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Rural Routes

In This Issue

Commissioner's Message

Forestry Aids in Storm Cleanup

TAEP Adds Beef Heifer Cost Share

TDA Inspection Prompts Recall

TN Agritourism Tops at Convention

Hemp Applications Accepted Now

Workshops on Food Code Changes

Livestock Mkt. Services Changes


Feb. 21-28

National FFA Week

Feb 26-27

Mid-South Farm & Gin Show, Memphis

Feb 27-28

TCC Young Leaders Conference, Franklin

Feb 27-28

TN Farm Winegrowers Alliance Annual Conference, Nashville

Feb 27-28

TN Viticultural & Oenological Society Annual Conference, Kingsport

Mar 3

Growing Agriculture Conference, Morristown

Mar 13-14

TN Farmers Mkt. Assoc. & TN Agritourism Conference, Paris Landing

Mar 29-31

TN FFA Convention, Gatlinburg

Apr 6-11

Mule Day Celebration, Columbia

Apr 26

Tennessee Healthy Hardwoods, Tullahoma




From Commissioner Julius Johnson:

Gov. Bill Haslam recently delivered his fifth State of the State address before a joint session of the 109th General Assembly. He noted several accomplishments, all of which impact the health and prosperity of our rural communities.

These include nearly 225,000 new private sector jobs, designation as the top state in economic development, leading the nation in academic achievement gains and having the nation's lowest debt and among the lowest tax rates.

He underscored the state's efforts to ensure a strong workforce. The Drive to 55 initiative seeks to increase the number of Tennesseans with a post-secondary certificate or degree. Tennessee Promise, as he says, is a "game changer" by making college more accessible to graduating seniors than ever before.

The Governor's fiscally responsible budget proposal calls for significant investments in teacher salaries, higher education and compensation for state employees while increasing the state's Rainy Day Fund. With a modest reduction of 2.7 percent proposed for Agriculture , we will be able to provide the same level of quality service that you've come to expect. This includes full funding for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program.

I believe the governor's proposal gives us the best chance to move "full speed ahead" in serving the citizens of Tennessee. We look forward to working with our legislative leaders and stakeholders in the coming months to ensure our success.

Forestry Crews Shift Gears from Wildfire Suppression to Storm Cleanup

Just when Tennessee's spring fire season was beginning to take hold, winter stepped in and held its ground as a good portion of the state received a late season snow and ice storm last week. The storm resulted in activation of the State Emergency Operations Center, with participation from TDA. Division of Forestry crews that had been responding to wildfires suddenly exchanged their Nomex clothing and fire rakes for safety chaps and chainsaws. Crews were deployed to help clean up debris caused by the storm’s icing of tree limbs.

Damage reports were widespread as crews continued to work more than a week after the ice and snow fell, in several counties where roads were still impassable. According to assistant district forester of the Cumberland District, James Dale, the extent of the damage included citizens (including some Forestry employees) trapped in their homes, some with roofs that caved in and others without electricity, water, sufficient food supplies or an escape to main roads. As many as 65 Forestry personnel have been working to clear debris since Feb. 16 across 11 counties, mainly in the Upper Cumberland.

"Hundreds of miles of roads in these counties were literally packed full of downed power lines (many still charged), broken power and telephone poles, ice, snow and timber," Dale said. Forestry crews were supported by additional crews from other organizations including the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster.

Forestry crews have been through extensive training in the use of power saws, and have experience gained on wildfires and work on state forests. However, the nature of this work is still dangerous as evidenced by two severe injuries suffered by Forestry personnel. "Removing hazardous trees is in itself a dangerous job," said Nathan Waters, assistant district forester with the division's East Tennessee District. "Often, these removals involve utilizing training and experience to recognize potential dangers, but adding icy roads and cutting surfaces to the mix dramatically increases danger to workers."

To help prevent injuries, crews have a tailgate safety meeting before each assignment where they review all safety procedures and discuss each worker's specific task. A site supervisor is also present to monitor all activities and ensure safe operations.

Despite the slow and dangerous nature of the work, clean-up teams were reporting progress on emergency debris clearing. Crews also delivered substantial food and water resources to areas in short supply.

"The spirit of the crews who normally are battling wildfires not only in Tennessee but in other states when needed has been superb and their ability to get the job done not only for the citizenry but for other state and private agencies is unparalleled," Dale added.

Bred Beef Heifer Cost Share Added to TAEP

A Bred Beef Heifer Cost Share Program has been developed and added to the Genetics Section of the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program for 2015. The new cost share opportunity is part of the Grow the Herd Initiative to increase Tennessee's beef cattle numbers, which have declined in recent years.

"Tennessee has the land capacity to support beef herd expansion and to recapture our share of the U.S. market," Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. "The Grow the Herd Initiative ties in with the recommendations of the Governor's Rural Challenge to grow our industry and gives producers another tool with which to improve their operation and to maximize profits."

