Share This:
Rural Routes

In This Issue

Asst. Commissioner's Message

New Ag Enhancement Options

A Closer Look at TN Timber

TN Tomato Initiative

Avian Influenze in U.S.

Security Camera Leads to Arrest

Ag Crime Investigator Certification

Burn Permits Required

Tennessee Celebrates Ag Day


Apr. 29-30

20th Annual Rural Development Conference, Murfreesboro

May 1-2

Hickman Co. Business, Industry and Agriculture Fair, Centerville

May 3-9

West Tennessee Strawberry Festival, Humboldt

May 9-10

UT Bloom Days, Knoxville

May 9

Spring City Strawberry Festival, Dayton

May 14-16

Historic Rural Life Festival, Nashville

May 20

Field Day at Glen Leven Farm, Nashville

May 29

June Dairy Month Luncheon, Nashville

Jun 4-6

Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association Convention, Chattanooga

Jun 9-15

Clay Co. Fair, Celina

Jun 22-27

Sumner Co. Fair, Gallatin

Jun 25

Tobacco, Beef and More, Springfield




From Assistant Commissioner Carol McDonald:

The 109th Tennessee General Assembly wrapped up the first session of its work last week, passing Gov. Bill Haslam's proposed $33.8 billion FY 2016 state budget. The session marked several noteworthy advancements for both TDA and agriculture.

Special thanks go to Majority Leader Mark Norris and Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel for sponsoring and successfully passing TDA's administration bill to modernize the department's licensing, permitting and fee system. The legislation will help increase efficiencies and reduce the burden on businesses. We look forward to working with our industry partners to set a reasonable fee schedule through rulemaking as called for in this milestone legislation. Another important administration bill, which allows the department to take action against unlicensed pest control operators, passed with broad support.

Despite another challenging budget year, there were several important funding provisions for Agriculture as proposed by the Governor. Ag Enhancement was again fully funded, including a $250,000 appropriation each for the 4-H and FFA foundations. The final budget also provided funding for the eventual transfer of livestock abuse inspections from Extension to TDA. And, the department received a $1.4 million appropriation to cover additional construction costs of a new weights and measures laboratory important for maintaining standards in commerce.

Another milestone for agriculture, the budget included funding for the purchase of the camp-ready Lone Oaks Farm in Hardeman County to serve 4-H and other youth development programs. FFA also got a boost with the addition of regional supervisory positions within the Department of Education.

Notwithstanding an increasingly urbanized legislature, the success of this session is a testament to the significant support that agriculture enjoys from the Governor's Office to the halls of Legislative Plaza. The department is committed to working with our partners to ensure that this investment is put to good use in serving our industry and the citizens of Tennessee.

Assistant Commissioner carol McDonald directs policy and legislation for TDA.

New Options Offered with 2015 Ag Enhancement

TDA has set June 1 – 7 as the application period for the 2015 Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) and is pleased to announce new options with this year's program.

TAEP is a cost-sharing program. Producers fulfill requirements to defray the costs of strategic investments in their operation. Farmers can qualify for up to 50 percent cost share, with a maximum reimbursement of up to $15,000, depending on the project. Producers may apply online or submit an application by mail, which must be postmarked June 1 through June 7.

Program administrator Mark Powell points out that there are several notable changes this year. "As cattle producers work to grow Tennessee's beef herd, we are pleased to offer a new bred beef heifer cost-share," Powell said.

Other changes include:

  • Bull cost share program increased to $1,600 for eligible bulls with enhanced EPDs
  • Limit to 4 lifetime grain bin reimbursements
  • Reimbursement documents can be uploaded online
  • Eligibility rules simplified to one application per person per schedule F

"TAEP doesn't just help individual producers. It also provides an economic boost to their communities," Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. "Governor Bill Haslam recognizes the importance of Ag Enhancement, and we are thankful for his support and the support of the Tennessee General Assembly in approving $21 million in funding for another year."

The goal is to increase profitability and efficiency while promoting long-term investments in Tennessee's agriculture.

Instructions for accessing TAEP Online accounts and applying for 2015 funds are listed at and outlined in the printed applications. Producers are to use Application A for Livestock Equipment, Working Facility Covers, Genetics, Hay, Grain and Feed Storage.

Producers with livestock on their farm must register their premises at or by calling 615-837-5120.

A separate Application B for Producer Diversification can be submitted online or mailed. Producer Diversification assists farmers with investments in agritourism, fruits and vegetables, honey bees, horticulture, organics and value-added products. Applications are competitively evaluated by industry sector.

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 TDA representative when completing the application.

For more information or for an application, call 1-800-342-8206 or visit

About the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program--More than 5,000 producers received cost share approvals for FY14/15. More than $106 million has been invested in 37,087 producer projects since 2005. The University of Tennessee Agri-industry Modeling & Analysis Group estimates that each TAEP dollar generates an average of $3.89 in local economies.

A Closer Look at Tennessee Timber

The high-pitched whine of the giant saw rang out, as the teeth sliced through the wood. Over and over the maneuver repeated, until the massive section of tree trunk was transformed to a collection of boards. Though the length of each was uniform, the grain in each was unique--and uniquely beautiful--as they glided by on the conveyor belt.

