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Rural Routes

Commissioner Julius JohnsonCobb-Vantress, Dry Creek Pedigree Farm Grand Opening

Governor Bill Haslam and TDA Commissioner Julius Johnson joined in the official opening of the Cobb-Vantress Dry Creek Pedigree Farm in Morgan County last month. This $22 million poultry research and development breeding facility produces and sells pedigree breeding stock for broiler meat production worldwide, shipping to more than 130 countries.

Cobb-Vantress selected Tennessee for a variety of reasons including geography, climate, transportation access and available workforce. The rural setting that Morgan County provides was particularly important because of the biosecurity and proprietary requirements of the high-tech, poultry genetics operation.

The project represents a $20 million investment and will create up to 170 full-time jobs, greatly contributing to the rural economic development in our state.

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleAgriculture and Forestry "Listening Sessions" Set Statewide

In an effort to continue to increase rural economic development in Tennessee, the TDA is hosting a series of listening sessions across the state in April and May for farmers, forest landowners and agribusinesses. The purpose of the meetings is to hear stakeholder concerns about current issues and to explore opportunities for developing our rural economy and increasing farm and forest income.

"We want to be available to our producers, landowners and agribusinesses to hear their concerns and to get their input on how we can enhance our rural communities and economy," Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. "This is also about our ongoing efforts to look at how we, as an agency, can provide better service and be more responsive to challenges and opportunities."

"Agriculture and forestry are growing businesses in Tennessee. We must find the best ways to maintain and expand infrastructure while encouraging long-term profitability."

A total of five listening sessions are scheduled with two being devoted specifically to discussing forestry issues as follows:

Agriculture Listening Sessions
April 19 at 10 a.m. EDT – Bradley Co., Tri-State Exhibition Center, I-75 Exit 20
April 26 at 7 p.m. CDT – Weakley Co., Moore Farms, 2887 Paris Hwy. 54, Dresden
May 1 at 7 p.m. CDT – Coffee Co., Farm Bureau Insurance, 225 E. Main St., Manchester

Forestry Listening Sessions
May 3 at 7 p.m. CDT – Lawrence Co., Columbia State Community College Conference Room, 1620 Springer Rd., Lawrenceburg
May 15 at 7 p.m. CDT – Cumberland Co., Cumberland Co. Fairgrounds Multi-Purpose Room, 1398 Livingston Rd., Crossville

The agenda for the sessions include remarks by Commissioner Johnson and an overview of the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program and the recently formed Agriculture and Forestry Economic Development Task Force. There will also be time for open discussion by participants.

More listening sessions will be planned for the fall to include a focus on other industry sectors.

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleTennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program Applications Now Available

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has released the 2012 application for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program. Applications must be postmarked or hand delivered June 1 – 7.

An important change for this year is that requests for funding will now be approved based on applicant determined priorities instead of on a first come, first serve basis.

"Governor Haslam recognizes the importance of the Ag Enhancement program and has again proposed full funding of the program," Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. "This year, we're putting more emphasis on helping farmers make strategic investments by asking them to prioritize their farm projects. This will help us reach more farmers and help us to be more deliberate about which projects get funded."

Through TAEP, farmers can qualify for 35 or 50 percent cost share, ranging from a maximum of $1,200 to $15,000 depending on the project. This year’s program will again offer cost sharing opportunities for genetics, livestock equipment, hay storage, feed storage, grain storage and producer diversification opportunities.

In addition to the new approval process, other changes this year include:

TAEP was established in 2005 and supported by the General Assembly to increase farm income by helping farmers invest in better farming practices and by encouraging diversification and innovation. Nearly 27,000 farm projects have been funded since the program’s inception.

Applications are available at most farm agencies including USDA Farm Service Agency, UT Extension and Farm Bureau offices, as well as most farm supply stores. To ensure accuracy, producers are encouraged to work with their local extension agent or local TDA representative when completing the application.

Producers can get important messages and updates on the program by calling 1-800-342-8206. For more information or to download an application, visit

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleNew Faces at Tennessee Department of Agriculture

Bill Walls has been named Food and Dairy Administrator. Walls is a food service veteran in both the public and private sectors. He will be responsible for the statewide inspection program and enforcement activities related to food and dairy laws and regulations. Walls replaces Buddy Woodson, who retired after 40 years of service to the state.

Bill Thompson has been named Food Manufacturing Administrator. Thompson comes to the TDA with more than 30 years experience in various dairy industry positions. His duties will include reviewing food and dairy manufacturing processors and processes for compliance with current laws and regulations. Thompson replaces John Sanford who retired after a 35 year career in food safety.

Heather Orne has been named the Assistant Director of Public Affairs. She will be responsible for coordinating media relations, social media and internal and external communications. Orne is a former Nashville news anchor and reporter. She replaces Casey Mahoney who has taken another job within state government.

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Tennessee Lawmakers Celebrate "Ag Day on the Hill"

Tennessee lawmakers celebrated Ag Day on the Hill on March 20 at Legislative Plaza. The annual event highlights the importance of farming and forestry to the state of Tennessee. Agriculture is one of the top industries in Tennessee that contributes more than $71 billion a year to the state’s economy and employs nearly 364,000 residents.

