Ag News

2014 4-H Congress Officers Elected

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Since its beginning in 1948, Congress has given more than 33,900 4-H’ers and volunteer leaders firsthand experience in state government. 4-H Congress is truly a citizenship experience. In addition to experiencing life in the state capital, 4-H members learn about civic engagement, including state government, service to others and the election process. At Congress 4-H members serve as a 4-H senator or representative and form a “junior” state Congress.

Each year one of the Congress highlights is the election of officers when delegates actually get to use voting machines to select their own  State 4-H Congress Governor, Speaker of the Senate and Speaker of the House. A regional caucus is held on Sunday night to nominate candidates to run for office. Following nominations, the election goes into full swing. Installation of the new officers is held at the final banquet on Tuesday night. This year's elected officers were Governor - Tony Eskridge from Shelby County; Speaker of the Senate - Haile Adams from Warren County and Speaker of the House of Representatives - Andy Huffer from Moore County.

While in the state capitol, delegates to Tennessee 4-H Congress have the opportunity to sit in the seat of their elected officials to the state legislature and actually vote on a bill.  They also have the opportunity to state their views and try to influence their peers regarding the bills introduced during the "Know Your Government" sessions of Congress.

Two 4-H senators who are senior Level I 4-H members (9-10th graders) may attend from each county. 4-H representatives, one senior Level I 4-H member representing each 1,700 or major fraction thereof of the total county enrollment and one senior Level I 4-H member for each 60 or major fraction thereof of the total county senior enrollment make up the remaining delegates.

2014-2015 FFA State Officers Elected

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The 86th State FFA Convention was recently held in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The two-and-a-half day convention was full of Career Development Events, leadership seminars, inspirational keynote addresses and recognition of student's accomplishments. At the last session, a new slate of state FFA officers were elected to serve the Tennessee FFA Association over the next year.

Top left: Treasurer - Amy Morgan, Cookeville; Sentinel - Shelby Day, Oakland; Middle TN Vice President - Susan Cowley, Lincoln County; West TN Vice President - Elena Smith, Munford; Reporter - Victoria Utsman, Daniel Boone. Bottom Row: President - Kevin Robertson, Wilson Central; East TN Vice President - Coty Vannoy, Chucky-Doak; and Secretary - Nick Baker, Baxter.

The Convention was filled with students fulfilling their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success as their passions were ignited for agricultural education and their futures.  More than 500 State FFA Degrees were handed out in the final session on Wednesday, showcasing juniors andd seniors who have achieved the hours, knowledge and skills necessary to achieve this highest degree Tennessee can offer an FFA member. Greg Peterson, of the famous singing Peterson Farm Brothers, was the opening session keynote speaker and inspired convention attendees to tell their story in unconventional ways and Mitch Baker, National FFA Secretary, motivated the students to create their own adventures every day in his keynote address on Tuesday. 

Congratulations to all students winning Career Development Events!
FFA Ceremonies - Munford FFA Chapter
Parliamentary Procedure - Munford FFA Chapter
Star Greenhand Award - Juliana White, McEwen
Creed Speaking - Juliana White, McEwen
Star in Agriscience - Cory Wright, Munford
Job Interview - Emily White, Daniel Boone
Star in Agricultural Placement - Megan Aiosa, Paris
Extemporaneous Speaking - Madison Shultz, East Robertson
Prepared Public Speaking - Catherine Moore, Dyersburg
Star in Agribusiness - Arianne Stearns, Brighton
Star Farmer - Reed Hester, Dyer County

Ag Day on the Hill a Success

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Tennessee lawmakers celebrated Ag Day on the Hill March 25 at Legislative Plaza in Nashville. Gov. Bill Haslam proclaimed it “Agriculture Day” in Tennessee as part of the annual national observance to recognize the important contributions of farmers and forestland owners to the state and nation.

Ag Day on the Hill activities included the popular milking contest between Senate and House members, a cattle-weighing contest, farm animals, crops and equipment, and new this year, a silent auction to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and Tennessee’s Ag in the Classroom educational program.

The event also featured for the first time the Drive to Feed the World Tour, a unique, interactive road show traveling the nation to heighten awareness about world hunger and sustainable food production.

