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Rural Routes

In This Issue

Commissioner's Message

TAEP Continuing Education Update

Division of Forestry Centennial

Burn Permit Reminder

Trichomoniasis Working Group

Familiar Face Returns to TDA

TDA Employee Honored by Governor

Outstanding Fairs Honored


Feb 22-23

Tennessee Young Leaders Conference, Franklin

Feb 23-25

Tennessee Assoc. of Conservation Districts Annual Convention, Nashville

Feb 28-Mar 1

Mid-South Farm & Gin Show, Memphis

Mar 7-9

Southern Women's Show, Memphis

Mar 17-18

Tennessee Mosquito & Vector Control Assoc. Meeting, Nashville

Mar 18-19

Value Added Beef Conference, Manchester

Mar 23-26

Tennessee FFA Convention, Gatlinburg

Mar 26

Ag Day on the Hill, Nashville

Mar 27-30

Southern Women's Show, Nashville

Mar 30-Apr 2

Tennessee 4-H Congress, Nashville

Apr 12

Hardwood Field Days, Natchez Trace State Forest



From Commissioner Julius Johnson:

Dear Friends,

In his recent State of the State address, Gov. Haslam outlined a bold vision for Tennessee. He unveiled the "Tennessee Promise", a historic proposal to provide on a continuing basis two years of community college or a college of applied technology absolutely free of tuition and fees to graduating high school seniors.

Tennessee Promise is part of the governor's "Drive to 55" initiative aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with post secondary credentials. Education and workforce preparedness was identified as a major concern in the recently completed strategic plan for growing our agricultural and forest industries. Tennessee Promise has the potential to transform our state, and especially our rural communities as agricultural jobs require increasingly more complex skills.

But, because there is always uncertainty in farm production due to weather and the economy, we know we must keep our eye on the ball. That's why state agricultural leaders spent the last year developing a strategic plan to improve and grow our industry in the years to come. TDA is also ushering in a new look and design for Pick Tennessee Products that will connect our farmers, services and products to consumers even better than before.

The governor has again presented a budget that places the priority on education and balances the budget while increasing the state’s rainy day fund. The proposed budget also includes $21 million for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program. While this is another challenging year for the state budget, we're committed to doing our part at the Department of Agriculture to help make this bold vision a reality.

TAEP Continuing Education Qualifications Updated

In an effort to enhance the state's agricultural industry and to increase farmers' capacity to produce, TDA is encouraging producers to take advantage of new continuing education opportunities now offered by the University of Tennessee Extension.

"Agricultural leaders recently unveiled a strategic plan to grow and develop our industry over the next decade," Commissioner Julius Johnson said. "Education and research were recognized as key components for helping us achieve our goals, and these continuing education opportunities will be important for producers to maximize efficiency in their operations and to increase farm profitability."

Beginning in 2015, producers who wish to qualify for 50 percent cost share funding through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program may need to participate in UT advanced continuing education opportunities by certain TAEP reimbursement deadlines. This gives producers nearly two years to complete the new continuing education opportunities. All current certifications will still qualify through their three-year expiration date.

The Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program assists qualifying producers with cost share funds of up to 50 percent on farm improvement projects to increase efficiency and farm income. A UT study shows that for every TAEP dollar invested nearly $4 is generated in additional economic activity in local communities.

A schedule detailing current certification expiration dates and renewal deadlines, by program, is available online at Look in the TAEP News section under Master Certification Information. Links are also provided to the appropriate UT web page so producers can view the available class schedules.

All current Tennessee Quality Milk certificates will expire May 1, 2015, so all dairy producers wishing to qualify for TAEP funds in 2015 will need to become certified as a Master Dairy Producer before Dec. 1, 2015.

Once all current certificates expire, producers wishing to maintain appropriate certifications will need to participate in continuing education programs every three years. Applications for 2014 TAEP cost share programs are expected to be available in April.

TAEP was established in 2005 by the Tennessee General Assembly and is fully funded by Gov. Bill Haslam through the state's tax on cigarette sales. The program assists farmers in making strategic investments to maximize farm profits, adapt to changing market situations, improve operation safety, increase farm efficiency and make a positive economic impact in their communities. For more information, visit or call the TAEP general information line at 1-800-342-8206.

Division of Forestry Celebrates Centennial

The Division of Forestry is celebrating a century of forest conservation, protection and enhancement. Tennessee’s first state forester began work Sept. 1, 1914 with a focus on wildfire control and reforestation of "waste" land. Today, the focus is still on wildfire control, but also on promoting forestland values and benefits, forest health and forest productivity.

