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Rural Routes

Commissioner Julius JohnsonCommissioner Message
When Gov. Haslam delivered his State of the State address last month, he challenged all of us to believe in better... better government... better education... and a better, stronger, healthier economy.

He presented a balanced budget that reflects this administration’s priorities and includes strategic investments, necessary cuts and savings for the future. Significantly, his budget continues to fund education cost increases and makes higher education a priority.

His budget also includes $15 million to lower the tax burden on family farmers and family business owners by raising the exemption on the estate tax from $1 million to $1.25 million. This budget takes a first step in lowering the state portion of the sales tax on food and builds up the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

At the Department of Agriculture, we’re reducing operational expenses, improving state forest health and better managing revenue sources. Moreover, the Governor’s proposed budget fully funds the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program. We will continue to place a priority on directing those dollars to farmers for strategic, long term investments.

The Governor has proposed a responsible budget to deliver services at the lowest cost, and in a customer-friendly, efficient and effective way. We’re committed to doing our part and to working with the agricultural and forestry communities to achieve better for Tennessee.

Julius Johnson

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleFirst Lady Highlights Tennessee's Nursery Industry
Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam and Commissioner Johnson met this week with nursery growers and industry leaders and toured local nurseries to highlight Tennessee’s horticultural industry.

Mrs. Haslam met with a small group of nurserymen at Boskey’s Grille in Manchester for a brief discussion on industry issues and to enlist their support for the landscape renovation project at the Tennessee Residence in Nashville.

“Tennessee has a reputation worldwide as a producer of high quality horticultural products, so it’s only natural that we turn to Tennessee growers first to help with the landscape renovation project at the Tennessee Residence,” Haslam said. “I hope this project also brings much needed attention to an important industry that has had its difficulties in recent years.”

Mrs. Haslam hosted the First Lady’s Luncheon in October last year to announce the next phase of the Tennessee Residence Foundation’s preservation and renovation project and kick-off private fundraising efforts for the landscape project. More than 700 men and women from across the state attended the event, demonstrating their support. The foundation, chaired by Mrs. Haslam, will focus their private fundraising efforts to support the project, intended to bring the Residence grounds back to their original design and health, while focusing on vegetation original to the home and native of Tennessee.

“We’re happy that Mrs. Haslam has come to McMinnville to learn more about our industry,” said Terry Hines of Hale and Hines Nursery in McMinnville. “We’re honored that she’s looking to us for help with the Tennessee Residence landscape project. We have a great local industry with good people who produce a great product, so any attention is appreciated as we look to expand markets for our products.”

Tennessee has more than 700 nurseries, 300 greenhouses, 2,500 plant dealers and 400 landscapers certified across the state, producing 21.7 million containers of plants and 48,000 acres of growing area. Tennessee nurseries sell wholesale, retail and farm direct. For help on finding quality Tennessee nursery and greenhouse products, visit

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleTDA Hosts the House Agriculture Subcommittee
Members of the Tennessee House Agriculture Committee recently met and toured Ellington Agricultural Center, where TDA is located.

“We were honored to host the committee for a brief overview of the department and to show them some good work that goes on in our facilities,” Commissioner Johnson said. “The department provides a range of important services to protect consumers, serve industry and help farmers.”

Committee Chairman Frank Niceley and eight other members, staff and guests were treated to a “Pick Tennessee Products” luncheon to highlight locally grown and processed food products. Guest speakers included local beef producers Phil Baggett of Baggett Family Farms in Montgomery County and Steven Lee of Triple L Ranch in Williamson County.

TDA staff also provided updates on the Agriculture and Forestry Economic Development Task Force and forest resource issues. Committee members toured the Ivy, Kord and metrology laboratories that provide analytical support for food safety, pesticides, animal health, feed, seed and fertilizer, weights and measures and other activities.

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Community GardenSpring Fire Season is Here, Burn Permits Required Through May 15
With spring drawing near, Tennesseans begin to take advantage of the mild weather to do some yard work around the home or farm. The Division of Forestry is reminding citizens that a burn permit is required for outdoor burning. Activities requiring a burn permit include unconfined outdoor burning of brush and leaves, untreated wood waste and burning to clear land.

Getting a burn permit is even easier now through a new automated online system for small scale burning of leaf and/or brush piles measuring less than 8 feet by 8 feet in dimensions. The system was developed to aid landowners conducting small scale debris burns, and to provide better access through the weekend and after-work hours.

Permits for larger size burning can still be obtained by calling local Division of Forestry offices between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Burning permits are free of charge. Citizens can apply online or find Forestry offices by visiting, which includes tips for safe debris burning. Permit holders should also check for other restrictions in their locale.

