Press Releases

State Vet: ‘Wild-Appearing Swine’ Must Have ID

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture; July 3, 2013:

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture today announced a revised Order by the State Veterinarian specifying conditions under which wild-appearing hogs are to be transported in the state.

The revised order, which went into effect June 10, is in support of legislation passed last year by the Tennessee General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam making it illegal to transport and release wild-appearing hogs without documentation from the department.

“Wild hogs have the propensity to reproduce in great numbers, carry diseases, destroy crops and cause serious ecological damage,” state veterinarian Charles Hatcher, DVM, said. “The new order strengthens efforts to prevent the illegal transportation and releasing of wild hogs by requiring individual animal identification and documentation for all wild-appearing hogs being moved.”

Wild hogs are typically two to three feet tall and up to five feet long with larger heads and heavier shoulders compared to domesticated breeds. Wild hogs also have smaller, pointed and heavily furred ears, longer snouts, tusks and straight tails.

The previous order exempted individual animal identification in specific cases. The revised order requires all wild-appearing swine being moved within Tennessee to have state or federally approved individual animal identification and:

  • Proof that each individual animal has tested negative for Pseudorabies and Brucellosis within 90 days of movement; or
  • Proof that each individual animal originated from a Validated Brucellosis-free and Qualifed Pseudorabies-negative herd; or
  • Have a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection from a Tennessee licensed and USDA accredited veterinarian listing each animal; or
  • A movement authorization number from the state veterinarian’s office for wild-appearing hogs being moved directly to an approved slaughter facility or slaughter-only market.

Authorization numbers for wild-appearing hogs intended for slaughter can be obtained by phone Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. central time by calling the state veterinarian’s office at 615-837-5120. Producers will be required to provide information including the number of swine and the place of origin and destination.

For more information or to view the state veterinarian’s order visit TDA at and click on the Animal Health Information link.

Liberty and Justice

‘Ag-Gag’ on Guv’s Desk; AG Yet to Opine

Rep. Mike Stewart, who voted against the so-called “ag-gag” bill, is still waiting for an Attorney General’s opinion on the constitutionality of the legislation, which arrived on Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk only just at the end of last week.

Haslam has until May 15 to veto it, sign it or let it become law automatically without his endorsement.

The bill, sponsored in the state House by Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and in the Senate by Somerville Republican Dolores Gresham, requires anyone who films or photographs animal abuse to hand the material over to law enforcement within 48 hours. The Legislation passed both chambers last month.

Even though the bill passed the House on April 17, its last hurdle in the General Assembly, the speakers of the two chambers did not sign it until May 1.

Kara Owen, deputy chief of staff for communications and policy for House Speaker Rep. Beth Harwell, said it was a logistics issue. She said it was not uncommon when there are so many bills that pass the last few days of the session for there to be a delay in having them engrossed and sent to the proper speaker’s office for his or her signature.

On the day the bill passed the House, Stewart, a Democrat, asked for a state attorney general’s opinion “to see if it violates the first amendment as it relates to freedom of the press and how it will affect the proprietary rights to their work product such as video or photographs taken as part of the undercover investigation.”

As of Tuesday morning, no opinion had been issued by Attorney General Robert Cooper’s office. However, the Nashville legislator’s assistant Delano Brent said she did receive an email from the AG’s office that stated an opinion could be issued by Friday.

Supporters contend that the measure is meant to encourage whistleblowers to come forward and stop illegal treatment of animals as quickly as possible. Critics, however, argue that it is actually an industry protection law, created to stop journalists and animal rights groups from gathering enough evidence to prove cases of continuing abuse.

Holt told TNReport on the legislative session’s final day that after discussing the measure with Haslam, he’s confident that it would become law. He also defended the intentions behind the legislation, charging that the Humane Society of the U.S. was demonizing it to raise money.

“The truest intent of this bill is to protect animals – especially from ongoing investigations like we’ve seen many times in the past from HSUS,” Holt said. “This is a radical animal activist group that raises literally hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Rep. Susan Lynn, a Republican, voted against the bill saying it violates free speech and that it criminalizes those who are seeking to stop animal abuse. On the day of the House vote, Lynn said the bill “is coercion by government of the worst kind.”