As part of the initiative, Tennessee producers will be able to apply for cost share assistance this year through the TAEP Genetics Program. Heifers purchased through the program must:

  • Be permanently identified
  • Meet minimum health and vaccination requirements
  • Test negative for PI-BVD
  • Be bred for a minimum of 90 days to a bull that meets current TAEP calving ease requirements and minimum accuracies
  • Sired by a bull with known EPDs from the respective breed association
  • Meet minimum weight, muscle and frame scores

Eligible producers may purchase up to five bred beef heifers for $400 cost share per heifer for a maximum of $2,000.

The Grow the Herd Initiative also includes the Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Program announced in December. The program seeks to demonstrate proper replacement heifer development protocols and stimulate custom heifer development among producers. The program is a partnership among the UT Institute of Agriculture, the Tennessee Farmers Cooperative and TDA.

TDA Inspection Leads to Nationwide Recall

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is tasked with making sure the food you buy is safe to eat. A routine sampling of a spice raised red flags that led to a nationwide recall.

In January, TDA food inspectors conducted a routine retail food product sampling of paprika from a grocery store in the Cleveland area. The 5 oz container of Pride of Szeged Hungarian Paprika was tested by chemists at the TDA laboratory and was found to be positive for the presence of peanut, an allergen which wasn't disclosed on the product label.

The department notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the distributor of the product, and issued an advisory to let the public know of the possible risk to people with a peanut allergy. Ultimately, the distributor, Spiceco of Avenel, NJ recalled the paprika.

According to the FDA, no illnesses or allergic reactions have been reported.

The allergen testing program at TDA launched in October, with a focus on peanuts and milk. So far, the food residue lab has tested 60 food samples and the paprika sample is the only one that has resulted in a recall.

Tennessee Agritourism, Industry Leaders on Top at International Agritourism Convention

Tennessee was chosen to host the recent North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association (NAFDMA) 30th Annual Convention, Feb. 1-6, and the reasons why were clear by the time the convention ended.

Lucky Ladd Farms, owned and operated by Amy and Jason Ladd, won "Best in Show," NAFDMA's top award for excellence in education, innovation, and participation. Pamela Bartholomew, TDA Statewide Agritourism Coordinator, was elected to serve as vice president of the National Agritourism Professionals Association.

NAFDMA is a membership based trade association dedicated to providing ongoing peer-to-peer learning opportunities, connections and resources, for farmers who are passionate about the business of agritourism and farm direct marketing. NAFDMA was formed in 1986 by a group of farmers and agency representatives who had a vision that a business and social network could advance farm direct marketing across the United States and Canada. Today, NAFDMA seeks to advance the prosperity of its members and the farm direct marketing industry through networking, participation, education, and innovation throughout the North American Continent, the United Kingdom and beyond.

The six day convention was split between Nashville and Knoxville with bus tours covering the state. More than 450 participants traveled to Tennessee from all over the US, Canada, the UK, and other countries. Tennessee was well represented by 91 agritourism and direct farm marketing entrepreneurs, thanks to scholarships from a TDA federal Specialty Crop Block Grant which helped make the large turnout possible, and TAEP cost share scholarships for 44 direct market farmers and operators.

Tennessee's stature within the agritourism industry was made apparent in all the sessions led by Tennessee farmers and other industry professionals. Among the nationally acknowledged experts were David Black and Ken Oakes, Oakes Farm; Sylvia Ganier, Green Door Gourmet; Tonya Keller, Keller’s Corny Country; Amy Ladd, Lucky Ladd Farms; Pamela Bartholomew, Tennessee Department of Agriculture; and Megan Leffew, University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture.

The following Tennessee agritourism farms hosted convention goers as part of a 3 day educational bus tour:

  • Honeysuckle Hill, Springfield
  • Green Door Gourmet, Nashville
  • Oakes Farm, Corryton
  • Apple Barn, Sevierville
  • Riverview Family Farms, Knoxville
  • Autumn Acres, Crossville Gentry’s Farm, Franklin
  • Grandaddy’s Farm, Estill Springs
  • Lucky Ladd Farms, Eagleville

Tonya Keller, Tennessee Agritourism Association President and TDA's Pamela Bartholomew were among the NAFDMA bus leaders.

TDA Accepting Applications to Grow Industrial Hemp

A bit of paperwork is all that remains for Tennessee farmers to begin growing industrial hemp.

Investigators with the Drug Enforcement Agency visited Ellington Agricultural Center Feb. 12 for a final application review and inspection of storage facilities. Once the DEA gives approval, the Department of Agriculture can begin importing seeds and distributing those seeds to eligible producers. Officials with TDA are confident seeds will be available for planting by April.

