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Rural Routes

This Edition's message is by Jimmy Hopper, Assistant Commissioner for Consumer and Industry Services

TDA is fortunate to employ more than 600 dedicated full-time public servants who exhibit a noble work ethic while striving to honorably serve the citizens of this state. Approximately one-third are employed in the Consumer and Industry Services Division and more than half of those employees work multiple counties providing services related to public health, consumer protection and plant and animal disease protection. They are the Tennessee Department of Agriculture in their respective counties.

Gov. Haslam and Commissioner Johnson have made customer service a high priority. The governor's "Customer Focused Government" initiative reinforces our belief that it’s much better to work with the regulated community in a cooperative way than to exert undue pressure.

The way regulations are viewed is often the result of how they are presented, implemented and enforced. Our philosophy is to implement the intent of the Legislature based on the presumption that an informed majority is willing to comply with state laws. Our role is to establish reasonable rules and regulations and to ensure compliance in a cost-effective manner, and to take sufficient action when necessary to protect public health and safety and to provide equity in the marketplace. We strive to meet our goals with the fewest regulations possible. Whenever practical, we partner with industry to monitor their efforts to produce a consistent, quality product. We monitor compliance through processes based on sound science and risks, and we believe quality assurance is good for both business and consumers.

An employee who exemplified the qualities of a true public servant was Rodney Groce, a 38-year employee who lost his life to an apparent heart attack on Oct. 3. He was performing his duties as a Weights and Measures Inspector at the time. Earlier in his career with TDA, he served as a Livestock Inspector. Rodney was dedicated, took his job seriously and approached his responsibilities with common sense. Rodney set a standard for us all to follow. He will be missed very much, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.


Jimmy Hopper
Assistant Commissioner

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Forestry Reminds Citizens to Burn Safe, Get a Permit

TDA’s Division of Forestry is now requiring permits for debris burning. Forest fire season began Oct. 15 and goes through May 15. During this time, anyone starting an open-air fire within 500 feet of a forest, grassland, or woodland must by law get a burning permit.

Activities requiring a burning permit include unconfined outdoor burning of brush and leaves, untreated wood waste and burning to clear land. Burning permits are free of charge. Citizens can apply for burning permits online or by calling their local Division of Forestry office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Forestry offices are listed in your local phone directory under state government, or can be found by visiting The website also includes tips for safe debris burning and provides access to the online permitting system. Permit holders should also check for other restrictions in their locale.

Online permits will only be available for small scale burning of leaf and/or brush piles measuring less than 8 feet by 8 feet in dimensions. These permits can be obtained on days that burn permits are being issued, including after-work hours and through the weekend, by going to

Homeowners living in forested communities can take steps to protect themselves and their property. Keeping gutters and rooftops free of debris, maintaining at least two to five feet of none flammable material next to the foundation of the home and clearing away flammable brush at least 30 feet from the house are just a few simple examples of what homeowners can do.

Escaped debris burns are the leading cause of wildfires. Burning without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $50. Wildfires caused by arson are a class C felony punishable by 3 to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 fines. Anyone with information about suspected arson activity should call the state Fire Marshal's Arson Hotline toll-free at 1-800-762-3017.

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Farmland Legacy Conference Set for Nov. 1 - 2

Farmers, landowners and community leaders will have the opportunity to learn about protecting and growing today's farms for tomorrow’s families and communities at the 2012 Farmland Legacy Conference "Planning Today for Tomorrow’s Farms" at Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns, Tenn. on Nov. 1 and 2.

This annual event brings together a diverse group of stakeholders for presentations on farm estate planning, profitability and timber management for landowners and planning techniques that protect farmland while not hindering economic growth for community leaders. Presenters will explain how communities and farmers can benefit from working together.

Tennessee continues to see loss of farm and forest land and this conference gives farmers information and tools to keep their land in production. This will be an ongoing issue for Tennessee as the urban population continues to grow and there is more pressure to develop farm and forest land.

For more information about the 2012 Farmland Legacy Conference, and to register, visit the website at, or call the University of Tennessee Conference Services at 865-974-0280.

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EAB Found in Middle Tennessee

Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect that destroys ash trees, has been found in Middle Tennessee for the first time. The find, in Smith County, is of particular concern because of the distance the insect was found from the already quarantined areas in East Tennessee. The location in Smith County where four EAB were caught is at Cordell Hull Lake in the Elmwood/Granville area.

"It is unfortunate, yet typical, to have found this destructive pest at a campground well outside the known area of infestation," said Tim Phelps, Public Outreach Specialist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry. "Tree-killing insects, such as EAB, and diseases can lurk in firewood. These insects and diseases can’t move far on their own, but when people move firewood they can jump hundreds of miles. New infestations destroy forests, property values, and cost huge sums of money to control."