Lynn said she talked to Haslam before the last session and asked him to wait before signing it until the Attorney General opinion had come back.

The Mt. Juliet representative also noted that the bill did not go through the House Judiciary Committee after the criminal statute was added to it as an amendment in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. She said that move was wrong.

Opponents to the bill include lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the HSUS, as well as celebrities like Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris and Ellen DeGeneres. On Friday, members of the Clergy for Justice faith community delivered a letter to Haslam urging him not to sign it.

Last week, the governor said he had not made up his mind how he will proceed with the legislation. He said he sympathizes with farmers, while also understanding the arguments against it.

While the bill passed in the Senate 22-9, it passed in the House 50-43-2 on a razor’s edge. One vote less and it would have failed for lack of majority, making an override of a veto unlikely.

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at, on Twitter @DwnHomePolitics or at 615-442-8667.

John Klein Wilson contributed to this story.



Press Releases

Legislators to Celebrate ‘Ag Day on the Hill’ on April 2

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture; March 26, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee lawmakers will celebrate Ag Day on the Hill on April 2 at Legislative Plaza. The day will highlight the importance of farming and forestry to the state of Tennessee.

Ag Day on the Hill will feature a variety of exhibits and activities including:

  • A milking contest between Senate and House members
  • A cattle weighing contest
  • Live animals – cattle, goats, pigs, chicken, sheep, bees, mules and horses
  • Crops and farm equipment
  • Special presentations to the House Agriculture Committee
  • Ag Day on the Hill will begin at 8 a.m. with displays from agricultural organizations lining the halls while the contests, live animals, crops and farm equipment will be located at the courtyard entrance to Legislative Plaza. The annual milking contest will take place at 9:45 a.m. Special presentations to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee get underway at 10:30 a.m. The winner of the cattle weighing contest, to be announced during the committee meeting, will receive a Pick Tennessee Products gift basket.

Ag Day on the Hill will again benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, which will have collection bins available at Legislative Plaza throughout the day. Participants, exhibitors and visitors are encouraged to bring nonperishable items for donation. The Farm and Forest Families of Tennessee organization will present a check to Second Harvest in honor of the milking contest winner.

Tennessee has 77,300 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, poultry, corn, cotton, greenhouse and nursery products, timber, dairy products, wheat, tobacco and hay. Agriculture and forestry contribute more than $71 billion a year to the state’s economy and employs nearly 364,000 residents.

Ag Day Proclamation

Press Releases

Government’s Tips for County Fair Safety

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Health; August 14, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Thousands of Tennesseans will be enjoying the sights, sounds and foods of county fairs in the upcoming weeks. The Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture remind visitors and exhibitors to prepare for a healthy trip to the fairgrounds by remembering the following tips:

  • Wear a hat and sunscreen, preferably a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Apply liberally and often. Sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection should also be worn during daylight hours.
  • Wear long, loose and light-colored clothing to protect against insects and sun. Also remember to wear insect repellants that contain 20-50 percent or more of DEET on exposed skin.
  • Drink water to avoid heat-related illnesses and limit sugary beverages with caffeine.
  • Be thoughtful in choosing foods. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure or weight-related health issues, remember to enjoy foods in moderation.
  • If you feel weak or light-headed, find a cool place to sit and rest. If there is an air-conditioned building on the property, go there, and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Most fairs have emergency medical personnel to provide aid.
  • If you take medications, be sure to have them with you in case you need them and make sure you carry emergency contact information in case you become ill.
  • Be aware of noise levels if you bring small children to the fair. Some loudspeakers and other sound-carrying devices can damage developing ears. An inexpensive set of earplugs is a convenient way to protect hearing.
  • Wash hands well with soap and running water before and after exposure to animals. Don’t eat, drink or allow children to put things in their mouths while in animal areas.