That was the scene at Roach Sawmill, a business that employs more than 50 people in rural Savannah, Tennessee. Leaders from the Tennessee departments of Agriculture and Economic and Community Development, along with members of the Tennessee Forestry Association and professionals in forestry and the wood products industry saw Roach's good work first-hand in April, during a two-day tour highlighting Southwest Tennessee's forest industries.

The tour also included stops at Hassell & Hughes Lumber Company in Collinwood, Brown-Forman Cooperage in Waynesboro, Packaging Corporation of America in Counce, and a private forest landowner site owned by Elton Coley.

Tennessee timber, whether grown for paper markets or for the high quality lumber market will always be in demand. That makes our forestry-related industries more vital than ever. Tennessee's forests cover 14 million acres--or 52 percent--of the state. According to UT's Agricultural Modeling and Analysis group, in 2011 alone, forestry-based industries in this state generated about $19.6 billion in economic activity and resulted in almost 91,000 jobs. Each year we grow more trees than we harvest, ensuring that timber will remain a sustainable asset for the future.


Tomato Growers to Consider Statewide Association

Tennessee tomato growers have the opportunity to help build a foundation for their industry’s future at a number of scheduled meetings across the state.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has been granted federal Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) funds to launch the Tennessee Tomato Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to provide growers necessary information to determine if a grower-owned organization can increase national recognition and markets for Tennessee tomatoes. The growers will decide by vote in May.

Stanley Trout, consultant for the statewide initiative, will host three regional meetings to discuss the benefits of forming a statewide growers association. "The goal of the association would be better promotion of the Tennessee tomato as a brand with inherent qualities, in much the same way that Vidalia onions are promoted," Trout said.

The meetings are scheduled as follows:

  • April 27 - Pikeville - 6:30 p.m. CDT/ 7:30 p.m. EDT at the Pig-N-Catch Restaurant, 3651 Main Street
  • April 30 - Morristown - 7 p.m. EDT at the Best Western Plus, 5435 S. Davy Crockett Parkway
  • May 5 - Jackson - 7 p.m. CDT at the Casey Jones Restaurant, 56 Casey Jones Lane

Growers traveling more than 25 miles to a meeting are eligible for mileage reimbursement, and a meal will be provided.

"There will be a give and take atmosphere at these meetings as we get input, and as we educate growers about this opportunity," Trout said. "We'll discuss challenges facing the tomato industry in Tennessee and the potential that a grower-owned association could help Tennessee tomatoes have a competitive edge."

Growers will hear about the kinds of associations most commonly found in the fresh produce industry and discuss the activities and benefits each type of association can provide. According to Trout, "growers have expressed an interest in a number of support programs, from an association to education, marketing, insurance programs and supporting extension research."

"Tomatoes are a dynamic part of Tennessee's rural economy," Trout said. "Tennessee growers spend an estimated $23 million to grow this crop with another $10 million devoted to harvest and marketing.”"

Tennessee's significant tomato industry includes more than 4,000 acres of production across the state. The 2012 crop was valued at more than $60 million by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Services, making Tennessee the fifth largest producer of fresh market tomatoes in the nation.

To learn more about the Tennessee Tomato Initiative or about upcoming meetings for tomato growers, contact Stanley Trout at 615-971-0505 or email

Avian Influenza Outbreak Impacting Neighboring States

The state veterinarian is advising owners of poultry flocks of an avian influenza outbreak impacting 14 other states.

"Although this outbreak has not affected flocks in Tennessee, we want owners to be aware of the situation so that they can take steps to protect their birds," state veterinarian, Charles Hatcher, DVM said.

Officials believe water fowl migrating south from Canada are the source for the H5 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which is known to be deadly for domesticated turkeys and chickens. The earliest cases were reported in backyard and commercial flocks in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and California. Now the USDA has confirmed positive samples in a total of fourteen states, with Arkansas and Missouri being the closest to Tennessee.

In all cases, the affected facilities have been quarantined and the flocks depopulated to prevent spread of the illness. Infected animals have not entered the food chain.

It is important to note there is no known threat to public health or to the food supply. This is not the same strain of avian flu that has been known to cause human illnesses. However, workers who had contact with the infected birds are being monitored as a precaution.

Owners of poultry flocks are encouraged to closely observe their birds.

The state veterinarian and staff are focused on animal health and disease prevention. Each year, the Kord Animal Health lab tests approximately 22,000 samples from poultry for avian flu. If avian flu is detected, Tennessee has a response plan which includes quarantine, testing, disposal, cleaning, disinfection and monitoring.

Security Camera Leads to Theft Arrest

A livestock owner's simple security measure led to the arrest of three suspected cattle thieves.

After two dairy calves were stolen from a Bedford County farm in January, the cattle owner installed a trail camera to monitor activity on the farm. That camera captured the theft of a third calf in February.

Using the video evidence, detectives with the Bedford County and Moore County Sheriff's departments worked with Agricultural Crime Unit investigator Michael Whaley to develop suspects.

