditures, not operating expenses (e.g., buy more animals, invest in new equipment/infrastructure, or expand crops)
  • Have adequate cash flow to service debt and a viable business plan
  • An existing relationship with Whole Foods Market is a plus

Loan Terms:

  • Loan amounts targeted between $1,000 and $50,000
  • Loan amount not greater than 80% of total project cost
  • Interest rate based on Prime Rate (currently 8.25%) with current range of 5% to 9%, fixed or variable with annual re-sets
  • Term and repayment of loan tied to life of asset financed
  • Whole Foods Market may maintain first lien position on asset financed
  • Monthly payments required after termination of any grace period
  • No penalty for early repayment
  • Approval and terms dependent primarily on producer suitability, risk assessment, type of product, and use of proceeds
  • May require simultaneous execution of a purchase agreement
  • Producer may apply for additional financing if initial loan in good standing after one year