The Division of Forestry's humble beginnings were in the statute for the State Geologic Survey to conduct "An investigation of forests, streams and water powers of the state, with special reference to their conservation and development for industrial purposes." To carry out the purposes of these two provisions, the Geological Commission established a Forestry Division on the Survey on Feb. 17, 1914.

Mr. R.S. Maddox of Lincoln County, Tenn., a graduate of the Yale School of Forestry, and recently employed by the U.S. Forest Service, was put in charge and began work in September of that year, with instructions to devote a large part of his time toward aiding in the reclamation of the gullied lands of West Tennessee. He would also make studies of the general forest conditions in the state. At that time, Tennessee was the second state in the South to create a Division of Forestry.

Today, Tennessee’s forests cover 14 million acres (52 percent) of the state. Our forests are prized, much due to the efforts of TDF over the past 100 years, for a great number of benefits including beauty, wildlife habitat, timber production, recreation, air and water quality, energy conservation, carbon sequestration, enhanced property values, storm water control and natural heritage. These benefits, however, face significant threats in the form of wildfire, insect and disease, lack of proper management and urban expansion. So, there is much work still to be done.

As we celebrate TDF's past accomplishments throughout this Centennial year, we look forward to what the Division of Forestry will do over the next 100 years to continue to conserve, protect and enhance the forest resources of the state.

Burn Permit Reminder

In 2013, the Division of Forestry recorded the lowest number of wildland fires since 1927. There were a total of 639 wildfires that burned 9,033 acres (lowest burned acreage was 7,110 in 2003). Increased efforts in fire prevention and suppression contributed to this record low, and landowners getting burn permits to conduct safe debris burning was also a huge part in that effort.

Help us continue this trend! Landowners needing to burn leaves and twigs that have accumulated around the yard, or that garden spot, wildlife food plot, or fallow field, must obtain a free burn permit to do so now through May 15.

The free burn permits are required in all areas of the state by law from Oct. 15 through 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 through Friday. Phone numbers for each office can be found by visiting and clicking on the 'Burning Permits' button. Permits are also available online for small scale debris burns by clicking on the "Burning Permits Online" button on the Burning Permits page. Online applicants will be asked to submit the same information they would if applying by phone and will receive a printable permit to have on hand while conducting their burn.

Permits generally cover 24 hours and are available by phone on Fridays for weekend burning. You may also obtain a permit online on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Permits will be issued if weather conditions are considered safe for debris burning activity. Debris burning should always be done in a safe manner. Remember - Your fire is your responsibility!

More than 377,000 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. And, don’t forget that you can get a burn permit online for small debris piles.

Working Group Formed to Address Cattle Trichomoniasis in Tennessee

Two cases of bovine Trichomoniasis in bulls have been confirmed in Tennessee recently. In keeping with generally accepted animal health protection practices, the bulls were sent to slaughter and an epidemiological investigation was conducted to determine the extent of the spread of the disease. No other exposed bulls were found to be positive for trichomoniasis.

Although these are the first confirmed cases in Tennessee, animal health officials believe more cases likely exist due to the prevalence of the disease in other major cattle producing states.Some of these states have been successful in reducing the impact of the disease by instituting survey and control measures.

In order to be proactive in protecting animal health and the state’s livestock industry in Tennessee, the state veterinarian has formed a working group comprised of animal health experts and stakeholders to plan how best to address cattle Trichomoniasis.

The group met at the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association Convention in Pigeon Forge on Jan. 24 and recommended that a slaughter surveillance study be done to determine the prevalence of trichomoniasis in bulls in Tennessee. The study will be funded by TDA and conducted by the UT College of Veterinary Medicine. Results will help develop a plan to address the problem.

In January 2012, restrictions were put in place on breeding bulls imported into Tennessee to protect the state's livestock industry. Bovine Trichomoniasis is a venereal disease caused by the protozoa Tritrichomonas fetus. It can cause decreased reproductive efficiency, early embryonic death, abortion, pyometra and transient infertility in infected cattle. The disease is not transferable to humans and does not affect food safety, but it poses a serious economic risk to Tennessee producers due to the potential for extended breeding seasons and aborted fetuses.

Familiar Face Returns to TDA

Louis Buck, who served as the Deputy Commissioner of TDA from 1995 to 2002 and most recently facilitated the development of a 10-year strategic plan to grow the agriculture and forestry industries in Tennessee, has returned as international marketing specialist with the department's Market Development Division.

"We are thrilled that Louis is back at the department and that he will be representing the state in our efforts to market Tennessee agriculture to the world," Commissioner Julius Johnson said. "His vast knowledge of farming, forestry and agribusiness makes him an outstanding person to fill this role."