Festivities kicked off at 8 a.m.,  with the milking contest taking place at 9 a.m. Special presentations to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee were presented at 10:30 a.m. The winner of the cattle-weighing contest, announced during the committee meeting, received a Pick Tennessee Products gift basket.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee also had collection bins available at Legislative Plaza throughout the day. Participants and visitors donated nonperishable items for donation. The Farm and Forest Families of Tennessee organization also presented a check to Second Harvest in honor of the milking contest winner as part of the day's festivities.

Tennessee has 76,000 farms representing 10.8 million acres in production. More than half of the state, 14 million acres, is in mostly privately owned hardwood forests. Tennessee’s top agricultural commodities include cattle, soybeans, corn, poultry, cotton, timber, greenhouse and nursery products, dairy products, wheat, tobacco and hay. The industry has a $66 billion a year impact on the state’s economy and supports nearly 337,900 jobs.

Tennessee Young Farmers Win National Honors

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During the 95th Annual Meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Tennessee Young Farmers & Ranchers took home honors in the Achievement Award and Excellence in Agriculture competitions. Young farmers and ranchers from around the country competed for the awards by demonstrating knowledge of and achievement in agriculture, as well as commitment to promoting the agriculture industry.

Winners of the Young Farmers & Ranchers Achievement Award Brandon and Katherine Whitt of Rutherford County receive either a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado or 2014 GMC Sierra, courtesy of GM. The Whitts will also receive paid registration to attend the 2014 AFBF YF&R Leadership Conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia in February.

The Whitts farm over 1900 acres in the surrounding Blackman and Murfreesboro area of Rutherford County in an owner/partnership operation. Their major crops are soybeans, wheat, corn and strawberries. They market over 800 head of hogs a year mostly through retail outlets consisting of 4,000 pounds of meat monthly by on farm retail, restaurants and farmers markets.

Both Brandon and Katherine have been very active in the Young Farmer and Rancher program, as well as the Rutherford County Farm Bureau and community. Brandon has served as the state YF&R committee chairman, a member of the TFBF Board of Directors, American Farm Bureau PAL scholarship participant and held numerous county YF&R leadership positions. Katherine is active on numerous YF&R committees as well as several community organizations. The Whitts have three children with number four due in March.

The Achievement Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who have excelled in their farming or ranching operations and exhibited superior leadership abilities. Participants are evaluated on a combination of their agricultural operation’s growth and financial progress, Farm Bureau leadership and leadership outside of Farm Bureau.

Chuck Yoest and Jennifer Hatcher of Williamson County, Tennessee were named runners-up in the Excellence in Agriculture Award. They will a Case IH Farmall 45A, courtesy of Case IH, and $3000 in cash and STIHL merchandise, courtesy of STIHL.

Chuck and Jennifer, along with Jennifer’s family, operate Hatcher Family Dairy, where they have their own creamery and sell seven different types of milk, butter, egg nog, gelato, farm fresh eggs and meat as well as sell those products locally to restaurants, grocery stores and farmers markets.  Chuck is employed with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency as Big Game Coordinator and Jennifer is a veterinarian with her father in the family’s Rock N Country veterinarian practice, and they are actively involved in their county YF&R program, their community and church.

The Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who do not derive the majority of their income from an agricultural operation, but who actively contribute and grow through their involvement in agriculture, their leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations.

Michael Shirley of Rutherford County represented Tennessee in the Discussion Meet at the national level and after two rounds of competition, was selected to compete in the Sweet 16 round.  The Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected.  Participants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas and information on a predetermined topic.

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For more information contact: Melissa Bratton, Editor, TN Farm Bureau News & Tennessee Home and Farm Magazine (931) 388-7872 ext. 2521,


Ag Leaders Develop Strategic Plan to Grow Tennessee Agriculture and Forestry Over Next Decade

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Tennessee’s top agricultural leaders today announced a 10-year strategic plan to increase agriculture and forestry in the state by building production capacity and incentivizing the private sector.

The plan, which has been a year in the making, was developed following a challenge by Gov. Bill Haslam a year ago to make Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast in the growth and development of agriculture and forestry.