Livestock exhibits are also popular attractions at fairs, and the Tennessee Department of Health is working cooperatively with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to help safeguard the health of people and animals. Some states have reported cases of a strain of influenza that has thus far been mild, known as H3N2v, that has infected pigs and, in some cases, humans in close contact with them. No cases of H3N2v have been reported in Tennessee.

Whenever individuals visit a petting zoo or livestock exhibit they should avoid eating and drinking around animals and wash their hands carefully with warm soapy water afterward. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers alone may not be effective. Parents should avoid taking strollers into areas where livestock are kept, and children should not take toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles or similar items into animal barns.

“We want the public to enjoy and support their local fair but to also observe good health practices while around livestock for their own protection and that of the animals,” says State Veterinarian Charles Hatcher, DVM.

TDA and TDH are monitoring the situation closely and want the public to have increased awareness about precautions. Officials also note there is no risk in eating properly cooked pork products.

Press Releases

State Prohibits Open-Air Burning for 7 Counties, More Expected

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture; June 29, 2012:  

NASHVILLE – State Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson has issued a burn ban for Cheatham, Dickson, Gibson, Giles, Marshall, Maury and Sumner counties. The burn ban is effective immediately and will remain in place until further notice.

The ban applies to all open-air burning including leaf and woody debris and construction burning, campfires, outdoor grills and other fire activity outside of municipalities where local ordinances apply.

Under state law, the commissioner of agriculture, in consultation with the state forester, has the authority to issue burn bans at the request of county mayors under certain weather conditions. Requests from county mayors for a burn ban are considered in consultation with the state forester based on a number of factors including weather, climate, fire danger, fire occurrence and resource availability.

“We’re working with local officials to take action when requested and where appropriate to reduce the risk to citizens, property and emergency workers,” Johnson said. “With the extremely dry conditions and little prospect for rain anytime soon, we want to encourage the public to use good judgment and to avoid situations that can cause fire, even in areas not covered under a burn ban.”

A violation of a Commissioner of Agriculture Burn Ban is considered reckless burning and is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor which carries a fine of $2,500 and/or up to 11 months 29 days in jail.

The burn ban does not prohibit the use of fireworks. However, citizens should check for local restrictions and are encouraged to attend public displays as an alternative to shooting fireworks themselves for the Fourth of July holiday.

In areas not under a burn ban, the public is asked to refrain from debris burning until significant precipitation is received and to avoid other activities that could cause fire.

State and local firefighters are seeing an increase in fire activity statewide. Major causes include sparks from field equipment and vehicles, escaped debris burns, discarded cigarettes, lightening, campfires, arson and fireworks. Citizens can help support their local fire departments by checking for and following local burn restrictions and quickly reporting any wildfire.

Counties currently under a burn ban, additional fire safety tips and wildfire information can be found on the TDA Division of Forestry’s wildfire prevention website at

Note: A press release from TDA will not necessarily be released for each new county added to the list of the Commissioner of Agriculture Burn Bans. Please check for updated information.

Press Releases

Ag Dept. Hosting Rural Economic Development ‘Listening Sessions’

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture; April 5, 2012:

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.”

A total of five listening sessions are scheduled with two being devoted specifically to discussing forestry issues as follows:

Agriculture Listening Sessions

April 19 at 10 a.m. EDT – Bradley Co., Tri-State Exhibition Center, I-75 Exit 20

April 26 at 7 p.m. CDT – Weakley Co., Moore Farms, 2887 Paris Hwy. 54, Dresden

May 1 at 7 p.m. CDT – Coffee Co., Farm Bureau Insurance, 225 E. Main St., Manchester

Forestry Listening Sessions

May 3 at 7 p.m. CDT – Lawrence Co., Columbia State Community College Conference Room, 1620 Springer Rd., Lawrenceburg

May 15 at 7 p.m. CDT – Cumberland Co., Cumberland Co. Fairgrounds Multi-Purpose Room, 1398 Livingston Rd., Crossville

The agenda for the sessions include remarks by Commissioner Johnson and an overview of the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program and the recently formed Agriculture and Forestry Economic Development Task Force. There will also be time for open discussion by participants.

