State Strawberry Crop Looks Strong Despite Recent Frosts

Friday, April 13, 2012 | 11:00 am
State Strawberry Crop Looks Strong
State Strawberry Crop Looks Strong

NASHVILLE – Thanks to a mild winter and a warm, sunny spring, Tennessee’s famous strawberry crop looks good despite the recent frosts.

“We had a pretty good frost in many areas of the state,” says Tammy Algood, fruit and vegetable marketing specialist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “However, temperatures in many places did not get as low as was predicted. The actual temperatures will vary depending on air drainage, ground cover and topography, but it’s fairly certain that some sites saw temperatures below freezing.”

“Our strawberry growers have ‘close calls’ every year, though,” says the specialist, “so they are set up and can react to cold events.”

Partially Africanized Bees Found in East Tennessee

Monday, April 09, 2012 | 12:17 pm

- Citizens should be vigilant but not alarmed -

VONORE, Tenn. – Tennessee’s first case of partially Africanized bees was confirmed through genetic testing last week in a colony belonging to a beekeeper in Monroe County. The colony has been depopulated and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is working with beekeepers in the area to determine if other bees could have been affected.

State Apiarist, Mike Studer, says it is no surprise that partially Africanized bees have made their way to Tennessee considering they have already been found in other states such as Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida. “I’m actually surprised it’s just now happening. We have been expecting this for some time,” Studer said. “Citizens need to be vigilant, but there’s no need to overreact. This is a situation that can be effectively managed through good beekeeping practices.

Agriculture and Forestry "Listening Sessions" Set Statewide

Thursday, April 05, 2012 | 02:42 pm

- Focus on Farm and Forest Issues, Rural Development Opportunities -

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is hosting a series of listening sessions across the state in April and May for farmers, forest landowners and agribusinesses. The purpose of the meetings is to hear stakeholder concerns about current issues and to explore opportunities for developing our rural economy and increasing farm and forest income.

“We want to be available to our producers, landowners and agribusinesses to hear their concerns and to get their input on how to enhance our rural communities and economy,” Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “This is also about ongoing efforts to look at how we, as an agency, can provide better service and be more responsive to challenges and opportunities.

“Agriculture and forestry are growing businesses in Tennessee. We must find the best ways to maintain and expand infrastructure while encouraging long-term profitability.”

Trapping Gets Underway for Tree Pest Across Tennessee

Tuesday, April 03, 2012 | 12:50 pm
EAB Trap
EAB Trap

- Purple Beetle Traps Going Up in Ash Trees -

NASHVILLE – Purple three-sided insect traps that resemble a box kite can be seen in ash trees from Mountain City to Memphis in the next few months as part of an expanded surveillance program by state and federal agencies.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA, APHIS) and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) are partnering to survey for Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a non-native, wood-boring beetle that has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the eastern United States and Canada.

“Trapping is a very important tool for us to know how extensive the infestation is and whether additional control measures are needed to slow it from spreading to new areas,” TDA Plant Certification administrator Gray Haun said. “This year, we are extending our trapping efforts across the state as a part of a national survey program.”

State Viticulture Advisory Board to Meet April 19

Friday, March 30, 2012 | 04:17 pm

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Viticulture Advisory Board is meeting April 19 at 10 a.m. CST at the DelMonaco Winery and Vineyards, located at 600 Lance Drive in Baxter, Tenn.

The agenda includes a review of board powers and duties and a discussion of the Biennial Viticulture Plan, which is required by the state to help identify opportunities and challenges for developing the grape growing industry.

Thompson Named TDA Food Manufacturing Administrator

Friday, March 30, 2012 | 02:38 pm
Bill Thompson
Bill Thompson

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson today announced the appointment of dairy industry veteran, William Thompson, as food manufacturing administrator.

“Bill will be able to look at food safety issues from a business perspective as well as a public health perspective,” Johnson said. “We are pleased to have someone with his experience joining the department.”

Thompson officially assumed his new duties on March 19. He replaced former food manufacturing administrator, John Sanford, who retired after 35 years of dedicating his career to food safety.

As food manufacturing administrator, Thompson’s duties will include reviewing food and dairy manufacturing processors and processes for compliance with current laws and regulations.

Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program Applications Now Available

Thursday, March 29, 2012 | 03:35 pm
TAEP Funded Hay Storage
TAEP Funded Hay Storage

- Farmers Encouraged to Apply for TAEP Funding -

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has released the 2012 application for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program. Applications must be postmarked or hand delivered June 1 – 7. Do not postmark prior to June 1.

An important change for this year is that requests for funding will now be approved based on applicant determined priorities instead of on a first come, first serve basis.

“Governor Haslam recognizes the importance of the Ag Enhancement program and has again proposed full funding of the program,” Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “This year, we’re putting more emphasis on helping farmers make strategic investments by asking them to prioritize their farm projects. This will help us reach more farmers and help us to be more deliberate about which projects get funded.”

Johnson Advocates for Agriculture at Mississippi River Commission

Monday, March 26, 2012 | 04:08 pm

- Ag Commissioner Calls for Restoration of Levees, Tributaries and Dams -

TIPTONVILLE, Tenn. – State Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson today called for the restoration of the levee system and for support of the West Tennessee tributaries project in a meeting of the Mississippi River Commission in Tiptonville, Tenn.

“The importance of maintaining access to markets for agricultural commodities via the Mississippi River cannot be overstated,” Johnson said. “The recent funding and development of the deep sea port at Cates Landing, for example, will undoubtedly provide Tennessee farmers and agribusinesses with a significant competitive advantage in the world market.”

Johnson’s comments were made as part of the commission and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ annual High Water Inspection Trip from Tiptonville to New Orleans March 26-30. The commission advises the Corps on planning and improvements to the river system.

Japanese Cherry Tree To Be Planted At Ellington Agricultural Center As Part of Historic 100 Year Celebration

Monday, March 26, 2012 | 11:10 am

NASHVILLE – The city of Nashville is part of a once-in-a-lifetime event celebrating the “Centennial of the Gift of Trees,” commemorating the gift of 3,000 Japanese Cherry Trees to Washington, D.C. in 1912.

Nashville is among few cities in the Southeast to receive 20 seedlings that are direct descendants of the original Tidal Basin trees in the nation’s capital. One of these seedlings will be planted at Ellington Agricultural Center on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 2pm.

The event will feature Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson, the Consul General of Japan Hiroshi Sato and TDA Assistant State Forester David Arnold planting the tree on the front lawn of the Moss Administration Building on the Ellington Ag Center campus.

Tennessee Department of Agriculture Crime Unit Makes Arrest in Switchgrass Arson Fire

Friday, March 23, 2012 | 01:10 pm
Switchgrass Arson Fire
Switchgrass Arson Fire

TELLICO PLAINS, Tenn – The TDA Agricultural Crime Unit has arrested two men who have confessed to setting fire to 1,430 bales of switchgrass worth approximately $45,000. Eighteen-year-old Damon O’Neil Shaw and 27-year-old Brian McJunkin, both of Tellico Plains, are charged with three counts each of setting fire to personal property or land, a class E felony.

“Because of the significant investment this property represents for the state and area farmers, we made this investigation a top priority,” state Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “I want to commend our Agricultural Crime Unit investigators for their quick response and hard work in breaking this case.”