The state Department of Agriculture is renaming one of its divisions, and in the process restructuring it under the hopes of better helping agriculture- and forestry-related businesses grow and prosper in Tennessee.

The Agriculture Advancement Division of the department will now be known as the Business Development Division.

A press release issued from the department this week indicated the newly reconfigured and rebranded division will “prioritize agricultural economic development by increasing profitability and viability of farm and forest businesses, which are vital to Tennessee’s rural and overall economy.”

The Business Development Division‘s areas of focus will include both farm-direct marketing and international commercial promotion. The division will also administer crop and livestock subsidy programs.

Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher said the division’s primary strategic emphasis is fortifying ag and forestry’s economic roots in rural Tennessee counties.

“With this renewed focus on business development, we will work to expand opportunities for agricultural innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship — areas that are crucial to any state’s future success in the agriculture industry,” Hatcher said.

Keith Harrison, a long time veteran of state agriculture department marketing and outreach programs, will lead the division.

Upon taking office in January, Republican Gov. Bill Lee declared that stimulating rural economic growth is a central priority to his administration. One of Lee’s first official acts as governor was to assign all state agencies to develop initiatives to improve how they serve rural communities.

“Despite such growth and prosperity, Tennessee’s rural citizens face challenges unique to their geography that often require a unique response,” Lee declared in his first executive order, issued Jan. 29.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, June 17, 2019:

New Electronic Platform for Tennessee Market News Service

NASHVILLE – To better assist Tennessee’s farmers and agribusinesses in making informed marketing decisions, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture are providing a new electronic data platform for the Tennessee Market News Service.

The Tennessee Market News Service allows producers, industry, and the public to view market price information for livestock, grain, and other commodities.

The new web-based platform, Market Analysis and Reporting Services (MARS), improves the transparency, speed, and accuracy of market news. The program facilitates the flow of data from more than 3,600 markets nationwide to Agricultural Marketing Service analysts, who then provide reports online.

If producers have previously bookmarked a link to market news, they will need to reestablish a new link through www.tn.gov/agriculture/farms/news.html. To view reports now, click on the pdf version, as the text files will be removed in next few months.

Tennessee currently has 4 trained market news reporters within TDA’s Business Development Division who gather and disseminate accurate, unbiased, and up-to-the-minute market information from 12 markets each week. A weekly market recap of this information can be found on TDA’s website.

TDA also provides timely and reliable market information through a toll-free hotline service that is updated daily. The number to call for this service is 1-800-342-8206.

To access and find more information about market news, visit www.tn.gov/agriculture/farms/news.html.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has announced that updated rules and modified permitting requirements are being applied to the state’s budding hemp-growing industry.

In a department press release issued Monday, state ag commissioner Charlie Hatch said hemp regulations have been changing at the federal level, and as a result Tennessee is “updating our program rules to be more consistent with how other crop programs are managed.”

The 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump removed hemp from the federal controlled-substances list. Nevertheless, it’s still against federal and state law to grow even nonpsychoactive cannabis without a state-issued license.

In wake of the federal government’s loosening of hemp-growing restrictions, there’s been a massive expansion of interest in growing hemp just over the last year.

This year, the department has licensed more than 2,900 hemp growers  — whereas in 2018 TDA issued just 226 licenses.

Last season, Tennessee growers produced a state total of 1,034 acres of planted legal cannabis strains. Tennessee’s largest field was a 250-plot grown for fiber in Macon County, according to the department.

Tennessee hemp farmers last year spent on average about $2,301 per acre cultivating their crops, a 2018 TDA survey reported.

“The three top expenses were land, equipment and labor,” the survey found. “Growers spent the least on acreage fees, inspections, and interest. The largest market appears to be in hemp oil high in cannabinoids.”

Department of agriculture officials say the new changes to the hemp program will “better serve hemp producers.”

Among the regulatory shifts is an elimination of application-period deadlines for obtaining a license to grow hemp. That process is now open year-round.

In addition, the state will no longer issue certifications for seed breeders. However, anyone marketing seed should seek licensing through TDA’s Ag Inputs section.

Also, hemp processors — unlike growers — won’t in the future be required to register through the state. Growers, on the other hand, will not only need to acquire “movement permits” when transporting rooted live plants, they’ll also be required to obtain official government permission and paperwork for transporting harvested hemp from a grow site.