Smith County, along with Jefferson County which was confirmed by USDA to have EAB at the same time as Smith, will now be added to the Emerald Ash Borer quarantine. A total of 12 counties have been added to the list this spring and summer including Greene, Campbell, Cocke, Union, Monroe, Anderson, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins and Roane. Blount, Claiborne, Grainger, Knox, Loudon and Sevier counties were placed under quarantine last year. 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.

"It's a great time of year to go camping," said Phelps. "Let's all do our part to slow the spread of this insect by not moving firewood around while camping or hunting and fishing."

The serious threat that the movement of firewood causes to Tennessee's forests is not limited to EAB. Other forest pests also move around on firewood including Hemlock Woolly Adelgid that kills eastern hemlocks, Thousand Cankers Disease that kill black walnut, and Gypsy Moth that kills oaks and other species – all pests known to exist in Tennessee. While it has not been detected in Tennessee yet, the arrival of Asian Long-horned Beetle is feared since it kills more than one species including maples, birches, ash, sycamore, poplar, hackberry and others. It, too, is commonly introduced to new areas by movement of firewood.

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

For more information about EAB and other destructive forest pests in Tennessee, visit the new website: The site is a multi-agency effort to inform and educate Tennesseans on the harmful impacts insects and diseases have on our trees, where the problem spots are, and what landowners can do to help protect their trees.

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Strasser Experience Center Dedicated at Ellington

A dedication ceremony was held on Sept. 30 for the unveiling of the new William (Bill) A. Strasser Experience Center at Ellington Agricultural Center. This open-air pavilion adjacent to the Tennessee Agricultural Museum will be used as part of outreach and education for school children and adults about the importance of agriculture to our past, present and future.

The center's namesake, Bill Strasser was a lifelong farmer and community leader from Davidson County. Strasser, who passed away earlier this year, was a member of the Farm Bureau, the Nashville Ag Club and a great supporter of the Tennessee State Fair and the Ag Museum.

A great time to see the Strasser Experience Center for yourself is Oct. 20 and 21 during the 20th Annual Music and Molasses Arts and Crafts Festival at Ellington Agricultural Center. This weekend of family fun will feature molasses making and tasting, music shows, dancing, delicious food, activities for kids, horse-drawn carriage rides, beautiful hand-crafted items, and much more.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5. Children 4 and under are free.

To keep up with all the happenings at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum, sign up for their e-newsletter by emailing the Ag Museum at .

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Live From the Farm - Classical Meets Country

It's not every day that you hear the sounds of a live classical quintet coming from the farm, but that’s exactly what happened on the last Sunday in September.

Pick Tennessee Products joined forces with WCTE Upper Cumberland PBS, The Tennessee Magazine, Nashville Public Radio Classical 91.1 FM, and DelMonaco Winery and Vineyards for a special production called "Live from the Farm."

The program features classical music played by the Cumberland Quintet in the vineyards of DelMonaco Winery. TDA marketing specialist, Tammy Algood, also shows us great ways to pair different wines with Pick Tennessee Products and food.

If you would like to check it out for yourself, a taping of the event will air on WCTE, Channel 22 on Dish and Direct on October 29 at 7p.m. CDT.

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Cooperatives Important to Tennesseans, Recognized Internationally

It's a good bet that if you’re involved in the agriculture industry or live in a rural community, you are familiar with the work of a cooperative. A cooperative is a business financed, owned and controlled by the people who use it.

About 5,000 co-ops are farmer-owned and provide marketing, purchasing and related services for farmers and producers all over the country. Co-ops market about 25 percent of all agricultural products and provide about 25 percent of all production supplies used on American farms each year.

Not only is October "Co-op Month" but 2012 has also been proclaimed to be the "International Year of Cooperatives" by the United Nations.

In celebration of this designation and to raise public awareness about cooperatives, TDA joined forces with the Tennessee Council of Cooperatives to produce a video called Cooperatives: Building a Better Tennessee that highlights the variety and value of Tennessee's cooperatively owned businesses. It features agriculture, marketing, financing, telephone, and electric cooperatives as well as the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation

The video is viewable on Tennessee Farmers Cooperative You-Tube site at

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Oct 20-21 Music & Molasses Arts and Crafts Festival, Nashville
Oct 24-27 National FFA Convention, Indianapolis, IN
Oct 24-25 Biomass Field Day, Vonore
Nov 1-2 Tennessee Farmland Legacy Conference, Burns
Nov 7 UT Equine Extension and Research Center Open House, Spring Hill
Nov 25-26 TN Farmers Co-op Annual Meeting, Nashville
Dec 1 TAEP Livestock Equipment and Feed Storage Reimbursement Deadline
Dec 2-4 2012 TN Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention, Cool Springs

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