News

UT Institute of Agriculture Will Soon Have New 4-H Camp and Conference Center

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It’s a stunning tract of Tennessee property – 1,200 acres of woods, pastures, lakes and farmland – and soon it will host 4-H campers and people of all ages looking for a great place to gather and learn.

A new 4-H camp and conference center is coming to Lone Oaks Farm in Hardeman County. Recently the Tennessee General Assembly approved the state budget for the next fiscal year, which includes funding for the Lone Oaks project.

“We are very appreciative the legislature saw the value and potential of having a 4-H camp and educational center that can be used by many Tennesseans,” said UT Institute of Agriculture Chancellor Larry Arrington. “It will be located in West Tennessee, but available to anyone looking for a unique center for learning. The new center will have a tremendous educational and economic impact.”

"The West Tennessee 4-H Center was one of the top budget priorities I advocated for this year. This facility will give UT Extension and 4-H a valuable tool for preparing our young people with the life skills they need to succeed and lead,” said UT System President Joe DiPietro. “In addition, the center also will serve as an interactive community resource for the West Tennessee region for many groups to explore and appreciate.”

Lone Oaks will be used to teach young people about agriculture, natural resources and science. Existing buildings on the property can also be used for organizational retreats and meetings by industry and agri-business groups.

Many site development features are already in place, including roads, fencing and utilities. A number of facilities and buildings are there as well, including lodging, a museum, a livestock sale area with seating for more than 300 people, and a commercial kitchen capable of serving 300 guests. Many lakes and ponds are at Lone Oaks, as well as an equestrian facility that can be used for both camp rides and hosting competitions.

According to a study conducted by the UT Center for Sustainable Business and Development, the 4-H and Conference Center could contribute $47 million to the region’s economy.

“Lone Oaks is a beautiful and versatile place,” says UT Extension Dean Tim Cross. “We believe UT Extension can now create a premiere 4-H Camp and Conference Center, and a place that all Tennesseans can proudly say represents our state.”

This process took several years, following the closure of the Buford Ellington 4-H Center in Milan in 2009 due to budget reductions and deteriorating conditions. UT Extension stakeholders wanted a new 4-H center to serve the western region of Tennessee, and listening sessions were then conducted involving Extension, UT alumni, 4-H volunteers, and community leaders and key supporters.

More than 7,000 contacts to legislators were made through the UT Advocacy network, and many more contacts were made outside the system by interested groups, especially members of the Tennessee Farm Bureau. To date, more than $4 million has been gifted or pledged to support the project.

“The investment by philanthropists helped to convince many caring stakeholders and lawmakers that 4-H is strongly supported statewide,” said Keith Barber, Vice Chancellor of UTIA Institutional Advancement. “The people and organizations who have provided financial assistance have proven that our youth are worth their investments.”

UT Extension operates three other 4-H centers across the state in Columbia, Crossville and Greeneville, and 13,000 kids attend programs at these facilities throughout the year. With the establishment of the new center in West Tennessee, more children who have not been able to participate in 4-H programs will now have the opportunity.

“I’m very excited to hear the news that the Lone Oaks project passed in Nashville,” said Gary Rodgers, UT Extension director for Hardeman County and longtime 4-H agent. “We look forward to beginning the process to make this an amazing center that will help meet the needs of a wide range of clientele. The possibilities are truly endless.”

The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and outreach through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.

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Contact: Chuck Denney, 865-974-7141, or cmdenney@utk.edu

Pick Tennessee Offers chance to "Fill Your Grill" with Farm-Direct Meats

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Facebook users have the chance to win $200 worth of local meats from a nearby farm. A contest is being conducted by Pick Tennessee Products, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s program that connects farmers directly to consumers.

A total of 12 winners will be randomly chosen at noon on June 15 and notified by Pick Tennessee Products.