More listening sessions will be planned for the fall to include a focus on other industry sectors. For more information about the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, visit

Press Releases

State Ag Dept. Names New Chief Regulator for TN Food, Dairy Processors

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, March 30, 2012:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson on March 30 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.

This includes identifying hazards that could potentially cause contamination of food or food products. In addition, he trains and advises food and dairy inspectors as well as industry personnel in areas of food safety regulations and guidelines, inspection techniques, processing equipment engineering, manufacturing and assessment and in-house water supply safety.

Thompson has more than 30 years experience in various dairy industry positions. He spent the last five years working for Dean Foods, has worked as director of operations for La Quesera Mexicana in Greeneville, Tenn. and was also a quality assurance manager for an ice cream facility in Alabama, just to name a few.

“I have worked closely with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture in my industry experience and it has been a career goal to work for the department,” Thompson said. “It was an honor just to be considered for the position of food manufacturing administrator. I am thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of a program that is so well respected.”

The TDA’s Regulatory Services Division works to ensure a safe food supply for the people of Tennessee by inspecting dairy farms, plants, milk transport trucks, dairy and trade product distributors and milk samplers and registers dairy products. The division also licenses and inspects retail food stores, food manufacturers, warehouses and distributors. In 2011, the TDA inspected 6,508 retail establishments, 1,205 food manufacturers, 551 food warehouses, 439 dairy farms and 26 dairy processing facilities.

Press Releases

Nursery Growers Advising First Lady Haslam on Tennessee Residence Landscape Renovation

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Feb 15, 2012:

First Lady Crissy Haslam and Commissioner Johnson tour Randall Walker Farms Nursery in Morrison, TN.

NASHVILLE – Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam met Feb. 15 with nursery growers and industry leaders and toured local nurseries to highlight Tennessee’s horticultural industry.

Mrs. Haslam met with a small group of nurserymen at Boskey’s Grille in Manchester for a brief discussion on industry issues and to enlist their support for the landscape renovation project at the Tennessee Residence in Nashville.

“Tennessee has a reputation worldwide as a producer of high quality horticultural products, so it’s only natural that we turn to Tennessee growers first to help with the landscape renovation project at the Tennessee Residence,” Haslam said. “I hope this project also brings much needed attention to an important industry that has had its difficulties in recent years.”

Mrs. Haslam hosted the First Lady’s Luncheon in October last year to announce the next phase of the Tennessee Residence Foundation’s preservation and renovation project and kick-off private fundraising efforts for the landscape project. More than 700 men and women from across the state attended the event, demonstrating their support. The foundation, chaired by Mrs. Haslam, will focus their private fundraising efforts to support the project, intended to bring the Residence grounds back to their original design and health, while focusing on vegetation original to the home and native of Tennessee.

State Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson joined Mrs. Haslam as they met with industry leaders and toured Randall Walker Farms and Hale and Hines Nursery in Warren County, which is known as the “Nursery Capital of the World.”

“Nursery and greenhouse products are among our state’s top agricultural commodities, generating nearly $300 million annually in farm income,” Johnson said. “We appreciate the First Lady highlighting this important industry sector by involving them in this project and recognizing the value of quality, locally grown products.”

Terry Hines of Hale and Hines Nursery in McMinnville said he welcomes the First Lady’s visit. “We’re happy that Mrs. Haslam has come to McMinnville to learn more about our industry. We’re honored that she’s looking to us for help with the Tennessee Residence landscape project. We have a great local industry with good people who produce a great product, so any attention is appreciated as we look to expand markets for our products.”

Tennessee has more than 700 nurseries, 300 greenhouses, 2,500 plant dealers and 400 landscapers certified across the state, producing 21.7 million containers of plants and 48,000 acres of growing area. Tennessee nurseries sell wholesale, retail and farm direct. For help on finding quality Tennessee nursery and greenhouse products, visit

Press Releases

Networking, Education Offered at TN Agritourism Conference, Horticultural Expo

Press Release from Department of Agriculture; Jan. 18, 2012:

NASHVILLE – The 2012 Tennessee Agritourism Conference is being held in conjunction with the Tennessee Horticultural Expo Jan. 26-28 at the Nashville Airport Marriott in Nashville. The expo offers educational sessions, trade show exhibits, networking opportunities and association meetings for current agritourism operators and farmers interested in agritourism; fruit and vegetable growers; grape growers and wine makers; flower growers; and farmers market managers.