Tennessee lawmakers in 2014 authorized the state Department of Agriculture to develop a licensing and inspection program for the production of hemp in Tennessee.

“Hemp has been an important crop throughout the history of the U.S., and to a certain extent in Tennessee,” according to TDA’s website.

In the 1800s, hemp fields were a common sight in Middle Tennessee.

“Although industrial hemp contains very little of the hallucinogenic properties of marijuana, production and processing declined after World War II with the passage of state and federal laws aimed at regulating the narcotic varieties of Cannabis,” says TDA’s hemp history info page. “Its decline was further accelerated with the development and availability of cheap synthetic fibers. Also, the resurgence of cotton production in the deep South was likely a contributing factor to hemp’s decline.”

Press Release from Tractor Supply Company, May 8, 2019:

Tractor Supply Market Day Highlights Local Artisans, Producers and Craft Makers
Free event invites community to shop homemade, homegrown goods on Saturday, May 18

Carthage, TN (May 2019) — Carthage is full of skilled makers, bakers and producers, and the Carthage Tractor Supply store is bringing these talented individuals and businesses together for a community-wide, family-friendly event.

On Saturday, May 18, from 8:00am until 4:00pm, the store will host its annual Market Day event featuring local vendors and their homemade and homegrown goods.

Market Day is a free event, featuring items such as crafts, candles, produce, baked goods and more in tents outside the Tractor Supply store, located at 59 Dixon Springs Hwy.

This year’s vendors and community partners include:

New Creations by Amanda Morales
On site 8:00am to 4:00pm

SCHS Band Boosters
On site 8:00am to 4:00pm

“As members of this community, we strive to do whatever we can to support our neighbors,” said Catherine Chapman, store manager of the Carthage Tractor Supply store. “Market Day allows us to highlight and support the great talent we have here, while creating a fun event everyone can enjoy.”

Local artisans, farmers and craft makers interested in selling their goods are invited to register at TSCeventpartners.com or visit the local Carthage Tractor Supply store before May 15. While participation is free, all vendors are responsible for complying with state and local ordinances. Contact the Carthage Tractor Supply store at 615-735-2684 for more details or information about participating in the event.

To learn more about Tractor Supply Company and Tractor Supply Market Day, visit TractorSupply.com/MarketDay.

About Tractor Supply Company

Tractor Supply Company (NASDAQ: TSCO), the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the United States, has been passionate about serving its unique niche, as a one-stop shop for recreational farmers, ranchers and all those who enjoy living the rural lifestyle, for more than 80 years. Tractor Supply offers an extensive mix of products necessary to care for home, land, pets and animals with a focus on product localization, exclusive brands and legendary customer service that addresses the needs of the Out Here lifestyle. With more than 29,000 team members, the Company leverages its physical store assets with digital capabilities to offer customers the convenience of purchasing products they need anytime, anywhere and any way they choose at the everyday low prices they deserve. At March 30, 2019, the Company operated 1,775 Tractor Supply stores in 49 states and an e-commerce website at www.TractorSupply.com.

Tractor Supply Company also owns and operates Petsense, a small-box pet specialty supply retailer focused on meeting the needs of pet owners, primarily in small and mid-size communities, and offering a variety of pet products and services. At March 30, 2019, the Company operated 176 Petsense stores in 26 states. For more information on Petsense, visit www.Petsense.com.

Press Release from the Office of Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, May 2, 2019:

Gov. Bill Lee Lauds General Assembly in Working Together to Pass Conservative Reforms

$38.5 Billion Budget Passes Unanimously

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee marked the close of the 2019 legislative session, a session which included the unanimous passage of his budget as well as the passage of his full agenda as outlined during his State of the State address in March.

“In March, I presented our budget and a series of priorities which I believe will be foundational to making Tennessee a leader in the nation,” said Lee. “Working with the General Assembly leadership and members, we passed reforms that will continue to build on the momentum our state has seen in recent years.”

Gov. Lee’s slate of priorities included 16 legislative initiatives to work towards strengthening public education and school choice, enhancing workforce development, addressing criminal justice reform and public safety, promoting good government and developing solutions for rural Tennessee.

