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Rural Routes

TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleA Message from the Commissioner

The old adage about Tennessee's weather certainly proved true this year – if you don't like today's weather, just wait ‘til tomorrow.

The damage to the state's corn crop has been done with more than half suffering heavy to severe yield losses. Portions of West Tennessee are still suffering from the extreme drought plaguing much of the nation’s breadbasket. On the bright side, soybeans and cotton have a chance to recover and pastures and hay fields are improving, at least in most areas.

Gov. Haslam recently issued an executive order easing restrictions for hauling hay, and we've been working closely with our partners – UT Extension, USDA, the Farm Bureau and others – to help farmers deal with this disaster. Hay directories, technical and federal financial assistance can all be accessed through UT Extension's Drought and Extreme Heat Resources website. I hope you'll take advantage of this important management tool.

We're keeping a close eye on the Mississippi River and its near historic low levels. My recent visit to Cargill's newly expanded grain facility at Hales Point drove home for me the importance of our river system. Millions of tons of commodities from grain and cotton to fuel and coal are barged daily up and down our river system and to the world. Disruptions in river traffic can have catastrophic consequences for our industries, farmers and consumers.

It's vitally important that we invest in and maintain our river system from the confluence of the Holston and French Broad in East Tennessee to the Port of New Orleans. I will continue to call attention to the importance of this critical infrastructure at every opportunity and every level.


Julius Johnson

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleCargill's Hales Point Modernization Project Complete

Cargill AgHorizons hosted a grand opening event on July 19 to celebrate the completion of the $25 million modernization project to the company's Hales Point grain elevator in Lauderdale County.

Because of the enhancements, the number of trucks that can be unloaded each hour will significantly increase and on the other end of the system, Cargill will also be faster in loading barges destined for Gulf export facilities and the export market. This translates to reduced time and costs, and hopefully better prices, to producers with greater access to markets around the globe.

Cargill has tripled the amount of grain it can handle. Currently, Cargill buys corn, soybeans and soft red winter wheat at Hales Point. The additional capacity will allow Cargill to buy milo. Cargill also expects to employee 12 to 20 people throughout the year, bringing much needed, quality jobs to a rural area.

The Tennessee Agriculture and Forestry Economic Development Task Force was a major proponent of the Cargill project and assisted the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development in determining state support levels.

"We are working diligently to encourage and facilitate agricultural industry development in Tennessee," said Joe Gaines, TDA assistant commissioner for Market Development. "Cargill sees the Mississippi River as the 'gateway to the world' and we were happy to make this a priority for the ag and forestry task force."

The ag and forestry task force was formed last year by TDA to support Gov. Bill Haslam's rural economic development efforts.

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sample2012 Pick Tennessee State Fair Will Feature Exciting New Agricultural Events

The Pick Tennessee State Fair is right around the corner and along with the usual fun festivities you expect, there are some new attractions that are of interest to the agricultural community.

For all of you equestrian enthusiasts, a new sand arena will be built to hold equestrian events at the fair this year. The ring will use more than 140 tons of sand and will include a warm-up area.

"We are thrilled to have the addition of an equestrian arena to hold several different equestrian competitions and events throughout the fair," said John Rose, chairman of the Tennessee State Fair Association. "It is a great opportunity to bring state-wide competitors together to showcase their horses and talents."

Some of the competitions and events will include:

The next event, The Champion of Champions, goes back to what state fairs were originally founded on, which is showing livestock at the county level in hopes of competing at the state fair.

The Champion of Champion event will be held in the Junior Dairy and Poultry shows. Upon winning at one of 60 county fairs, exhibitors and their winning animal will receive an invitation to compete in the CoC event. After the open show at the state fair, the CoC show will be held and the winner will be crowned the 2012 Tennessee State Fair Champion of Champions.

New this year is the Green Collar Exhibit. This exhibit provides fairgoers with educational exhibits and demonstrations focusing on green, sustainable practices. Green collar refers to any occupation that contributes to conservation and sustainability.

For anyone who is interested in crafts, demonstrations of wood turning, pottery turning and textile weaving will be presented by crafts artists from across Tennessee.

The 106th Tennessee State Fair will be held September 7-16 at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. For more information, visit

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleSwine Flu Precautions

Livestock exhibits are a popular attraction at the State Fair as well as county fairs. Some states have reported cases of a mild strain of influenza, known as H3N2v, infecting pigs, and in some cases individuals in close contact with them.