“Every farm is a small business, and we need to remember that,” Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “We enjoy the aesthetics of our farms and often forget that there is a business ongoing here that has to turn a profit every year to continue to exist as a farm.”

The plan highlights 27 action steps which focus on building production capacity and incentivizing the private sector through four major recommendations:

• Advance agriculture, natural resources and rural infrastructure as Tennessee business priorities.
• Ensure a positive and predictable regulatory and policy environment for Tennessee agriculture and natural resources.
• Expand marketing opportunities for Tennessee producers and encourage new production systems and agribusinesses.
• Increase the scope and depth of a skilled and educated workforce through career, technical and higher education.

Tennessee Farm Bureau president Lacy Upchurch, UT Institute of Agriculture Chancellor Larry Arrington and Johnson presented the plan to the governor at the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting held this week in Franklin, Tenn.

The three leaders guided the development of the plan with the help of a steering committee of 28 Tennessee farmers, business leaders and commodity representatives.    

“The governor will be proud of what we’ve done in agriculture,” Upchurch said. “Working together, we can make agriculture stronger and rural communities and farms more successful, resulting in complete economic development in Tennessee.” 

Haslam last year asked the group to help develop a 10-year plan that was “practical, affordable and actionable.” State agriculture leaders say the plan focuses less on public funding and more on how to incentivize private sector investment, innovation and entrepreneurship.   

“Agriculture and forestry is a $66 billion industry and accounts for 10 percent of state employment,” Arrington said. “We’re stepping out and making a statement about the importance of agriculture, natural resources and rural Tennessee to the future of this state.”

The plan also endorses Gov. Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative, which calls for more than half the state’s population to earn a post secondary degree or certificate by 2025. Industry leaders say having a more educated population will help our rural economies as jobs in agriculture become more skill-based and high-tech. 

To view the complete plan, visit the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s website at

UT AgResearch announces 2014 field day schedule

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University of Tennessee AgResearch is planning a full calendar of field days for 2014.  A total of 12 field days and five special events will take place at UT AgResearch and Education Centers across the state, providing visitors a chance to see agricultural research trials in action, speak with university experts and network with industry professionals.

The landscape of Tennessee agriculture is varied and extremely diverse, and this is reflected in the topics covered by the AgResearch field days. There are field days for cattle farmers and row crop producers, as well as field days devoted to the production and maintenance of turf grasses, ornamental plants, fruit crops and forestry. Two special events focus on the historical heritage of Tennessee.

Changes to this year’s field day schedule include the timing of the Organic Crops Field Tour.  Traditionally held in the spring, the tour will be moved to October 23 in 2014.  It will still be held at the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center’s Organic Crops Unit in Knoxville.

The 2014 field day season also marks the return of two biennial field days: the Tobacco and Forage Production Field Day and the Milan No-Till Field Day. Held on even-numbered years, the Tobacco and Forage Production Field Day takes place on Thursday, July 17, at the UT AgResearch and Education Center at Greeneville. The Milan No-Till Field Day occurs one week later on July 24 at the UT AgResearch and Education Center at Milan.

The complete AgResearch field day/special events schedule is as follows:

Field Days

Fruits of the Backyard – June 17, Middle Tennessee AgResearch Center (Spring Hill)
Tobacco, Beef and More – June 26, Highland Rim AgResearch Center (Springfield)
Summer Celebration – July 10, West Tennessee AgResearch Center (Jackson)
Tobacco and Forage Production – July 17, Greeneville AgResearch Center
Milan No-Till – July 24, Milan AgResearch Center
Steak and Potatoes – August 5, Plateau AgResearch Center (Crossville)
Cotton Tour – September 3, West Tennessee AgResearch Center (Jackson)
Turf and Ornamental – September 11, East Tennessee AgResearch Center – Plant Sciences Unit (Knoxville)
Pumpkin – September 25, West Tennessee AgResearch Center (Jackson)
Northeast Tennessee Beef Expo – October 9, Greeneville AgResearch Center
Woods and Wildlife – October 15, Forest Resources AgResearch Center – Oak Ridge Forest (Oak Ridge)
Organic Crops Field Tour – October 23, East Tennessee AgResearch Center – Organic Crops Unit (Knoxville)

Special Events

Blooms Days – May 10-11, UT Gardens, Knoxville
Summer Color – June 24, UT Gardens, Knoxville
Fall Gardeners’ Festival – August 26, Plateau AgResearch Center (Crossville)
Heritage Festival – October 11, Ames Plantation AgResearch Center (Grand Junction)
Fall Folklore Jamboree – October 18, Milan AgResearch Center

All field days and special events are open to the public, and most are free.