The passage of the fiscal year 2020 budget marked the first unanimous budget approval from the General Assembly since 2011. Notably, this budget includes a historic deposit to the state’s Rainy Day Fund that will elevate reserves to over $1.1 billion. Tax cuts included a full repeal of the Gym Tax, the elimination of sales and use tax on agricultural trailers and a reduction to the professional privilege tax.

“I commend the General Assembly for their work this session and I look forward to joining members in their districts in the coming months to highlight all that was accomplished this session” said Lee. “I am especially pleased with the outcome of the budget and our joint commitment to making sure Tennessee is well-managed and fiscally sound.”

Highlights from Gov. Lee’s legislative agenda include the following:

Strengthening Public Education and Expanding School Choice:

  • Creating the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) to expand access to vocational and technical training to students
  • Establishing an education savings account program to expand school choice for low-income students in Davidson and Shelby counties
  • Creating the Future Workforce Initiative to prepare students for the jobs of the future in science, technology, engineering and math
  • A $71 million investment in pay raises for teachers across Tennessee and investment in professional development programming
  • A three-year pilot program to provide support services for high school students in Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties
  • Establish the Governor’s Civics Instructional Seal to support and recognize schools that prioritize teaching our nation’s history and civic values
  • Investing an additional $175 million in new funding to support teachers and students in public schools
  • Establishing an independent statewide charter school authorizer and adding $6 million to the charter school facilities fund

Enhancing Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform

  • Investing $40 million in school safety enhancements
  • Increasing penalties for trafficking fentanyl
  • Increasing the training pay supplement for firefighters and police officers
  • Increasing salaries for corrections professionals
  • Expanding the Electronic Monitoring Indigency fund to reduce needs for pre-trial incarceration
  • Eliminating the state fee for the expungement of records for those who have paid their debt to society
  • $5 million to expand recovery courts and services for people in the justice system with drug abuse issues
  • $4 million investment in pre-release rehabilitation and education for incarcerated individuals

Investing in Health Care and Good Government Initiatives

  • Establishing the Office of Faith Based Initiatives to support partnerships with the non-profit community
  • Expanding the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with an additional 24 positions dedicated to identifying fraud and waste
  • Investing an additional $11 million to support mental health services through the behavioral health safety net and regional mental institutes.
  • Increasing funding for graduate medical education at Tennessee’s medical schools and critical incentive programs that provide financial support to resident physicians who commit to living and working in our rural communities
  • Investing an additional $2 million recurring for the primary care safety net for federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs) and community- and faith-based clinics, providing primary care services to low-income, uninsured adults
  • A $3 million recurring increase to support medical students who agree to work in an underserved area after graduation. These state dollars would draw down an additional $5.7 million in federal funds
  • $11.9 million investment to maintain pay increases funded in last year’s budget for providers delivering services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, April 16, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/2019/4/16/pr19-12.html

Slatery Joins 17 State Coalition Supporting EPA Plan to Ease Burden on Farmers, Landowners

Nashville- Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III joined a 17-state coalition this week to support farmers and landowners by urging the Trump administration to adopt its proposed replacement of the Obama-era, Waters of the United States rule.

The coalition, in comments filed late Monday, argued the Trump administration’s proposal would restore reasonable, predictable lines between waters subject to federal and state regulation.

“The proposed rule, unlike the rule that it would replace, respects the traditional role of Tennessee and all other states to regulate their own water resources,” said Herbert H. Slatery III.

The coalition believes the new rule will correct flaws within the 2015 regulation, which extended authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers far beyond what Congress intended and the Constitution permits.

The Trump Administration proposal also shows respect for the primary responsibility and right of states to regulate their own water resources.

The 2015 WOTUS rule, if implemented, would have taken jurisdiction over natural resources from states and asserted federal authority over almost any body of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams and many other areas where water may flow once every 100 years.

Tennessee signed the West Virginia-led letter with attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

Read the public comments filing here: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/attorneygeneral/documents/pr/2019/pr19-12-letter.pdf

News Release from Tennessee Tech University, April 5, 2019:

Link: https://www.tntech.edu/news/releases/18-19/day-on-the-hill.php

State leaders learned more about Tennessee Tech University’s Rural Reimagined Grand Challenge, an initiative that will accelerate rural innovation and collaboration across the state, at the recent Tennessee Tech Day on the Hill at the state capitol.

Tennessee Tech representatives carried the message of the grand challenge, which is an effort with ambitious but achievable goals that harnesses the capabilities of a campus while inspiring imaginations.

