Press Releases

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,


Rutherford County’s Brandon and Katherine Whitt win state young farmer honors

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Rutherford County young farm couple Brandon and Katherine Whitt were named Tennessee Farm Bureau’s Outstanding Young Farmer and Achievement Award winners during special ceremonies at the Tennessee Young Farmer Summer Conference. The young row crop and swine farmers from the Blackman community, bested 16 other county contestants in state competition held at the headquarter offices of the Tennessee Farm Bureau in Columbia, Tenn., to be named the state winners and to also have the opportunity to compete for national honors in January.
Brandon and Katherine were named this year’s winners based upon farm and financial records from the farm year 2012. 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 his community. Brandon has served on the Board of Directors of the Rutherford County Farm Bureau since 2004 and was state chairman of the Tennessee YF&R in 2012. Both are very active in their church. The Whitts have three children.
The rewards for being named the state winner are many. They receive a year’s free use of a brand new Case/IH tractor up to 150 hours. They also received $500 from Tennessee Farm Bureau, a fully loaded RTV to keep from Tennessee Farm Bureau, an insurance policy to cover the tractor for one year from Farm Bureau Insurance of Tennessee and a trip to the American Farm Bureau Convention in San Antonio, Texas in January 2014, where he will compete for national honors with other state winners for national awards. The national will get their choice of a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado or 2014 GMC Sierra, courtesy of GM and paid registration to the 2014 YF&R Leadership Conference in Virginia Beach, February 7-10. Three national runners-up will receive a Case IH Farmall tractor, courtesy of Case IH, and a $2,500 cash prize and $500 in merchandise courtesy of STIHL.

Tennessee Farm Bureau Congratulates Senate on Passage of Farm Bill

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The Tennessee Farm Bureau is glad to congratulate the Senate on the passage last evening of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act (2013 farm bill) after the legislation was agreed upon by a bipartisan vote of 66-27.  According to TFBF President Lacy Upchurch, the Senate version of the farm bill will eliminate direct payments to farmers while strengthening needed risk-management tools and a viable economic as well as natural resource safety net.

“The Senate’s vote last evening puts us closer to having a farm bill available for our farmers come August. We do appreciate the Senate’s decision to protect and strengthen the federal crop insurance program and not reduce its funding,” Upchurch said. “We now look forward to working with our Tennessee congressional delegation as the House moves forward with its farm bill legislation. With hopefully their completion coming in the next few weeks, our farmers can have certainty for planting and planning once again for the coming year.”

It’s reported from day one in the debate, agriculture expressed its willingness to rework the farm bill to help reduce the federal deficit, and the budget savings level of $24 billion in this proposed farm bill is a big step toward that goal.

Official statement from the Tennessee Farm Bureau regarding the veto by the governor of the Livestock Protection Act legislation

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Columbia, TN (May 13, 2012) We respect Governor Haslam’s decision and appreciate his due diligence in considering the various aspects of the Livestock Protection Act (SB1248 Gresham and HB1191 Holt).  Although we are disappointed, we are appreciative of his recognition that well-established, long-accepted agricultural practices on farms are vulnerable to unfair attacks through misrepresentation and deception.  We also appreciate the sponsors and all those members of the General Assembly who believe in and support Tennessee farmers.

For the farm community this bill was all about protecting animals by stopping abuse quickly and ending the exploitation for sensationalism. Our farmers take the responsibility to care for animals very seriously. We will continue to be optimistic that we can care for animals and work to prevent animal cruelty.

Looking forward, our farmers will continue to display the relationship between farmers and their animals that was eloquently captured by Paul Harvey in his 1978 speech to the National FFA Convention. As caretakers, farmers have many times stayed up all night to care for a weak newborn…only to watch it die. “Then the farmer dries his eyes and says, ‘Maybe next year.'…… So God made a farmer.”

To see a copy of Governor Haslam's statement, click here.

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Ag Day on the Hill

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April 2, 2013 was proclaimed “Agriculture Day on the Hill” in Tennessee by Governor Bill Haslam.  To celebrate the occasion, commodity groups and agriculture businesses from across Tennessee gathered in Nashville to help tell agriculture’s story to the legislature and people visiting the Legislative Plaza.

The halls inside the plaza were lined with informative and impressive booths touting agriculture’s top commodities and commodity groups, agricultural colleges and organizations that support the agriculture industry in Tennessee.  And outside on the Legislative Plaza was a sight that had to be seen to be believed.

