Tag Archives: agriculture

Emerald Ash Borer reaches Bledsoe, Cumberland counties

News release from state Department of Agriculture
NASHVILLE – A quarantine for Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive insect that destroys ash trees, has been expanded to include two more Tennessee counties.

With EAB discovered in traps in Bledsoe and Cumberland, both counties have now been added to the list of areas restricted for the movement of ash trees and ash tree products. This brings the total number of Tennessee counties under a state and federal EAB quarantine to 41.

EAB is a destructive forest pest that was introduced from Asia into the United States in the 1990s. This pest was first detected in Tennessee in 2010 in Knox County. The Department of Agriculture and USDA-APHIS have worked together to identify EAB infestation using purple box traps placed in trees across the state.
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Ramsey delivers $2.2M ‘gift’ to home county

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey “hand-delivered a $2.2 million gift to Sullivan County” on Monday, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

Ramsey came to the Sullivan County Commission to unveil plans for an agricultural center that supporters say will provide much-needed meeting space and also contribute to tourism and economic development efforts in the county.

The center is projected to open within a year off Spurgeon Lane along Highway 75, north of Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

A state grant of $2.2 million will be used to purchase (about $500,000) and renovate (about $1.7 million) an existing steel frame building.

Ownership will be transferred to the county, which in turn is tentatively expected to lease the facility for $1 a year to a soon-to-be formed 501c3 nonprofit group that will oversee operation of the agricultural center.

Once remodeled, the building will include a 250-seat conference center.

The University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture Extension Office will move to the facility from its current location in the Sullivan County Office Building at State Route 126 and Blountville Boulevard.

The facility also will serve as a gathering place for the Cattlemen’s Association, which supporters said has experienced such growth in attendance that it has had to travel as far as Abingdon, Va., to find a big enough venue for recent meetings.

Former state Rep. Clint Callicott dies, age 66

Clint Callicot, former state representative and former Williamson County executive, has died at age 66, reports The Tennessean.

He died Wednesday morning at his farm in the Hickman County community of Only, after a years-long battle with colon cancer, said his son, Clayton Callicott.

Friends and family members said that Callicott’s love of agriculture and his genuine love of people guided his work as a public servant. (An arena at the Williamson County Agricultural Expo park is named in his honor.)

“You’d have to talk to him about yourself for about 15 minutes before he’d talk about himself,” said Clayton Callicott. “He was always available when he was in office.”
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53 seek permits to grow hemp in TN

Fifty-three individuals and businesses across Tennessee have applied to the state Department of Agriculture for permits to grow hemp legally in Tennessee for the first time in decades, reports the News Sentinel.

How those applications will be evaluated — or whether anyone will actually be able to grow a crop this year — is still uncertain.

Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana.

Under the pilot program, participants would import seed only with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration approval, which must be certified as having THC levels — the psychoactive ingredient found in high levels in marijuana — of not more than 0.3 percent by weight.

“All we want to do is just lift that ban on raising and let us compete with Canadian farmers, Chinese farmers. And for some reason the DEA in Washington will not give us a number so we can buy our seed from Canada,” said State Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, who sponsored the original bill to grow hemp here.

Applications ranged in size from plots of one-tenth of an acre in Nashville to more than 900 acres in Memphis, though most were for five acres or less.

Some legislators join UT in defending $16M purchase of West TN farm

Top University of Tennessee officials and some state legislators vigorously defended the university’s planned $16 million purchase of a 1,200-acre Hardeman County farm and its improvements at a hearing, reports Richard Locker. UT plans to use the property as a regional 4-H camp and conference center.

The purchase has generated some criticism because the price is more than three times the $4.6 million the county’s tax assessor had valued the farm for property tax purposes. That figure is in line with an independent appraisal conducted for the state and the owner, although that appraisal also drew some questioning because it included among its analysis of comparable sales two properties near Nashville, where property is much higher-priced than in rural West Tennessee.

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, wrote to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, in January that “the state may be on the verge of substantially overpaying” for the property. On Wednesday, during the Senate Education Committee’s higher-education budget hearing, Kelsey questioned UT President Joe DiPietro, Dean of UT Extension Tim Cross and Robbie Stivers, who heads capital projects for the UT system, on the purchase.

“Is that a wise use of University of Tennessee funds?” Kelsey asked.

“Yes, I think it’s a very wise use of University of Tennessee funds,” DiPietro said. “We really feel the appraisal is lower than what the property is actually worth or valued at based on the improvements.”

The owner is Memphis developer Scott Ledbetter, founder of LEDIC Management Group and active for years in civic projects, including chairman of the Pyramid reuse committee. He told the Commercial Appeal last month the state is getting a great deal on his Lone Oaks Farm and that he’s selling only because it will be used for 4-H. Out of 32 parcels he bought since 1998 to assemble the farm, he’s selling 27, or 1,200 acres, and keeping the rest.