More detailed information about each event will be available closer to the scheduled time. Check the website to learn more. You can also visit each individual AgResearch and Education Center’s homepage or call their main offices for details. Center addresses and phone numbers can be found online at this URL:

UT AgResearch, a unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture, operates 10 outdoor laboratories at strategic climate and topographic locations throughout the state. In addition to its agricultural research programs, the UT Institute of Agriculture also provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.



Ginger Rowsey, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 731-425-4768,

Patricia McDaniels, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 615-835-4570,


American Farm Bureau 95th Annual Convention

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The American Farm Bureau Federation is the nation’s largest general farm organization. More than 6.1 million American families are members of Farm Bureau in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Each January, thousands of those members get together to conduct the business of the national organization, benefit from informative sessions on agricultural and rural issues and share camaraderie with their fellow farmers and ranchers. At the annual meeting of Farm Bureau voting delegates, our leaders set the national organization’s policies for the next year. These policies—surfaced and debated from the grassroots level on up—guide our national policy implementation efforts throughout the following year.

The 95th Annual Convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Jan. 12-15, 2014, will take place in San Antonio, Texas. Our Heritage, Our Future” is a fitting theme for this convention, as attendees will both reflect on the past and look forward to the future while there. This is the 95th time farmers and ranchers from across the nation will gather together as Farm Bureau members for educational and networking opportunities. Also during this meeting, delegates will elect leaders and participate in a grassroots policy-setting process that will guide AFBF through the coming year.

There is a website, Annual Convention, that is the go-to source for everything you want to know about the Annual Convention, from the schedule to ideas for what to do in the Alamo City. We hope this site will help you as you plan YOUR annual convention. See you in San Antonio!

After a total of 113 years of experience three TFBF employees to retire

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Effective December 31, TFBF Communications Director Pettus Read, Special Programs Director Charles Curtis and Director of Organization Bobby Beets will retire following a career totaling 113 years.

Communications Director Pettus Read began his career in 1969 as an agent in the Rutherford County Farm Bureau office. In 1974 he became district field representative in the Upper Cumberland area for the state organization. After 9 1/2 years in that position he moved to Columbia in 1983 to serve as assistant director of Communications. He assumed the position of director in 1995, along with editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and later the Tennessee Home & Farm magazine, as well as writing his “Read All About It” column seen weekly in more than 50 newspapers statewide. He says he is looking forward to spending time on his family farm, participating in local politics and being a part of his grandchildren’s lives after spending 44 years of employment with Farm Bureau.

Special Programs Director Charles Curtis began his Tennessee Farm Bureau career July 1, 1983 as a field service director in the Upper Cumberland. In 1995 he was promoted to director of Special Programs for Tennessee Farm Bureau coordinating the Young Farmers programs, Farm Bureau Women’s activities and the Agriculture in the Classroom program. Through his leadership the programs have been recognized nationally. He has supported participants and winners in state and national competition. The Ag In The Classroom activities have had continuous growth under his leadership. Curtis is a native of Overton County in Rickman, Tennessee.  He and his wife Sharon operate a small registered shorthorn beef operation on the family farm near Rickman. He is looking forward to spending time with his family, and being part of his grandchildren’s lives as they play sports and show cattle. He says he is also looking forward to planning a birthday party for his mother who will be 100 on March 18, 2014.