Ag Day on the Hill featured a variety of exhibits and activities including a cattle weighing contest, live animals, farm equipment, special presentations to the House Agriculture Committee and a goat milking contest between Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Beth Harwell.

Speaker Harwell walked away the victor and The Farm and Forest Families of Tennessee presented a check for $750 to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee in honor of her win.

Tennessee has more than 78,000 farms representing 10.9 million acres. Tennessee’s top agricultural commodities include cattle, soybeans, poultry, greenhouse and nursery products, corn, cotton, dairy products and tobacco.

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality samplePest Issues Spring Into Action

The spring has been abuzz with insect activity on two fronts. The state’s first case of partially Africanized bees has been confirmed in Monroe County. And, a new statewide effort is underway to trap for the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a non-native wood boring beetle that has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the eastern United States and Canada.

Emerald Ash Borer - The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA, APHIS) and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) are partnering in a surveillance program to determine how extensive the infestation of EAB is and whether additional control measures are needed to slow it from spreading to new areas.

As part of the program, nearly 3,500 purple three-sided insect traps will be placed in ash trees across the state. The purple traps are coated with an adhesive that captures insects when they land. The color is attractive to EAB, and is relatively easy for people to spot among the foliage. The traps pose no risk to humans, pets or wildlife.

EAB was first discovered in Tennessee in 2010 in Knox County. In addition to Knox, five other counties in East Tennessee including Blount, Claiborne, Grainger, Loudon and Sevier are under state and federal quarantines. This means that no hardwood firewood, ash logs, ash seedlings, ash bark and other restricted materials can be moved outside these counties without approval. State plant health officials suspect that EAB entered the state on firewood or ash wood materials brought in from another state where infestations have occurred.

For more information about EAB in Tennessee visit An EAB fact sheet can also be found at

Partially Africanized Bees - State Apiarist, Mike Studer, says it is no surprise that partially Africanized bees have made their way to Tennessee considering they have already been found in other states such as Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida. "Citizens need to be vigilant, but there’s no need to overreact," Studer said. "This is a situation that can be effectively managed through good beekeeping practices."

Genetic testing showed that the bees were less than 17 percent Africanized, far less than the 50 percent considered by USDA to be truly Africanized. The colony has been depopulated and TDA is working with beekeepers in the area to determine if other bees could have been affected.

The most important difference between an Africanized honey bee and our domestic European honeybee is their behavior. Africanized bees are much more aggressive, defend their nests more fiercely and in greater numbers and are more likely to defend the nest when threatened by predators or adverse environmental conditions. But, the sting from a single Africanized bee is no more venomous than a European honey bee. Africanized bees tend to colonize in smaller spaces than the docile European honeybee. Therefore, if you see honeybees in the ground, or in small openings such as flower pots or bluebird houses leave them alone and call the state apiarist immediately to assess the situation. Bees do not try to hurt people, they simply defend their territory.

If you do disturb an Africanized honeybee colony, follow these steps to protect yourself:

  1. Run.
  2. Cover your head with your shirt or jacket while running because Africanized bees tend to sting the face and head.
  3. Never stand still or get boxed into a place outdoors where you cannot escape the attack.
  4. Seek immediate shelter in an enclosed building or vehicle. Isolate yourself from the bees.
  5. Do not attempt to rescue a victim without the proper protective gear and training. Doing so could make you the second victim.

State law requires all beekeepers register their colonies with the TDA and to update their registration every three years. For more information on TDA’s Apiary Section or to register a bee colony, visit

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Japanese Cherry Tree Planted at Ellington Agricultural Center as Part of Historic 100 Year Celebration

The city of Nashville was part of a once-in-a-lifetime event celebrating the “Centennial of the Gift of Trees,” commemorating the gift of 3,000 Japanese Cherry Trees to Washington, D.C. in 1912.

Nashville was one of the few cities in the Southeast to receive 20 seedlings that are direct descendants of the original Tidal Basin trees in the nation’s capital. On March 27, one of these seedlings was planted at Ellington Agricultural Center.

Commissioner Julius Johnson, the Consul General of Japan Hiroshi Sato and TDA Assistant State Forester David Arnold planted the tree on the front lawn of the Moss Administration Building.

The mission of the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival committee is to plant 1,000 cherry trees over 10 years to not only beautify Nashville, but also provide a backdrop for the annual Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival.

Cherry blossom festivals are celebrated every spring all over the U.S. By attracting tourists and bringing a taste of Japanese culture to the local communities, these festivals contribute to international exchange and education as well as local economic development.

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Apr 19 Ag Listening Session - 10 a.m. EDT - Bradley Co., Tri-State Exhibition Center, I-75 Exit 20
Apr 26 Ag Listening Session - 7 p.m. CDT - Weakley Co., Moore Farms, 2887 Paris Hwy. 54, Dresden
May 1 Ag Listening Session - 7 p.m. CDT - Coffee Co., Farm Bureau Insurance, 225 E. Main St., Manchester
May 3 Forestry Listening Session - 7 p.m. CDT - Lawrence Co., Columbia State Community College Conference Room, 1620 Springer Rd., Lawrenceburg
May 15 Forestry Listening Session - 7 p.m. CDT - Cumberland Co., Fairgrounds Multi-Purpose Room, 1398 Livingston Rd., Crossville
Jun 1-7 TAEP Applications Due

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