Even though no cases have been reported in Tennessee at this time, fairgoers are asked to practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of this disease in our state. Exhibitors should also follow good biosecurity practices to protect their livestock such as limiting access to animals, cleaning and disinfecting show equipment and isolating recently shown animals.

"While no sick animals have been reported in Tennessee associated with the H3N2 virus, we want to be as proactive as possible in reducing the risk of the disease being spread here," says State Veterinarian Charles Hatcher. "We’re working with fair managers and exhibitors to ensure that only healthy animals are shown. We want the public to enjoy and support their local fair but to also observe good health practices while around livestock for their own protection and that of the animals."

Visitors and exhibitors should avoid eating around livestock areas and wash their hands carefully after visiting the petting zoo, touching livestock or the fences where animals are kept. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers may not be effective.

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleSearch for New State Forester Underway

On July 31, TDA said goodbye to State Forester and Assistant Commissioner Steve Scott, as he began his retirement. Steve dedicated 10 years to Tennessee in his 36-year long career. During his tenure, he helped raise the professionalism of our forestry ranks, increased efficiency of operations, improved safety and equipment, and advanced forest sustainability and protection.

"Steve has been a consummate professional, ably representing this department and the Division of Forestry for the past decade," Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. "I want to thank him publicly for his dedicated and unwavering service to forestry and the citizens of Tennessee."

Now, Johnson says that he and the Tennessee Forestry Commission are committed to finding the best qualified candidates for leading the Division of Forestry going forward.

Applications are being accepted until Aug. 31. The commission will meet Sept. 5 to review applications and the process for conducting interviews. Commissioner Johnson and the commission's goal is to have three names to recommend for appointment by Gov. Bill Haslam by Oct. 19.

For more information about the State Forester and Assistant Commissioner position, contact TDA at 615-837-5103.

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TDA Weights & Measures inspector collects fuel quality sampleTDA Employees Receive National Awards

TDA Plant Certification and Apiary Program Administrator, Gray Haun, and TDA Plant Inspector 2, John Rochelle, have both been recognized for their outstanding career achievements by the National Plant Board.

Haun received the President's Award for his work as co-chair on the Systems Approach to Nursery Certification and the USDA APHIS PPQ Deputy Administrator's Outstanding Achievement Award for his participation and contributions toward the National Health Emergency Framework. Haun is a 26-year employee of TDA.

Rochelle is the recipient of the 2012 Carl E. Carlson Distinguished Achievement Award in Regulatory Plant Protection. This award honors an individual in the field of regulatory plant protection through service and contributions made at the field level. Rochelle has been with TDA since 1988. He specializes in greenhouse and Christmas Tree pests and diseases.

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Piatt Named Highland Rim District Forester

Jeffrey Piatt, with the TDA's Division of Forestry, has been promoted to District Forester for the Highland Rim. His new duties will include managing the district's budget, operations and state forests, promoting forestry programs and services and cultivating interest in forestry within the 24 Middle Tennessee counties that comprise the district.

Piatt has more than 30 years experience in the forestry profession and has worked with the Division of Forestry as an area forester in Franklin and Moore Counties. He spent 21 years with Arnold Air Force Base in forest management earning a great deal of fire experience in both wildfire and controlled fire. Piatt returned to the state in 2005 to his current position as a forestry program specialist focusing on fire control and fire cooperator programs.

He assumed his new position July 1. Piatt replaces Gerald Eaton who retired after serving the citizens and landowners of Tennessee for more than three decades.

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Aug 22-Sep 1 74th Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, Shelbyville
Aug 30 Tennessee Small Farm Expo, Tennessee State University, Nashville
Sep 5 UT Cotton Tour Field Day, West TN AgResearch and Education Center, Jackson
Sep 7-16 Tennessee State Fair, Nashville
Sep 18-20 6th National Small Farm Conference, Memphis Convention Center, Memphis
Oct 20-21 Music and Molasses Arts & Crafts Festival, Ellington Agricultural Center, Nashville
Nov 1-2 2012 Tennessee Farmland Legacy Conference, Montgomery Bell State Park, Dickson (Early registration by Oct. 26)

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