He’s built 11 houses, lodges and cabins, along with a barn, cattle-handling facility, horse stable, event center and tool museum — a total of 25 structures. The property has lakes, ponds and streams and about 15 miles of trails. The private appraisal says he spent about $30.3 million on the land and improvements.

Cross, whose UT Extension Service sponsors 4-H programs for youth statewide, and DiPietro, who headed the UT Institute of Agriculture before the university system’s presidency, said those features make it perfect for the 4-H campers and also for non-4-H conferences, workshops and retreats year-round for which UT will charge fees that will help maintain the farm.

Committee-approved bill legalizes killing federally-protected buzzards in TN

A state Senate committee has voted to legalize the killing of black buzzards in Tennessee even though they are protected under federal law.

Approval of SB204 by the Senate Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee came after Charles Hord, executive vice president of the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, described how the vultures are killing newborn calves across the state and Sen. Paul Bailey displayed photographs showing buzzard damage at a Jackson County home.

“They’re not only destroying livestock. They’ve begun destroying personal property,” said Bailey, R-Sparta.

He said the black buzzard attack, which homeowner James Meadows and his family discovered after returning from a weekend vacation, caused damage totaling more than $25,000 as estimated by an insurance adjuster — more if uninsured damage was included.

The buzzards had “begun to eat” the plastic seat covers of a motorcycle and a jet ski, wrecked swimming pool equipment, ripped out insulation and even pecked away parts of the brick beneath windows and the paint on a parked car, the senator said.

“No one can explain why they had actually attacked his house,” said Bailey, adding that he and others had initially “chuckled” at the idea of a scavenger species assaulting a home before seeing documentation.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, and Rep. Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown, repeals a current state law that makes it a misdemeanor crime “for any person to disturb the habitat of, alter, take, attempt to take, possess, or transport a black vulture, also known by the name Coragyps atratus.”
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Want to grow hemp? Dept. of Ag is taking applications

News release from state Department of Agriculture
NASHVILLE— The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications from farmers and producers interested in growing industrial hemp.

In 2013, 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. More than 30 nations grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity.

You can download an application and Memorandum of Understanding at http://www.tn.gov/agriculture/regulatory/industrialhemp.shtml.

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 industrial.hemp@tn.gov

TN also has a new cow herd expansion program

News release from the University of Tennessee:
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – In a joint effort to rebuild a declining Tennessee beef herd, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Tennessee Farmers Cooperative have announced a unique public-private partnership. UTIA will make room at its Dairy AgResearch and Education Center in Lewisburg for 100 beef heifers consigned by farmers from across Tennessee for a development program with the goal of increasing cattle numbers in the state.

Nationally, Tennessee has dropped from ninth in beef cattle production to 13th in the past two years due in part to a decrease in the state’s herd caused by economic and weather-related factors. Currently, the state hosts about 864,000 beef cows. The goal of the new Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Program is to increase that number, which is consistent with the recommendations of the Governor’s Rural Challenge.

Issued in December 2012, the challenge sets a goal of making Tennessee No. 1 in the Southeast in the development of agriculture and forestry, emphasizing efforts to increase farm income and agribusiness investment. With beef producers located in every county in the state, enhancing beef cattle production is a natural priority for the state’s agricultural community, said Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson, who offered the department’s full support of the initiative.

“Tennessee has the land capacity to support beef herd expansion and to recapture our share of the U.S. market,” said Johnson. “This project 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.”

The most economically straining aspect of beef management is the development of replacement heifers, said UT cattle expert Kevin Thompson, who serves as director of the Middle Tennessee and Dairy AgResearch and Education Centers.
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Hearing set on licensing hemp production in TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s Department of Agriculture plans to hold a public hearing to gather input on the permitting and regulation of industrial hemp.

The department says the purpose of the Nov. 18 hearing is to gather public comment on the department’s commitment to fulfill the requirements of a state law to develop a licensing and inspection program for the production of industrial hemp.

The department says industrial hemp is found in a variety of products, including fabric, textiles, fibers and pharmaceuticals.

More than 30 nations grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity.

The meeting is scheduled to be held at Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville.

AFL-CIO eyes organizing TN tobacco farm workers

Prompted by concerns about the conditions faced by Tennessee tobacco workers, the farm labor organizing arm of the AFL-CIO is coming to Tennessee later this month and plans a full union membership campaign by next summer, according to The Tennessean.

The goal, said Baldemar Velasquez, president and founder of the AFL-CIO’s Farm Labor Organizing Committee, or FLOC, is to help workers navigate complaints, wage issues and disputes with employers or contractors.

“We want to offer them a helpline,” Velasquez said.

FLOC is targeting four tobacco-growing states, including North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia, to unionize adults and teenage laborers. Organizers signed up more than 1,000 workers in North Carolina this summer but faced “a lot of intimidation, retaliation and harassment,” including one labor union organizer being handcuffed, Velasquez said.

They found poor conditions in the fields and many of the labor camps where workers lived, including “some farms where they treat farm animals better than the workers.”

Velasquez said his group believes pressures from big tobacco corporations are ultimately to blame for poor conditions facing workers.