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Rural Routes

Commissioner Julius JohnsonDear Friends,
I’m excited at the opportunity to serve as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Many of you already know about the work we’re doing in your local communities, and I’m looking forward to continuing that relationship.
In Governor Bill Haslam’s inaugural address he said, “The people of Tennessee are our customers and we will be all about great customer service.” Keeping you better informed through this newsletter is our start to great customer service in this agency. Rural Routes will be e-mailed every other month and will include information on the department's recent activities.
Governor Haslam knows and understands the importance of agriculture and forestry, their impact to our state’s economy and quality of life as well as the important role that the department plays. We will be working to support his priorities of job creation, education and conservative fiscal management of state government. 
From the farmer to the consumer, agriculture and forestry have a $78 billion impact on our state’s economy and account for a half million jobs. Our focus in the department will be rural development to support this mainstay of our state’s economy. Responsible natural resource management and sensible regulation will also be core to our efforts in making Tennessee a better place to live and raise a family. 
Although we have some difficult choices to make in managing this year’s state budget, Governor Haslam and I support the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program. And, I look forward to working with you in building on this program’s success.  
I consider it a privilege to serve as your commissioner of Agriculture, and I’m proud to lead a department that I know has some of the best and most dedicated employees in state government. 
As we move forward, I welcome your input and suggestions for how we can better serve you.
Julius Johnson

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleTennessee Celebrates Weights & Measures Week
We will join the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) in recognizing National Weights & Measures Week on March 1-7, to remind consumers and businesses of the importance of equity in the marketplace. For more than 100 years, the department has ensured that all products sold by weight, measure or count are labeled accurately and correctly.
Weights and Measures Week is an opportunity to express appreciation for the value that our society receives for a very small investment in Weights & Measures inspection programs. The cost of a regulatory presence is estimated to be less than $1 per person, per year. Yet we can realize the full return on that investment in a single trip to the market or gas station. 
TDA has tips to help protect consumers:

  1. Check that pumps and scales always begin on zero prior to the start of the transaction.
  2. Note that all packaged commodities should clearly state the net quantity (ounces, pounds, quarts, liters, etc.) on the package.
  3. Pay close attention to the price of items being scanned to ensure pricing accuracy.  

If a consumer notes a problem, they need to first talk with store personnel and give them the opportunity to correct the discrepancy. If the problem is not explained or corrected to their satisfaction, consumers should contact the TDA’s Weights & Measures office and provide a detailed explanation of the issue. Following the completion of an inspection, the Weights & Measures office will provide a report of their findings upon request.
For more information, or to register a weights and measures complaint, contact TDA at (615) 837-5109 or toll-free at 1-800-628-2631 or visit

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Children at the Tennessee State FairOutstanding Fairs Honored at Annual Convention
Commissioner Johnson recently presented awards to 56 of the state’s top county agricultural fairs. They were recognized with the Merit Award for outstanding achievement during the 2010 fair season.
The top award went to the Lincoln County Fair in Fayetteville when it was named the Champion of Champions Fair for 2010. The Lincoln County Fair was also recognized by TDA and TAF President Lynn Tollett, with the “Award of Merit” based on overall operations, educational value and promotion of local interest in agriculture and community spirit. The annual awards are sponsored by TDA and TAF, the state organization representing Tennessee’s fair industry. 

In 2010, almost three million visitors attended county and regional agricultural fairs in Tennessee. Fairs in Tennessee generated more than $10 million in gross receipts last year. 

More than 14,000 volunteers from 62 fairs in the state devoted time and energy to fairs which had approximately 34,000 agricultural exhibitors showcasing livestock, farm crops and other agricultural exhibits.  