This isn’t Buck's first time on an international stage. In 2011, he spent a year as the director for agriculture and industry for the Department of Defense's task force for business and stability operations.

This task force develops economic opportunities by encouraging investment by U.S. and international businesses, developing a country's natural resources in a way that is economically sound and environmentally responsible and assisting industrial development and agricultural revitalization. He provided guidance and technical assistance throughout Afghanistan.

Buck spent two years in 2009 through 2011 as the commercialization manager for Genera Energy, LLC and President of the Tennessee Biomass Supply Cooperative. Before that, he spent 4 years as the state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency.

"I am excited to be back," Buck said. "Ellington has always been the home place of agriculture and it feels like I’m coming home. I’ve traveled the entire world, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. This place is family."

Buck and his wife Janet, a registered dietician, live in Knoxville. They have 2 daughters, Katie who is in nursing school at TN Wesleyan, and Emily who is senior at UT Knoxville majoring in animal science. Emily is also a past FFA President and is currently an intern at the National Cattle and Beef Association in Washington D.C.

TDA Employee Recognized by Gov. Haslam for 56 Years of Service

Maryland David Smith, or as his friends call him, M.D. Smith, has been a staple at TDA for almost 56 years.

To recognize and thank him for serving the citizens of Tennessee for over half a century, Gov. Bill Haslam recently presented him with a plaque, gold watch and a certificate.

Since his beginning as an employee when TDA was located downtown, before it found a home at the Ellington Agricultural Center, MD has performed protein analysis in feed and nitrogen analysis in fertilizer for the Consumer and Industry Services Division of TDA.

"MD is never tardy. You can set your watch by his daily schedule," Consumer and Industry Services assistant commissioner Jimmy Hopper said. "MD has served as a Sunday School teacher at his church for over 40 years. He always greats you with a smile and an extended hand for a welcoming handshake. He’s a true professional and a credit to state government," Hopper said.

TDA is proud to have such a dedicated employee. Congratulations on your accomplishment and recognition, M.D.

Outstanding Fairs Receive Awards

The state's top county, regional and state agricultural fairs were recently recognized with the Merit Award for outstanding achievement during the 2013 fair season.

Commissioner Julius Johnson presented 56 fairs the Merit Award for outstanding achievement during the 2013 fair season during the 92nd Annual Convention of the Tennessee Association of Fairs (TAF) held January 16 - 18 in Nashville.

The top award went to the Overton County Fair in Livingston when it was named the Champion of Champions Fair for 2013. The Overton County Fair was also recognized by Johnson and TAF President Stephen Potter, with the "Award of Merit" based on overall operations, educational value and promotion of local interest in agriculture and community spirit.

"Fairs are a wonderful way for families to bond and create life-long memories while experiencing the best our farms and communities have to offer," said Johnson. "Our Tennessee fairs have a positive impact on local economies as well as on agriculture and education." In 2013, almost three million visitors attended county, regional, and state fairs in Tennessee. Fairs in Tennessee generated more than $12 million in gross receipts last year. More than 14,700 volunteers from 63 fairs in the state devoted valuable time, resources and energy to fairs which had more than 130,000 agricultural exhibits, and more than 32,000 agricultural exhibitors showcasing livestock, farm crops and other agricultural exhibits.

2013 Fair Winners

Division A

State Champion: Sequatchie Co. Fair
1st Runner Up: Fentress Co. Agricultural Fair
2nd Runner Up: Trousdale Co.
Fair Most Improved: Benton Co. Fair

Division AA

State Champion: Rhea Co. Fair
1st Runner Up: Hardin Co. Fair
2nd Runner Up: Middle TN District Fair
Most Improved: Dickson Co. Fair

Division AAA

State Champion: Williamson Co. Fair
1st Runner Up: Greene Co. Fair
2nd Runner Up: Wilson Co. Fair
Most Improved: Anderson Co. Fair

Premiere Awards (Previous Winners' Catagory)

Champion of Champion: Henry Co. Fair
Division AA: Cocke Co. Fair
Division AAA: Sevier Co. Fair

In the Regional Division, the Appalachian Fair and the Tennessee Valley Fair received "Award of Merit." The Tennessee State Fair also received "Award of Merit" based on overall fair operations. The regional fairs and the State Fair are not in competition with the county fairs for awards.

The 16th Annual Fair Showcase, a statewide competition held during the convention, consisted of more than 400 entries from 38 fairs in 39 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 promotional videos, posters, scrapbooks, creative ideas and free-standing and table-top exhibits. To see a list of these winners, visit or

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

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