Organization Director Bobby Beets also began his Farm Bureau career as a district field representative working in the lower East Tennessee region of the state in 1974. He served in that position from ‘74 until 1980 when he moved to Columbia to become the director of Special Programs. Beets held that position until 1995 when he became the Organization director overseeing activities of the Membership Department including the Member Benefits and County Accounting programs; supervised work of regional field directors with county Farm Bureaus including staff and leader training; managed meeting arrangements and logistics and coordinated the awards programs with both county Farm Bureaus and AFBF. Beets is looking forward to spending time with his family, especially as he and his wife Sherree enjoy their three grandchildren.

Tennessee's own Mitch Baker chosen as one of six new National FFA Officers

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013/National FFA Organization) – Students from Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Iowa, West Virginia and Oregon have been elected by delegates from throughout the U.S. to serve on the 2013-14 National FFA Officer team.
Brian Walsh of Virginia, an agribusiness major at Virginia Tech, was elected president. Mitch Baker of Tennessee, an agricultural communications major at University of Tennessee, will serve as secretary.
Steven Brockshus of Iowa, an agricultural education and global resource systems major at Iowa State University, was elected Central Region vice president and Jackson Harris of Alabama, a community development major at the University of Alabama, will serve as Southern Region vice president.
Wes Davis of West Virginia, an agribusiness management and rural development major at West Virginia University, was elected Eastern Region vice president and Jason Wetzler of Oregon, an agricultural leadership major at Oklahoma State University, will serve as Western Region vice president.
Each year at the National FFA Convention & Expo, six students are elected by delegates to represent the organization as National FFA officers. Delegates elect a president, secretary and vice presidents representing the central, southern, eastern and western regions of the country.
National officers commit to a year of service to the National FFA Organization. Each travels more than 100,000 national and international miles to interact with business and industry leaders, thousands of FFA members and teachers, corporate sponsors, government and education officials, state FFA leaders, the general public and more. The team will lead personal growth and leadership training seminars for FFA members throughout the country and help set policies that will guide the future of FFA and promote agricultural literacy.
“For this new national officer team, it will be a year of hard work, long hours, lots of travel and major advocacy for FFA and agricultural education,” said 2012-13 National FFA President Clay Sapp, who delivered his retiring address today before the new team was named. “It is a year of profound experiences that will change their lives and thousands of lives their service will touch.”

The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 579,678 student members in grades seven through 12 who belong to one of 7,570 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

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About National FFA Organization
The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 579,678 student members as part of 7,570 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at, on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.

Baucus, Camp Hold Kitchen Table Conversation at Family Farm in Memphis

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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) met recently with family farmers and local business leaders in Memphis, Tennessee, to talk about the critical need to overhaul the nation’s tax code in order to boost its fairness, reduce complexity and improve the economy.  
“Plain and simple, the tax code is broken.  Fixing it is the best way to spark long-term growth in our economy, create good-paying jobs, and make families’ lives easier,” Baucus and Camp said in a joint statement.  “Whether it’s a chat over coffee in a family’s kitchen or a meeting with business leaders and their employees, we’re hearing the same thing: the American people want a new tax code that’s fair and simple.  That’s what tax reform is about.”
The Chairmen began their day with a kitchen table conversation at the Sullivan Farm, a 6,000 acre, third-generation family operation just outside of Memphis.  Baucus and Camp sat down with John and Debbie Sullivan and discussed how the tax code affects the ways farmers manage their businesses, including how they plan their business operations and make investments in new equipment.  
The Chairmen next visited FedEx, where they met with executives and several of the company’s customers — small businesses from the Memphis area — to discuss how tax reform can make U.S. businesses more competitive, strengthen the economy, create good-paying jobs and lift wages.
The two Chairmen have been travelling the country getting input and feedback from the American people on the nation’s tax system, and today’s stop in Memphis was their fourth.  They began in Minnesota's twin cities, where they met with workers and executives at 3M as well as the owner of a family-owned bakery.  The tour then stopped in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where Baucus and Camp toured a pair of small businesses and heard about the challenges they face in dealing with the tax code.  While in Pennsylvania, they also met with an individual taxpayer who shared his story on their web site  The Chairmen next stopped in the Silicon Valley area, meeting with two high-tech businesses: Square, a San Francisco-based producer of mobile payment technology, and Intel, a Santa Clara-based manufacturer of microprocessors and other computer components.


                                                           Ways and Means Press Office