Several Tennessee associations including the Tennessee Beef Industry Council, the Tennessee Pork Producers and the Tennessee Sheep Producers Association have partnered with Pick Tennessee to promote state meat producers and help fund the contest. TDA marketing specialist Wendy Sneed says it’s part of an effort to get the word out to consumers that purchasing meats directly from nearby farms is easy to do.

“Visit the Pick TN Products Facebook page,” Sneed said. “Click on the ‘Fill Your Grill’ posting, which is linked to a directory of participating farmers.” Contestants must choose which farm they would visit to collect their meats, then submit that choice with their own contact information.

To enter, search for “Pick TN Products” on Facebook. You will also find a link to the contest page on www.picktnproducts.org.

“Winners will be selected June 15 because we want to give winners a chance to claim their meats in time for the 4th of July,” said Sneed. “Of course, winners might prefer to put their prizes in their freezers to enjoy all their local meats a little at time, over a long period of time. One of the great things about this contest is that the choice is up to the contestant about what meats they want to purchase, and which cuts.  Each contestant just needs to be sure to choose the farm that offers what he or she wants, whether it’s beef, pork, lamb, goat, poultry—or some of everything.”

There is no cash prize. Entrants win the opportunity to go to a farm or local meats business and choose up to $200 of Tennessee meats. All funds will go directly to the farmer or business to reimburse them for their products.

Follow Pick TN Products on Facebook, Twitter and on the Web. More information about the contest is available on the “Fill Your Grill” contest page.

‘Get a Move on for GMOs’ Helps Farmers Stand Up for Biotechnology

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GetaMoveOn.fb.org is Farm Bureau’s just-launched advocacy website that gives farmers and ranchers a simple way to “Get a Move On” for GMOs. Through the website, farmers can easily express support for a national, science-based labeling standard, like the approach taken in the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 1599).

“Now is the time for farmers and ranchers to take action in support of innovation in agriculture,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “Access to crop traits that resist pests, diseases and drought stress is helping farmers across the nation grow more food using less land, water, fuel and pesticides,” Stallman said. “Biotechnology will offer even more benefits in the future.”

From the website, farmers and ranchers can send House members emails encouraging “yea” votes for the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The bill will clarify the Food and Drug Administration as the nation’s foremost authority on food safety and create a voluntary labeling program run by the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the same agency that administers the USDA Organic Program.

The legislation will provide a federal solution to protect consumers from a confusing patchwork of 50-state GMO labeling policies, and the misinformation and high food costs that would come with them.

Through GetaMoveOn.fb.org, farmers can not only connect with their lawmakers, but find state-by-state fact sheets detailing the value and share of GMO crops in each state. They can then share this information in their emails.

“It’s critical that we as farmers help our lawmakers understand that there’s a cost associated with discouraging agricultural innovation,” Stallman said. “That cost will go well beyond the higher prices consumers will pay at the supermarket if each state passes its own GMO labeling law,” he added.

In addition to the advocacy site, Farm Bureau’s grassroots toolkit continues to be a helpful resource for farmers and ranchers who want to share the many positives about biotechnology with policymakers, community members and others. Accessible at fb.org/biotech, this free online resource includes an overview of biotechnology; an explanation of biotechnology’s benefits to consumers, the environment, farmers, the U.S. economy, and more; links to credible sources for biotech information; and avenues for getting active on social media.

A strong consumer-focused resource is GMOAnswers.com, which allows people to ask any and all questions about GMOs. Responses come from independent experts in leading academic institutions, industry groups and representatives from Biotechnology Industry Organization member companies. The website also features studies, articles and safety data.

$145,000 Up for Grabs: Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge

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The American Farm Bureau Federation today announced applications for the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge will be accepted beginning June 1 through June 30. Entrepreneurs will compete for $145,000 in startup funds.

The challenge, now in its second year, provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations being cultivated in rural regions of the United States. It is the first national business competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs working on food and agriculture businesses.

“The inaugural challenge successfully identified rural entrepreneurs with innovative ideas, proving that great business ideas can germinate anywhere,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “We’re excited to see the new crop of ideas our members will bring to the table this year.”