To see a list of all winners, visit or

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Emerald Ash BorerTCD and EAB Continue to Threaten Tennessee’s Forests
TDA is working to contain the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD). Plant inspectors and state foresters have been working diligently since last August to assess the spread and educate residents.
EAB attacks only ash trees. It is believed to have been introduced into the Detroit, Mich. area 15 to 20 years ago on wood packing material from Asia. Since then, the destructive insect has been found also in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
TCD is a progressive disease that kills a tree within two to three years after initial symptoms are detected. The disease-causing fungus, Geosmithia, is transmitted by a small twig beetle. Branches and trunk tissue are killed by multiple infections of the fungus, as the beetles carry the fungus from one area to the next.
Quarantines for EAB include: Knox and Loudon counties.  Citizens in these counties cannot move ash tree products and hardwood firewood outside the quarantined counties.
Quarantines for TCD include: Anderson, Blount, Knox and Union counties. Citizens in these counties cannot move walnut tree products and hardwood firewood outside the quarantined counties.
Adjoining county TCD buffer areas: Campbell, Claiborne, Grainger, Jefferson, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott and Sevier counties. Citizens in buffer counties/areas can move walnut tree products and hardwood firewood within buffer counties, but not outside. Product can also be moved into a quarantine county, but not taken back out.
TDA officials urge area residents and visitors to help prevent the spread of EAB and TCD: 

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Community GardenCommunity and School Gardens
The Department has partnered with Tennessee Ag in the Classroom to begin accepting applications for the Community & School Gardens Initiative. The goal of the program is to establish sustainable gardens throughout the state and is funded through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program.
Qualifying applicants include community groups, neighborhood associations, churches, public and private schools and farmers’ markets. Organizations must demonstrate in their application that they are able to coordinate educational programs, outreach and volunteers, special events, public relations, maintenance and security, local business contributions, finances and consistent community involvement.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for schools to use gardens as a learning laboratory that can offer numerous teachable moments for all involved,” said Lacy Upchurch, president of the Tennessee Farm Bureau. “Concepts from all disciplines, mathematics, science, social studies and health can be explored using the fertile soil of a growing mind.”

A selection committee will review the applications and plans to determine grant eligibility. The maximum an organization can request is $2,500. The minimum request is $500. Deadline for submitting applications will be Sept. 1.

For more information on the grants or to print an application, visit or contact Chris Fleming at or by phone 931-388-7872 ext. 2759.

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Animal Health Alert: Trichomoniasis
Trichomoniasis, often called ‘Trich’, is a venereal disease of cattle, and there is strong evidence that trich is an increasing threat to Tennessee cattle by importation of bulls from states having the disease. To address this growing concern, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture has begun to develop importation rules for out of state incoming bulls requiring non-virgin bulls to go through a trich testing protocol. The Tennessee Cattleman’s Association at their recent annual convention in January passed a resolution in support of this initiative.
Trichomoniasis can cause infertility and abortions, and results in extended breeding seasons and diminished calf crops, which costs livestock producers valuable income. 
TDA's Trichomoniasis Program will focus only on breeding bulls, which, even when infected, continue to appear and act normally. Trichomoniasis will also becomes a reportable disease in Tennessee which will give us more information on where and how much infection may already be in the state. There is no effective treatment or vaccine for bulls. Although the primary impact of the disease is on cows, which can become infected during breeding and lose the fetus, the cow herd will not be included in the proposed rules The majority of infected cows will clear the infection, if they are given 120 - 150 days of sexual rest. A vaccine can also be administered to infected cows to help control the disease in the cow herd. Producers should consult with their veterinarian to determine the best preventative trich plan for their herd.

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Burn Permit Reminder
Needing to burn all those leaves and twigs that have accumulated in your yard? How about that garden spot, wildlife food plot, or fallow field? If so, don’t forget that you will need a burn permit to do so.
The free burn permits are required in all areas of the state by law from now until May 15 unless otherwise covered by local ordinances, so residents should check with their city government for any local restrictions. The permits can be obtained by calling your local Division of Forestry office between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday.  Phone numbers for each office can be found by visiting and clicking on the ‘Burning Permits’ button. Permits are generally good for 24 hours and can be issued for weekends.

Over 388,000 permits were issued last year for activities that included unconfined, outdoor burning of brush and leaves, untreated wood waste, and burning to clear land. The volume of requests on any given day can be high, so the Division asks residents to exercise patience if they experience any delay in getting through to an operator.

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March 4 Arbor Day in Tennessee
March 10-15 Tennessee Beef Agribition
March 15 National Ag Day
March 27-30 Tennessee 4-H Congress
March 27-30 Tennessee FFA Convention

Ellington Agricultural Center | 440 Hogan Road | Nashville, TN 37220