On February 20 and 21, Jamie Vaughn, Floyd Vaughn and Billy Batten of Moore County were arrested and charged with felony theft of property.

The calves, valued at $1,800, were recovered in Moore County

"We have seen an increase in thefts. Beef prices are high, and that can motivate thieves," Ag Crime Unit investigator supervisor Max Thomas said.

In 2014, the department investigated 22 theft cases involving 151 head of cattle. State investigators work closely with local authorities and livestock markets to track and recover stolen animals. However, livestock owners are encouraged to take action to guard their investment.

  • Count livestock daily
  • Report thefts to law enforcement immediately
  • Make sure gates are locked and well lit
  • Visible brands can deter thieves and speed recovery
  • Consider installation of a security camera system

To report theft of livestock, contact the Tennessee Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Crime Unit at 1-844-AGCRIME or 1-844-242-7463.

Ag Crime Unit Investigator Receives Video Surveillance Certification

Video surveillance continues to grow in importance for catching those who commit agricultural crimes, and TDA's Agricultural Crime Unit is keeping up with the most current technology to help protect rural citizens.

Criminal investigator Mike Whaley, recently became certified to shoot video during surveillance in the "Video Surveillance for Law Enforcement" class hosted by the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy in Nashville.

The class instructor, Wadi Sawabini, has taught thousands of federal and state law enforcement officers how to shoot video that will successfully stand up in court. Whaley will combine this with his previous surveillance training on how to make and set up devices to catch criminals.

"My previous training has already proven to be a valuable resource for catching wildland arsonists and cattle rustlers," Whaley said. "I hope the video surveillance training will not only help us catch more criminals, but also win more cases when we go to court."

Whaley has also used his video surveillance skills to assist other state agencies and sheriff departments across the state.

If You Have Brush to Burn, Don't Forget the Permit

The winter's storms were hard on Tennessee's landscape. Heavy ice brought down limbs and trees across the state.

Brush pile burning is one of the best ways for landowners to clean up woody debris from the storms and TDA's Division of Forestry is reminding citizens that outdoor burning requires a permit through May 15.

"Burning woody debris from the ice storms is an efficient way of getting rid of such material," State Forester Jere Jeter said. "However, it is very important that citizens be safe when conducting a debris burn. Obtaining a burn permit in advance of outdoor burning is our way of making a landowner aware of when, where, and how it is safe to burn."

If you are burning a leaf or brush pile that is smaller than 8 feet by 8 feet in size, log on to to secure a permit.

For a larger burn, apply for a permit by calling your local Division of Forestry burn permit phone number Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Phone numbers can be found by visiting

Burn permits are free. Residents should check with their city and county government for any local restrictions.

Once you have obtained a burn permit, remember these tips:

  • Develop a bare-soil perimeter around the fire.
  • Notify neighbors and local fire departments in advance.
  • Have a leaf rake and access to water for fire control.
  • Be aware that wind can blow the fire in the wrong direction.
  • Stay with the fire until it is extinguished. It is illegal to leave an open fire unattended.

In 2014, debris fires that got out of control were the leading cause of wildfires in Tennessee, burning 5,366 acres statewide.

Burning debris without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine and jail time.

Arson was the second leading cause of wildfires last year but accounted for the most acreage damaged, with 7,800 acres burned. Wildland arson is a class C felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Anyone with information about suspected arson activity should call the state Fire Marshal’s Arson Hotline toll-free at 1-800-762-3017.

For tips on safe debris-burning practices, fire prevention and home protection, visit

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry works to conserve, protect and enhance forests that cover half the state and provide jobs, timber, clean water, wildlife habitat and recreation.

Visit for more information.

Ag Day in Tennessee Marked by High-Profile Events

To celebrate the abundance provided by the farms and producers across the state, Gov. Bill Haslam proclaimed March 18 as Agriculture Day in Tennessee. The day coincided with National Agriculture Day and was recognized with two high-profile events in Nashville.

The first, a Celebrity Omelet Cook-off, took place at the Tennessee Residence in Conservation Hall. News personalities from the four Nashville television stations competed against each other to see who could cook the best tasting omelet and the omelet with the best presentation. Ag industry insiders and supporters, commodity groups, farmers, 4-H and FFA members, Miss Tennessee Hayley Lewis, and even Tennessee’s First Lady Crissy Haslam and her Executive Chef, Stephen Ward were all on hand to support Tennessee agriculture.

WKRN News 2 took the award for "best taste" while WSMV Channel 4 won "best presentation."

Visit TDA's Facebook page to see more pictures from the event.

The festivities continued on March 24 with the "Ag Day on the Hill" celebration at Legislative Plaza.

Lawmakers got the chance to experience some of what our industry has to offer with displays and representatives from all sectors of Tennessee agriculture, live animals and even a corn-shelling contest between House and Senate members.

The House team, led by Speaker Beth Harwell, used an old-fashioned, hand-crank sheller to drop just over five pounds of kernels into its bucket in a minute's time. That amount beat out the Senate team led by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey.


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