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Stakeholders Establish Association to Address Mosquito Control
Mosquitoes and other pests are an issue many counties and cities have worked to find better ways to combat year after year. In response, stakeholders have established the Tennessee Mosquito and Vector Control Association (TMVCA) to increase collaboration across the state.

“Our hope is that the association will be better able to find synergies among multiple agencies and disciplines to address the complexities of controlling vector-borne diseases in our state,” said TMVCA President Abelardo C. Moncayo. “TMVCA will be dedicated to providing leadership, information and education leading to the enhancement of public health and quality of life through the suppression of vectors that transmit disease pathogens.”

The association’s primary goals include:

TMVCA’s first meeting is scheduled for March 1 at the Ellington Agricultural Center.

The steering committee includes members from the Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee One Health Committee, Nashville-Davidson Metro Health Department, Shelby County Health Department, Knox County Health Department, Belmont University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee.

For more information or to become a member, visit

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleEmerald Ash Borer Discovered in Sevier County
Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect that destroys ash trees, has been found in Sevier County. The identification was made recently and has been confirmed by USDA.

“We will continue surveying the region to determine the extent of the infestation,” said Gray Haun, TDA Plant Certification Administrator. “We will be working closely with federal officials and other stakeholders to take steps to limit its spread and protect our forest resources and urban landscapes.”

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 killed millions of ash trees across several states including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

In response to the find, TDA is adding Sevier County to the Emerald Ash Borer quarantine. Blount, Claiborne, Grainger, Knox and Loudon counties are already under an EAB quarantine. The quarantine prohibits the movement of firewood, ash nursery stock, ash timber and other material that can spread EAB. With the new discovery, citizens can expect expanded surveys and should report any symptomatic ash trees to TDA.

Typically, the Emerald Ash Borer beetles can kill an ash tree within three years of the initial infestation. Adults are dark green, one-half inch in length and one-eighth inch wide, and fly only from April until September, depending on the climate of the area. In Tennessee, most EAB adults would fly in May and June. Larvae spend the rest of the year beneath the bark of ash trees. When they emerge as adults, they leave D-shaped holes in the bark about one-eighth inch wide.

TDA’s Division of Forestry estimates that five million urban ash trees in Tennessee are potentially at risk from EAB. The risk represents an estimated value loss of $2 billion. There are an estimated 261 million ash trees on Tennessee public and private timberland potentially valued as high as $9 billion.

TDA urges area residents and visitors to help prevent the spread of EAB:

Don’t transport firewood, even within Tennessee. Don’t bring firewood along for camping trips. Get the wood you need from a local source. Don’t bring wood home with you.

Don’t buy or move firewood from outside the state. When obtaining firewood, ask the vendor about the source, and don’t buy wood from outside the state unless it states that it has been treated.

Watch for signs of infestation in your ash trees. If you suspect your ash tree could be infested with EAB, visit for a symptoms checklist and report form or call TDA’s Consumer and Industry Services Division at 1-800-628-2631.

For more information about other programs and services of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture visit

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Outstanding 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 2011 fair season. More than 950 people attended the Fairs Merit Awards recognition dinner at the 90th Annual Tennessee Association of Fairs (TAF) convention held January 19-21, in Nashville.

The top award went to the Cumberland County Fair in Crossville when it was named the Champion of Champions Fair for 2011. The Cumberland County Fair was also recognized by TDA and TAF President Tommy Wheatley, with the “Award of Merit” based on overall operations, educational value and promotion of local interest in agriculture and community spirit.

“Fairs are a tradition in the agricultural industry and showcase the best our farms and communities have to offer,” said Johnson. “Our Tennessee fairs have a positive impact on local economies as well as the agriculture contributions and education that they provide to visitors.”

The annual awards are sponsored by TDA and TAF, the state organization representing Tennessee’s fair industry.

In 2011, almost three million visitors attended county and regional agricultural fairs in Tennessee. Fairs in Tennessee generated more than $11 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 29,000 agricultural exhibitors showcasing livestock, farm crops and other agricultural exhibits.

The 14th Annual Fair Showcase competition, another competition held during the convention, consisted of 547 entries in 45 categories. Fairs competed for prize money, trophies and ribbons sponsored by the TDA and the TAF. Categories ranged from fair catalogs, websites and educational displays, to fair shirts, posters, scrapbooks, creative ideas and table-top exhibits. To see a list of these winners, visit or

For information on 2012 Tennessee fair dates, visit

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Mar 1-3 Commodity Classic National Convention (Opryland)
Mar 2 Arbor Day in Tennessee/State Celebration (Nashville)
Mar 8 2012 Agritourism Conference (Nashville)
Mar 20 Ag Day on the Hill (Nashville)

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