In 2014, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted Public Chapter 916 tasking the department with development of a licensing and inspection program for the production of industrial hemp in Tennessee. As provided in Sec. 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill, industrial hemp may only be grown as part of a research or pilot project.

Industrial hemp is Cannabis sativa L., the same plant species as marijuana. However, industrial hemp has significantly lower tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content and is distinguished by its use and chemical makeup. You will find industrial hemp in a variety of products, including fabric, textiles, fibers, and foods.

This will be the first time industrial hemp will be grown legally in Tennessee in more than 70 years. At this time, there are no production facilities and no market in this state for the crop. However, TDA is hopeful that the information gathered from producers in this pilot program will help lead to development of the industry in the future.

You can download an application and Memorandum of Understanding at

Please complete the application, sign the MOU and include the particular cultivar you wish to use and the quantity requested. If your application is approved, the department will assist in obtaining your seed in compliance with requirements of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Individuals are not permitted to import their own seed.

Email the completed application and MOU to

Or send it by mail to:
Industrial Hemp Program, Consumer and Industry Services Division
TN Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 40627
Nashville, TN 37204

Workshops Educate on Changes to Food Code

The Department of Agriculture's concern for consumer safety carries right into your neighborhood grocery store. In July 2015 the Food Code will take effect. While the average consumer won't see any changes to their shopping experience, the Food Code does change the way inspections are conducted. It will raise state standards to match national standards and rely on science-based guidelines. There will be greater emphasis on ensuring that potentially-hazardous foods are handled in the safest fashion and that potentially-risky behaviors are addressed.

Upcoming workshops are designed to help retail food store and manufacturing professionals learn about the changes in Tennessee's food safety program and what inspectors will be looking for during routine inspections. No pre-registration is required, but participation will be limited to space availability at each location.

March 12, 2015, Nashville
9:00 am - 12:00 pm (Central)
Ellington Agriculture Center
Ed Jones Building

March 18, 2015, Knoxville
9:00 am - 12:00 pm (Eastern)
Holiday Inn Knoxville West at Cedar Bluff
9134 Executive Park Dr.
Knoxville, TN 37923

March 27, 2015, Jackson
9:30 am - 12:30 pm (Central)
Madison County Agriculture Complex Auditorium
309 North Parkway
Jackson, TN 38305

For more information on workshops, visit

TDA's Livestock Marketing Services, Personnel See Changes in the New Year

"The retirement of TDA Senior Livestock Specialist Nelson Owen, the introduction of new USDA Officer in Charge Jodee Inman, and a shift in the ways Tennessee's livestock market news will be made available mark the ending and beginning of eras," says Wendy Sneed, Market Development’s livestock and equine marketing specialist. "Tennessee's livestock industry continues to have TDA's full attention, and TDA remains committed to ever greater services to its livestock producers."

Nelson Owen, Senior Livestock Marketing Specialist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture retired on January 30 after 43 years of exemplary service to Tennessee’s livestock industry.

"His personal expertise, along with his dedication to Tennessee livestock producers and all aspects of the industry, has elevated the reputation of our state across the country," says Sneed. "His generosity and willingness to share his knowledge leaves all of us better prepared to continue improving the quality of our services and our livestock for the future."

"Nelson’s retirement will leave a large hole to fill," says Sneed, "but we will do our best to continue to offer the same level of service to the industry as we have during his tenure. Our sincere best wishes go to Nelson and his family as they anticipate more time together on their own farm in the years to come."

Jodee Inman is the new Officer in Charge with the Livestock, Poultry & Grain Market News Division of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Operating out of Frankfurt, Kentucky, Inman will work with Tennessee market news officials and livestock specialists to keep the latest market news available, accurate and complete.

Inman began her career in the livestock industry by preconditioning her own cattle for 10 years while working for United Producers in Little York and Vincennes, Indiana. In 2008 Inman was the national representative for the Beef Checkoff Program, working with the Beefmobile project. She also auctioneered in several livestock markets throughout Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Inman began working for USDA Livestock and Grain Market News in Des Moines, Iowa in 2009 and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina in 2012 as Officer In Charge for the North and South Carolina Market News Progams.

Finally, "If you are looking for a market report for your local livestock market, you now have another place to find them," says Sneed. "TDA Reported Markets can still be found on the USDA Web site. If your market isn't covered by a TDA Market News Reporter, you can still find out how the market was for the week by going to the 'Self-Reported and Self-Graded' page on the TDA Web site."

Anyone interested in reviewing a market report can now visit and click on "Market Development," and then click on "Market News." The link can be found under the "Price and Market Comments" section. "Graded Feeder Cattle and other Special Sales" is also listed on the Market News page as well as the livestock market contact and general sale day information. For more information, contact Wendy Sneed at

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