It’s not very often these days that you see cows, pigs, chickens, mules, sheep and goats munching on hay and feed in the middle of Nashville and especially at the entrance to the state legislature, but that is what passersby saw that Tuesday…and if they happened to walk by around 9:45, they also saw quite a crowd gathered to cheer on the rematch of Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey in a milking contest.  After last year’s challenge of milking goats, this year returned to the more traditional dairy cows for the contestants to milk, with Speaker Harwell milking a Brown Swiss named Giggles and Lt. Gov. Ramsey milking a Holstein named Rascal.  It would seem the odds were in Lt. Gov. Ramsey’s favor, having grown up on a dairy farm and around animals all his life, while Speaker Harwell is a self-proclaimed city-girl; but in the end Speaker Harwell emerged the victor for the 2nd year in a row, narrowly pulling out a win over Ramsey.  Pettus Read, president of the Farm and Forest Families of Tennessee, who sponsors and helps put on Ag Day on the Hill in conjunction with the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, presented Speaker Harwell with a trophy pail proclaiming her as a person “with a lot of pull” in Nashville and a $750 donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank in her name.

After those festivities, a standing-room only crowd gathered in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee meeting, which, after dealing with the business for the day, showcased some of agriculture’s finest – including State 4-H Council Secretary Rachael Wolters and State FFA President Sarah Best, who each spoke eloquently on what their respective youth organizations have provided them and the youth of the state; Commissioner of Agriculture Julius Johnson, who shared what a vital industry agriculture is to Tennessee and the impact it makes on the economy; and a very special recognition to Tennessee Farm Bureau’s own Director of Communications Pettus Read – who received a joint resolution signed by both Houses and the Governor honoring him for his many years of dedicated service to agriculture in Tennessee and his outstanding efforts to be the voice for the farmers across the state.

Washington County Farmer Jeff Aiken Elected VP of Nation’s Largest State Farm Bureau

jeff aiken, tennessee farm bureau
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During their 91st annual convention held at Franklin’s Cool Springs Marriott, the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation’s delegates, representing agriculture and farmers across the state, not only debated policy proposals and passed resolutions to work on passage of legislation in 2013 at the state and federal levels, they also elected a new vice president of the nation’s largest state Farm Bureau organization.

Washington county beef, dairy and tobacco farmer Jeff Aiken was elected today by the voting delegate body to serve as the organization’s vice president that represents more than 657,000 family members in Tennessee. Aiken has served as a director-at-large on the state board of directors since 1998 when he was elected to that office by the Farm Bureau’s county leadership statewide.  He has headed up numerous committees at the state level, as well as being his county’s president for many years.  He has held the office of state YF&R chairman and was the 1992 Tennessee Young Farmer of the Year.

The new Tennessee Farm Bureau vice president is a native of Washington County.  He and his wife Carol farm near Tedford in upper East Tennessee where he produces corn, 100 acres of tobacco and over 300 head of beef cattle.

Elected to replace Aiken as director-at-large during the organization’s business session was David Richesin of Loudon County. Richesin and his wife Becky farm more than 800 acres of row crops near Philadelphia, Tenn. He has an ag business degree from the University of Tennessee and is also a former winner of the YF&R Young Farmer of the Year award in 1999. Both he and his wife have served on numerous Farm Bureau committees at all levels and have three sons also involved in the family farming operation.

Others re-elected to the board of directors by the voting delegates were: Charles Hancock from Bumpus Mills, Mrs. Catherine Via from Alamo, Malcolm Burchfiel from Newbern, Eric Mayberry from Hurricane Mills, James Haskew from South Pittsburg, Dan Hancock from Smithville, David Mitchell from Blaine and Mrs. Jane May, State Women’s chairman from Newbern.

Also during the annual meeting, Jimmy McAllister of Greene County was selected as the new state Young Farmer and Rancher chairman.




For additonal information contact: Pettus L. Read, Director of Communications TFBF

Statement by Lacy Upchurch, President, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding Election

“The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation congratulates President Barack Obama on his re-election as well as those elected from Tennessee to serve in the 113th Congress and those state leaders elected to serve in the 108th Tennessee General Assembly. 

“There are a number of important issues that need to be addressed both at the national and state level and we have to come together in a bipartisan fashion to resolve those issues for the benefit of our country and American agriculture. 

“We are hopeful that Congress can move forward and approve a new farm bill during the lame duck session of the 112th Congress to ensure a safe and affordable food supply for our country and maintain a safety net for our farmers and ranchers who provide our food security.