A $105 registration fee includes all meals, breaks, banquet, sessions and conference materials for the agritourism conference. Online registration is available at register online at Conference registrations can also be made by calling 865-974-0280 or by mail or fax with the printable registration form found on the expo site.

Make hotel reservations at the Nashville Airport Marriott by calling 615-889-9300. Mention the group “Tennessee Horticultural Expo” before Jan. 12 to receive the expo rate of $109 plus tax per night.

This is the 7th annual statewide agritourism conference and the second time Tennessee’s “farm fun” association has partnered with several related statewide organizations in a single exposition.

Agritourism is the term for any aspect of agriculture that involves inviting the public directly to the farm for activities or farm products. Many aspects of agritourism involve growing fruits, vegetables and other crops for visitors to purchase on the farm or at a farmers market, making the combined statewide expo a natural choice.

Hugh McPherson, owner of Maize Quest Fun Park in Pennsylvania, is the event’s featured speaker. McPherson shares his experiences in “A Goal without a Plan is a Wish,” which focuses on the roles of goal setting and planning for long term success. Carolyn Raasch of Carolyn’s Country Cousins and Liberty Corn Maze in Missouri will host educational sessions about her family’s agritourism operations and share innovative attraction ideas, employee management strategies and effective promotion efforts.

Other expo sessions provide the latest news on current issues, trends and practices for the production and marketing of fruits, vegetables and other plants.

A separate pre-conference day of agritourism operation tours is offered for Jan. 25.

Learn more and register online at

Press Releases

State Gov’t Tells Tennesseans How to Make Biscuits

State of Tennessee Press Release; Jan. 3, 2011: 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Biscuits are the original fast food. A convenience food back when there were no convenience foods, they’re best when made quickly. In fact, taking too much care and time with biscuit dough will leave biscuits flat and dry. The reason your grandmother made such terrific biscuits is that she simply didn’t have time to think about them; she just threw the ingredients into a bowl, mixed them as quickly as possible, and shoved them into the oven.

The result of such neglect was the fluffy, moist, versatile and quintessentially Southern biscuit we all crave. You can stick a piece of meat in one and call it breakfast. They are the natural dinner companions of steak, chicken, ham and of course gravy. A teaspoon of jelly turns one into dessert. Leftovers–if there are any–freeze well and can be toasted on some other cold morning.

The increasing interest in fresh, local foods makes cooking—with all the time that involves– necessary. When there are several pots on the stove to be tended and other ingredients actively sautéing in a pan, knowing how to throw together a pan of biscuits can be a real help. They’re also a worthy target for a number of local ingredients, from the milk and butter for dough to the honey, sorghum, country ham or eggs that inevitably land between the buttery tops and crunchy bottoms.

A collection of biscuit recipes ranging from traditional to trendy are featured now at the Pick Tennessee Products website, Tammy Algood, Pick Tennessee Products spokesperson and author of The Complete Southern Cookbook, creates seasonal recipes featuring products grown and processed in Tennessee.

Pick Tennessee Products is the statewide campaign developed by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to help consumers find Tennessee farms, farm products and foods processed in Tennessee. More than 1,600 farmers and about 7,000 products, services and events are currently listed at the site.

This year, can that can of pre-made dough and resolve to make real biscuits the old-fashioned way—without thinking about it. Visit for more seasonal recipes and to find farm-direct and other locally grown and processed foods.


Buttermilk Biscuits

Yield: 12 to 14 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening or lard

1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly grease a cast iron biscuit baker or baking pan and set aside.

Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and stir until a soft dough is formed, about 25 strokes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 10 times. Roll to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a 2-inch cutter and transfer to the prepared pan. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.