New this year, competitors must have an idea for a business that is related directly or indirectly to food and agriculture. Businesses directly related to food and agriculture include farms or ranches, value-added food processing, food hubs, community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs), farm-to-table restaurants and farmers’ markets. Businesses indirectly related to food and agriculture include support services such as crop scouting, agritourism, ag advertising agencies and ag tech companies that develop apps.

Also new, Farm Bureau will endeavor to connect top-scoring teams with resources for crowdfunding loans to help them jumpstart their businesses.

“Taking a startup company from innovative concept, to strategy, to reality often hinges on access to capital,” said Dr. Lisa Benson, AFBF’s director of rural development. “The challenge and crowdfunding are great options for small rural business owners to access necessary funding to take their business to the next level.”

Again this year, competitors must be based in a rural community as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Competitors’ primary residences or businesses must be located in a county with less than 50,000 residents or a town with less than 2,500 residents.

All applications, which include a business plan, video pitch and photo, must be submitted by June 30. Judges will review the applications and provide feedback to the participants. Participants have the option of resubmitting portions of their applications; resubmission is optional and participants are not penalized for not resubmitting their applications.

The top 10 teams will be announced on Oct. 15. This includes six teams who will win $10,000 in startup funds and four finalist teams who will win $15,000 in startup funds and compete in a live competition at AFBF’s 97th Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida, in January.

Finalists will compete for the grand prize title Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneur of the Year and $15,000 in additional startup funds to implement their ideas. One of the finalists also will be honored with the People’s Choice Award and $10,000 in additional startup funding.

The competition timeline, detailed eligibility guidelines, a preview of the online application and profiles of the 2015 finalist teams are available at http://www.strongruralamerica.com/challenge.

Judges for the challenge come from a wide range of economic development backgrounds, including banking, universities and rural development non-profit organizations. Farm Bureau staff at the county, state and national level or one of Farm Bureau’s affiliate companies may not serve as judges or enter the competition.

About the American Farm Bureau Federation
With family members at the county or parish level in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, the American Farm Bureau Federation is the unified national “Voice of Agriculture,” working to enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans to build strong, prosperous agricultural communities. AFBF is the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots organization of farm and ranch families. Additional information may be found at fb.org and facebook.com/AmericanFarmBureau. Follow AFBF on Twitter: @FarmBureau.

For more information, go to the Farm Bureau Challenge Press Room.

Award-winning Tennessee Young Farmers Receive Tractors at Legislative Plaza

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Case IH presented three farm families their tractors at the Legislative Plaza for being named runners-up at the American Farm Bureau Convention. The presentation took place in front of the State Capitol on Monday, March 23 in conjunction with Ag Day on the Hill festivities.

The Tennessee Young Farmers & Ranchers took home honors in each of the three contests held at the national level of the American Farm Bureau Convention - the Achievement Award, Excellence in Agriculture and Discussion Meet. 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

Mark and Cindy Klepper of Greene County were named runners-up in the Achievement Contest, which recognizes young farmers who have excelled in their farming 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. The Kleppers farm 1700 acres of corn, soybeans and hay; raise nearly 100 cows and more than 920,000 chickens for Koch Foods. They received a Case IH Farmall 65A tractor.

Michael and Amy Shirley of Rutherford County were named runners-up in the Excellence in Agriculture Contest, which recognizes young farmers who do not derive the majority of their income from a farm, but actively contribute and grow through involvement in agriculture, their leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations. The Shirleys, in addition to their farm, both have off-the-farm jobs – Michael as an Extension agent in the county and Amy as a small-animal veterinarian. They received a Case IH Farmall 45A tractor.

Doug Giles of Williamson County was named runner-up in the Discussion Meet, which 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 topic. Giles made it all the way to the final four after three rounds of competition and was announced as a runner-up on stage. He received a Case IH 55A tractor.