Rural Reimagined focuses on developing and supporting success throughout rural areas in Tennessee that can be replicated to help rural areas throughout the country and the world.

Tech President Phil Oldham shared his excitement for the work that was led by faculty leaders and more than 50 other work group members to shape the priorities and actions of the university. Tech’s director of its Center for Rural Innovation Michael Aikens says the university will focus on harnessing all academic disciplines to transform rural living.

“Rural Reimagined is a grassroots effort, and is squarely in line with Gov. Lee’s visions for rural transformation,” said Aikens. “It is important the legislature know about our goals for reimagining the rural landscape, so that they can assist with support, awareness and action in the communities they represent.

“Having the legislature on board with Rural Reimagined sends a message to their constituents and communities that they are committed to helping and improving their rural areas,” Aikens said. “Support from the legislature will legitimize both Tennessee Tech’s efforts and Gov. Lee’s call for action in rural areas.

Besides legislators, Tech officials were also able to interact with other public figures, medical doctors and student interns, helping energize the Tech students who are currently interning on the hill.

“We were able to have discussions with our student interns about development of a student advisory board for the grand challenge,” said Aikens. “It is our hope to establish a diverse set of student voices on this board. We think it is critical that political science majors have a seat at the table.”

Tech has already been assisting rural areas with career readiness certification; a remote area medical clinic; a small business development center; a cybersecurity education, research and outreach center; a STEM mobile unit for K-12 student success; water quality research to monitor and protect natural resources; and, archives of rural history.

For more information on Rural Reimagined, go to www.tntech.edu/grand-challenge.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, April 2, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/news/2019/4/2/local-farms-creating-unforgettable-memories-this-easter.html

NASHVILLE – With spring in the air and warmer weather within reach, farms across the state are offering exciting activities for the upcoming holiday. From riding ponies to getting pictures with the Easter Bunny, you can spend a whole day of family fun making memories that last a lifetime.

According to mental health professionals, holidays can be a time of stress. The thought of cooking and planning activities can be overwhelming.

However, local farmers are stepping up to the plate this Easter holiday. Tennessee farms are providing the ultimate stress relief that is sure to entertain the whole family.

“At our farm, there are no mad dashes — just a day filled with nonstop Easter egg hunts, farm-wide scavenger hunts for older kids, and, of course, pictures with the Easter bunny!” said Jimmy McCulley of Amazin’ Acres in White County. “We encourage you to bring your camera to capture the amazing memories with farm animals, the bee line zipline, the jumping pillow, milking a cow or goat, racing ducks, and more!”

One farmer has been planning events for years. “At Falcon Ridge, our annual Easter egg hunt provides families the opportunity to enjoy a day on the farm,” Bart Gilmer of Hardeman County said. “Our visitors can hunt eggs, get a picture with the Easter Bunny, visit the Petting Zoo, and much more without the work of planning an event.”

Don’t have kids and on the hunt for an adult Easter adventure? Look no further. “It’s time to find your inner child and get hopping to Lucky Ladd Farms for Nashville’s famous Bunny and Brew – Adult Egg Hunt,” said Amy Ladd of Lucky Ladd Farms of Rutherford County. “We will have live entertainment, fun lawn games, pre-hunt lite bites, and all-you-can-drink brew and coke products.”

Don’t get stressed — hop on over to the farm this Easter and let the farmers do the planning. The sounds of laugher and joy of all ages will fill the air making for life-long memories.

Go to www.PickTNProducts.org or use the free Pick Tennessee mobile app to find a farm near you. Follow “PickTNProducts” on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about current seasonal recipes, products, and activities.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, March 8, 2019:

NASHVILLE– The State Veterinarian has announced that several horses returning from out-of-state events have been sickened by equine influenza virus (EIV) in Tennessee.

Equine influenza is highly contagious, and the virus is spread by contaminated stable equipment and infected, coughing horses. Symptoms in horses may include fever, nasal discharge, cough, loss of appetite, and weakness. Sick horses cannot directly infect people with EIV.

“With EIV, it is much easier for horse owners to take preventive measures than to provide treatment,” said interim State Veterinarian Dr. Doug Balthaser. “Maintaining hygiene procedures with stable equipment and vaccinating your horses is a great start for prevention efforts. Your veterinarian can help you decide the best vaccination plan for your horse.”

