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 www.tn.gov/agriculture/ruralchallenge.