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Rural Routes

In This Issue

The Commissioner Looks Ahead

HPAI in Mind

Trees Draw International Buyers

Pick TN Conference Announced

Improving Outreach

USDA Year in Review

Making Magic with Ag

Your Barnyard Heroes - Boots!


Jan. 13-14

Tennessee Feed & Grain Association Convention, Franklin

Jan. 19-20

Tennessee Pork Producers Association and State Jr. Market Hog Show, Murfreesboro

Jan. 21-23

Tennessee Association of Fairs, Nashville

Feb/ 4-6

Tennessee Cattlemen's Association, Murfreesboro

Feb. 11-13

Pick TN Conference, Knoxville

Feb. 19-20

Tennessee FFA Alumni Convention, Burns

Feb. 20-27

National FFA Week / TN FFA Goodwill Tour

Feb. 26-27

Mid-South Farm & Gin Show, Memphis

Feb. 28-March 1

Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts Convention, Chattanooga



The Commissioner Looks Ahead

There is something about the word “new.” I can still recall when I was a child the excitement brought on by a newborn calf. These days a new tech gadget brightens my day. We’ve just celebrated the arrival of the new year and that’s leading me to look to the new opportunities ahead for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Tennessee timber is gaining the attention of new buyers in the international market. As the Division of Forestry works to maintain and manage this valuable asset, we are encouraged by the potential to market Tennessee wood products on a global scale.

Challenges give the department the chance to grow. We continue to work with industry partners and state and federal agencies to prepare for a potential outbreak of high path avian influenza (HPAI). We appreciate all who are devoting their time and expertise to the protection of the poultry industry in Tennessee.

Now is the time when producers finalize plans for the coming spring. Whether you grow an orchard, flowers, a corn maze, wine grapes, acres of produce or manage a farmers market, the new Pick TN Conference will have the information you need to optimize your operation. Details can be found in this newsletter.

I know that 2016 holds promise for the Department of Agriculture and Tennessee's farmers, foresters and citizens. Best wishes to you for the new year.

Julius Johnson
Commissioner of Agriculture

HPAI in Mind

TDA employees recently learned the basics of dealing with an outbreak of high path avian influenza.

Staffers who volunteered to be cross -trained for HPAI response gathered in Centerville in December for a day of instruction and practice.

HPAI has not been detected in Tennessee and there is no risk to the food supply or human health. However, if HPAI does affect this state, there will be grave consequences for our farming families and communities who rely on the poultry industry.

Planning and training for a potential outbreak remains a top priority. Those Tyvek clothing covers will protect against spreading the disease as animal health professionals travel from farm to farm.

Avian influenza can be easily be carried on clothing, equipment and vehicles and cross-farm contamination is believed to be the main source of transmission during last spring’s outbreak in the Midwestern states.

Tennessee Trees Draw International Buyers

With quality hardwoods in high demand, Tennessee’s trees are attracting customers from a world away. In September 2015, a wood buyer’s delegation from Taiwan visited Tennessee and Kentucky. Representing six different Taiwanese businesses, their goal was to obtain American wood products including local hardwood lumber, logs and manufactured plywood.

Competition with neighboring Asian countries can make it difficult for Taiwanese buyers to obtain high quality hardwood raw material. The visit gave both states the opportunity to show off materials that fill that need. The group was well received at each of the locations they visited and expressed sincere appreciation for the chance to meet one-on-one with mill owners. More importantly, connections were made to better establish future trades. In fact, several sales calls have been made since their visit.

The Tennessee Wood Products branding initiative was also highlighted. The goal for Tennessee Wood Products is to promote the state’s wood products industry by enhancing marketing opportunities to better connect consumers with producers. Visit the Tennessee Wood Products website for more information.

Kerry Livengood and Tim Phelps with the Division of Forestry led a three-day tour during the Tennessee leg of the trip, which included stops at Atlanta Hardwood Corporation in Clarksville, Middle Tennessee Lumber in Burns, Tennessee Forestry Association in Nashville, White County Lumber in Sparta, Mayfield Lumber in McMinnville, Cardin Forest Products, LLC in South Pittsburgh, Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods in Huntland, Hassell & Hughes in Collinwood and Louisiana-Pacific in Nashville.

The tour was sponsored by the USDA Foreign Ag Service, the Tennessee and Kentucky departments of agriculture, Tennessee Wood Products and Kentucky Proud branding initiatives, and the American Plywood Association.

Photos and videos of the tour can be found here.

Pick TN Conference Combines Issues & Experts

Time often seems too short and the To Do list too long. A new conference for Tennessee producers aims to provide tools and learning opportunities to optimize operations while minimizing time spent away from the farm.

The new conference for Tennessee farmers is scheduled for Feb. 11-13 in Knoxville. A collaborative effort of Tennessee producer organizations and agriculture agencies, the Pick TN Conference is offered as a solution for modern farmers who have little time to explore all the constantly evolving options, issues and information they need to succeed.