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For more information, please contact Melissa Bratton, editor Tennessee Farm Bureau News. mbratton@tfbf.com

New Leadership in Tennessee Youth Ag Leadership Programs

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New leadership to serve youth agricultural leadership programs 4-H and FFA were recently elected at the Tennessee State FFA Convention and Tennessee 4-H Congress respectively.

4-H Congress elected Kendall Garrell from Lincoln County as Governor; Heath Quick from Shelby County as Speaker of the Senate and Timothy Martin from Shelby County as Speaker of the House.

Tennessee FFA elected Chelsea Sanders from Wilson Central as State FFA President; Emily White from Daniel Boone as East TN Vice President; Derek Anderson from Coffee County as Middle TN Vice President; Madison Benson from Scotts Hill as West TN Vice President; Dalton Teel from Lebanon as Secretary; Chad Lewis from Halls as Treasurer; Chelsea Wattenbarger from Stone as Reporter and Stephen McNeil from Portland as Sentinel.

These young leaders will serve over the next year, representing their respective organizations at various conferences, leadership events, contests and businesses - showcasing their talents and skills they have gained through their leadership in these two premier youth groups. The future is bright with youth such as these leading our agricultural organizations.

March 1 Planting Intentions

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Farmers in Tennessee intend to plant 840 thousand acres of corn, 80,000 lower than 2014. U.S. corn growers intend to plant 89.2 million acres for all purposes in 2015, down 2 percent from last year and 6 percent lower than 2013. Soybean acreage in Tennessee was expected to total 1.80 million acres, up 160,000 acres from the previous year. U.S. soybean planted area for 2015 is estimated at 84.6 million acres, up 1 percent from last year.

Burley tobacco growers in Tennessee intend to set 14,000 acres for harvest, down 1,500 acres from 2014. For the burley producing States, growers intend to set 93,700 acres, 8 percent below last year. Producers intend to set 7,200 acres of dark-fired tobacco in Tennessee, down 400 acres from the previous year. Acreage set to dark-air tobacco was estimated at 1,200 acres, up 50 acres from 2014.
 
Winter wheat seeded by Tennessee farmers in the fall of 2014 totaled 470,000 acres, down 60,000 acres from previous year. Seeded acreage for the nation was 40.8 million acres, down 4
percent from 2014. Upland cotton acreage in Tennessee was expected to total 170 thousand acres, down 105,000 acres from the previous year. U.S. all cotton acreage for 2015 is estimated at 9.55 million acres, down 13 percent from last year.
 
Farmers in the state intend to harvest 1.85 million acres of all hay, up 84,000 from 2014. U.S. farmers intend on harvesting 57.1 million acres of hay in 2015, up slightly from last year. The acreage of all hay harvested during a summer depends to a great measure on the moisture received during the growing season and temperatures experienced. With a drier summer farmers will cut more hay to feed their cattle.

Farmers and Ranchers Warn: Estate Taxes Can Kill Family Businesses

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Farm Bureau member Brandon Whitt urged Congress to repeal the estate tax to free up farmers and ranchers to build stronger businesses and benefit their local communities. Whitt, who farms in Tennessee, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee, where he outlined the harmful impact the estate tax has on family-owned businesses.

“Agriculture looks different on farms from state to state but we all face the same reality that an uncertain tomorrow can bring,” Whitt said. While facing unpredictable weather and fluctuating markets, farmers and ranchers make decisions to expand their businesses and remain competitive. “Why should uncertainties over estate taxes be added to these others? Our job is hard enough as it is.”

Whitt’s family knows the harmful effects of the estate tax firsthand. Batey Farms, which Whitt runs with his wife – the 7th generation on the farm – and father-in-law, changed completely when his father-in-law was forced to sell off land to pay estate taxes: The land was lost to development, never to be recovered. Today, they continue to face expensive, long-term decisions to make Batey Farms viable far into the future, but they are committed to preserving the land for their community and future generations.

“We believe that our farm adds value to our town, that our neighbors value our open space, that our customers value having a local food source and that our farm market creates a sense of community,” Whitt said.