“Farm Bureau looks forward to working in a cooperative manner to help the administration and all elected officials to continue improving the lives of our farm families, rural communities and all Americans.”


Statement by Lacy Upchurch, President, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation on Senate Passage of Farm Bill

February 4, 2014 - The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation commends the U.S. Senate for passage today of the new five-year farm bill.  While it’s been a long road to get to this point, we are pleased with the bi-partisan support of this legislation from both the Senate and House.

This bill, with the President’s signature, will allow our farmers to move forward this year with certainty in their business decisions and give them confidence in preparing for another crop.

Agriculture is our most important industry in Tennessee, contributing billions of dollars to our economy each year.  We are really glad to see that this farm bill is fiscally responsible, saving taxpayers more than $16 billion over the next decade by eliminating direct payments and strengthening risk management tools. 

We especially want to thank Sen. Lamar Alexander for his support and vote of the farm bill along with our delegation in the House, including Rep. Dianne Black, Rep. Stephen Fincher and Rep. Phil Roe.

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Lee Maddox, Director of Communications

931-388-7872 ext. 2520

Day of Prayer for Those Affected by Drought

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Tomorrow, the American Farm Bureau Federation will be asking Americans all across this nation to take time out and remember those facing severe struggles due to this year’s devastating drought. The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation is also urging all fellow Tennesseans to give time in prayer remembering those individuals and families facing challenges related to the ongoing drought during this National Day of Prayer for Drought Victims.

“There is hardly a person involved in agriculture this year who has not been adversely affected by the drought of 2012,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “And while many farm and ranch families are feeling the effects immediately due to withered crops, parched pastures, higher feed costs, or even wildfires, the lingering effects of this drought will be felt all across our nation for many months to come.”

Tennessee Farm Bureau President Lacy Upchurch also joined the American organization’s president by requesting those within the Volunteer State to unify in prayer for those hurting. He said, “We have always been known in the farming communities of our state as a group of people who come together when times get tough. This year’s drought has called for much unity, compassion and faith in the One above. Let’s take time tomorrow to offer up a prayer for those still fighting the effects of drought in our country today, and for what the future may hold due to on going effects in months ahead, that we all may feel.”


Repeal of State Inheritance Tax Pleases Farmers

A major hurdle for farmers who wish to pass their farms on to their children will disappear in 2016.  Reforming the inheritance tax has been a Farm Bureau priority issue for many years and that hard work is finally paying off as legislation made its way through the process to end Tennessee’s inheritance tax.

 In January, Gov. Bill Haslam announced that his budget included raising the inheritance tax exemption level from $1 million to $1.25 million and he planned to eventually raise the exemption level to match the federal inheritance tax exemption of $5 million.  Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Randy McNally sponsored the Senate version while House Finance, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Sargent was the House sponsor. Thanks to leadership from both chairmen, an agreement was reached with the administration to go further.  After final passage last week in the senate, the legislation now waits for the signature of the governor. It increases the exemption level to $1.25 million in 2013, $2 million in 2014, $5 million in 2015 and eliminates the tax in 2016.

After the final vote in the senate chambers Tennessee Farm Bureau President Lacy Upchurch said, “The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation is extremely pleased with the work of the Tennessee Legislature in repealing the death tax on the state level. This has been an issue for us for a number of years and our leadership has put in a lot of hours working to get the federal and state death tax repealed. That hard work led to the exemption we now have at the federal level of up to $5 million dollars, and we are extremely pleased with the state legislature and their wisdom to repeal it completely on the state level.

“The general public is beginning to realize the importance of agriculture and food production in this country and how important it is to keep farm families on the farm working to produce that food. In many cases, farmers were forced to sell part of their land in order to pay the death tax, and the elimination of it allows farmers to stay on their land.

“We would also like to thank Governor Haslam, who, in his State of the State address started the process of eliminating this tax. Through the leadership of Senator McNally and Representative Sargent as sponsors, we worked with the legislature in a bi-partisan effort and they agreed to try and push for total elimination. The legislature, the governor and we think it will add jobs to Tennessee and certainly relieve a lot of our farm families of the necessity of paying taxes on land they’ve already been paying taxes on for years.” 

The full repeal of the inheritance tax is a significant tax reform for farmers and other agribusinesses. When farm owners pass away and their land and business are transferred to their children, heirs are required to pay taxes on the transaction. Since many farmers hold their investments in land and equipment rather than large amounts of cash, farms are often split and sold to pay the tax. Not only is this double-taxing earnings by the farmer, this all comes at a time when the family is grieving the loss of a loved one.