Conference goers can choose sessions based on the needs of their operations. From social media marketing to livestock and crop management, to operation diversification, participants will access resources for every facet of modern farm life, all in one event.

An early registration rate of $55 per person is available for registrations completed by January 29. Late registration is $80. The registration fee covers access to conference sessions, a reception, a trade show, and lunch on Friday. The trade show will feature technology and equipment exhibitors from all industry sectors, as well as an education alley.

Conference hosts include the Tennessee Agritourism Association, Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance, Tennessee Association of Farmers Markets, Tennessee Farmland Legacy Partnership, Tennessee Flower Growers Association, Tennessee Fruit and Vegetable Association, Tennessee Organic Growers Association, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

Registration and reservations details are at listed here.

TDA Extends Community Outreach

With a focus on improving customer service and increasing outreach, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture has extended the role of the public affairs office.

Commissioner of Agriculture Julius Johnson has appointed three regional public affairs coordinators. “Our goal is to better serve our stakeholders and the citizens of Tennessee,” Johnson said. “We have a diverse agency with a broad mission. These individuals will be charged with advancing coordination of services and responsiveness.”

The extension of public affairs is being implemented through the realignment of existing resources and without new dollars.

Louis Buck has been appointed the regional coordinator in East Tennessee. A former deputy commissioner of Agriculture in the Sundquist administration, Buck has extensive experience on the federal level too, having worked as state executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency and as a director for the Department of Defense’s task force for business and stability operations. Buck will continue to lead the department’s efforts to advance the Governor’s Rural Challenge and entrepreneurial development activities.

Boyd Barker will serve as the regional coordinator in Middle Tennessee. Barker joined the department in 1995 and during his tenure has served as the director of the division of Plant Industries, director of special projects, and worked in the Water Resources section. In addition to his new responsibilities, Barker will continue in his role as administrator of the Tennessee Boll Weevil Eradication Program.

Colleen Coury joins the Department of Agriculture staff as the regional coordinator in West Tennessee. Coury has more than twenty years of experience in equine sports marketing, corporate relations and destination marketing. Most recently she directed corporate relations at Bethel University. Prior to that, Coury worked for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

“Louis, Boyd and Colleen each bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to their coordinator position.” Johnson said. “Their skills and contributions will enhance our commitment to deliver quality service to the public.”

USDA Year in Review: Building a Stronger Rural America through Partnership, Progress and Promise

Washington--In 2015, millions of rural businesses and families were positively impacted by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investments in their communities. The USDA recently shared their top achievements of the year.

"Even with challenges in 2015, including an unprecedented animal disease outbreak and lower commodity prices, America's rural communities have proven once again that we are a nation of makers, creators and innovators, and our economy and security are stronger because of it. As we look to 2016, USDA will continue to seek out new and innovative ways to expand opportunity for America's farming families and rural communities," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

You can read the full article here.

Highlights include:

  • Delivered nearly $200 million to help poultry producers recover, and spent nearly $1 billion total in response to the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak.
  • Achieved $139.7 billion of agricultural exports, the third-best year on record. Ensured passage of Trade Promotion Authority, and helped to complete negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Enrolled 1.76 million farmers in the new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs by conducting an unprecedented educational campaign. The program has provided $4.8 billion in financial help to more than 900,000 farms that experienced a $20 billion drop in revenues during 2015.
  • Increased the pace and scale of forest restoration by nine percent since 2011 and increased timber harvest by 18 percent since 2008, despite record droughts, longer wildfire seasons, and the increasing percentage of the budget spent fighting wildland fires. In 2015, 2.87 billion board feet were harvested and sold.
  • Made the first investments through the $10 billion Rural Infrastructure Opportunity Fund and the first Rural Business Investment Company, both launched in 2014. Established two additional RBICs in 2015.

Making Magic With TN Magic Moments

“There is no magic without Ag.”

It’s a simple idea that’s striking a chord across Tennessee.

Governor Bill Haslam issued the challenge to promote agriculture. That isn’t difficult when you are talking to a farming and forestry audience. However it gets a bit trickier when you try to explain to the general public just how agriculture benefits their everyday lives. A new campaign called TN Magic Moments is using a clear-cut message to make that connection.

Consider a picnic without your family’s favorite recipes. Or a football game without that gorgeous green turf. Or a peaceful walk in the woods without the trees. Those are all experiences to which we can relate, and are all dependent on agriculture. If you were to remove those crucial elements, the experiences just wouldn’t be the same. That concept has become the foundation for TN Magic Moments.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture partnered with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation to develop the strategy. Citizens and supporters are encouraged to tag their social media posts #tnmAGicmoments to help promote the message that there is no magic without Ag. We hope you will take part. Please share your magic moment today.

Learn more about the TN Magic Moments campaign here.

Click here for a message from the Governor.

Show Us Your Boots

Always dependable. Rarely celebrated.

Barn boots tend to be the unsung heroes of daily life on and off the farm.

We want to see your boots at work, play, or at rest. Email photos to

Check out the photo album on our Facebook page.

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