Around 90 percent of farm and ranch assets are illiquid, with the value tied up in land, buildings and equipment. For Whitt’s family, and thousands of others just like them, the ability to grow a business and pass it on to the next generation is slowed by a tax policy in direct conflict with the desire to preserve and protect our nation’s family-owned farms and ranches.

Tennessee Celebrates Ag Week

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We are celebrating Ag Week this week in Tennessee, but National Ag Day recognizes and celebrates the abundance provided by American agriculture. Every spring, producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and others across the country join together in recognition - and appreciation - of agriculture in our country. There are over seven billion people in the world today - that's over seven billion mouths to feed every day. Show your appreciation for the individuals that make this feat possible on Ag Day. Join us March 18, 2015 to show your appreciation to all those in the agriculture industry. ‪#‎agday2015‬

Governor Bill Haslam has proclaimed March 18 as Agriculture Day in Tennessee. This day coincides with National Agriculture Day to celebrate the abundance provided by the farms and producers of America.

“We thank Gov. Haslam for recognizing the influence of agriculture on our state,” Commissioner of Agriculture Julius Johnson said. “As the world population soars, the demand for food, fiber and fuel continues to grow. Tennessee is helping to meet that demand.”

Agriculture contributes to almost everything we eat, use and wear every day. The purpose of Agriculture Day is to unite Tennesseans and to appreciate the role the industry plays in our lives.

“We want to thank the farmers who produce the crops and livestock, the staff who support the industry, and the individuals who use Tennessee products to improve the world,” Commissioner Johnson added. “Although our state is incredibly diverse in people and landscape, we can all agree to the importance of agriculture.”

Tennessee Agriculture by the Numbers
• 68,000 farms
• 10.9 million acres of farmland
• More than $4.1 billion in annual farm income
• Nearly $1 billion in annual exports

Tennessee’s Top-Selling Commodities
1. Soybeans
2. Cattle
3. Corn
4. Broiler Chickens
5. Cotton

The celebration will continue March 24 with Ag Day on the Hill when the General Assembly will experience much of what Tennessee agriculture has to offer. The event gets underway at Legislative Plaza in Nashville at 8 a.m. with live animals and displays from all sectors of Tennessee agriculture. House and Senate members will compete at 9 a.m. in a corn shelling contest.

Festivities also include a silent auction to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank and a sweet potato bagging project for the Society of St. Andrew.

Tennessee to Check for Livestock Traceability Compliance Starting Jan. 1

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The Tennessee Department of Agriculture will conduct routine compliance checks beginning Jan. 1, 2015 for the federal Animal Disease Traceability rule. The rule went into effect last year and requires the identification of livestock being transported across state lines.

“The federal rule is an effective way to trace the movement of livestock in an animal disease event so that appropriate action can be taken to limit the impact on producers,” state veterinarian Charles Hatcher said. “The rule only applies to livestock being moved interstate, but it’s important that Tennessee farmers work with their local veterinarian to obtain proper documentation.”

The ADT rule requires all livestock, including cattle, equine, sheep and goats, swine and poultry, being moved interstate to be officially identified, unless specifically exempted. Livestock must be accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.

Brands, tattoos and brand registration can also be used as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving states. Backtags are accepted as an alternative to official eartags for cattle moved directly to slaughter.

Animal health documentation is still required by the state under certain circumstances for livestock being moved within Tennessee. Additionally, some states have documentation requirements that go beyond the federal rule. Producers should consult with their veterinarians to make sure that any livestock that is transported complies with all regulations.
TDA is working to implement a user-friendly online system already adopted by 20 other states that will allow private veterinarians to submit and access documents electronically in order to help with compliance. Veterinarians interested in participating should contact the State Veterinarian’s office at 615-837-5120 or animal.health@tn.gov.

For more information, visit USDA’s website at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/ or www.TN.gov/agriculture for details about Tennessee’s animal health programs.  

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