Other tips include:

  • Isolate newly introduced horses or horses returning from events for two weeks.
  • For events or stables, restrict entry to healthy horses only.
  • Don’t share equipment or supplies between horses, especially if one spikes a fever, has nasal discharge, or is coughing.

The C. E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory now offers a full line of equine disease testing, including WNV, equine infectious anemia (EIA), equine herpes virus (EHV), equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), and equine influenza virus (EIV). Contact your veterinarian for more information.

New governor looks to spur country-style commerce

In one of his first official acts after taking the oath of office as Tennessee’s newest chief executive, Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order mandating that state agencies do a better job serving country folks.

The order directs state agencies to take steps toward improving rural economic opportunities, especially in areas deemed “economically distressed.”

“This administration recognizes that Tennessee’s economic growth and prosperity has reached historic levels,” reads Lee’s order, issued Jan. 29. “Despite such growth and prosperity, Tennessee’s rural citizens face challenges unique to their geography that often require a unique response.”

“Educational attainment and labor workforce participation are continuing to lag within our rural communities,” the order states.

Of Tennessee’s 95 counties, 80 are deemed rural by the state. Those around the Upper Cumberland designated “economically distressed” include Jackson, van Buren, Clay and Fentress, as well as Bledsoe, Grundy and nine others in the state.

Lee’s order notes that Tennessee has among states with the highest percentage of distressed counties in the country. The governor observed during a press conference soon after taking office that much of what the state does in the way of corporate recruitment and business project development “automatically happens in urban areas because the vast majority of economic development is occurring in our urban areas.”

“My administration will place a high emphasis on the development and success of our rural areas,” Lee said. “Our first executive order sends a clear message that rural areas will be prioritized across all departments as we work to improve coordination in our efforts.”

Lee’s pledge to focus on rural issues isn’t without precedent. One of the executive order’s mandates is that all 22 state department formally sum up progress they’ve made as a result of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Rural Task Force initiatives.

Their assessments, due by the end of May, must include “a comprehensive description of the department’s initiatives adopted or funded in the last four years to specifically address challenges unique to rural communities.”

Lee’s executive order declares that by June 30 all agencies must provide “recommendations for improving and making more efficient the department’s service of rural Tennesseans.”

Enticing Hinterland Tourism

Lee’s tourism development commissioner, Mark Ezell, says he’s “bullish” on tourism in Tennessee. Tourism’s scope and potential as a driver of economic activity has “community-changing ability” for small towns and rural populations, he said.

Ezell replaces Kevin Triplett, who served in the role under Haslam. He’s no stranger to rural commerce, having worked as a brand development executive with Purity Dairies prior to taking over as the state’s top promoter of Tennessee travel, leisure, entertainment and recreation.

Ezell calls himself “a brand builder.” He says Tennessee is already a “remarkable product.” The goal of his agency now is to get people to visit Tennessee, spend money, then “do that over and over and over again.”

“What is great about tourism is that the size is big and the growth is massive.” Ezell said. “Tourism drives economic impact. Over $20 billion is the new number that we will achieve with growth of over seven percent — beating the national average.”

Tourism bolsters local quality of life throughout the state and has great capacity to do more, he said. “Tourism pays hundreds of millions of dollars for the critical services that help all Tennesseans have a good job, a good school and a safe neighborhood,” he said.

During budget hearings before Gov. Lee in January, Ezell expressed a desire to raise the visibility of seemingly out-of-the-way Tennessee towns and counties endowed with visitor attractions. One of his priorities will be to encourage more travel off the beaten path in order to help share the wealth of tourist dollars flowing into Tennessee.

“Because so many of these counties are rich in scenic beauty or natural resources or adventure tourism opportunities or agritourism, this is a key development piece for us,” he said.

Ezell said his office will try to help rural communities take better advantage of the Adventure Tourism Act “that promotes rafting and kayaking and biking and rock climbing.” The Department of Tourist Development can also lend towns and counties technical and financial assistance in planning and promoting recreation-oriented infrastructure — which is often one of the top ways business and community leaders in economically underperforming regions say the state can help them, he said.

Thirteen of the 15 distressed counties have indicated to the new administration that expanding tourism is their No. 1 priority, said Ezell. For example, Jackson County’s top long term goal is to “leverage the Roaring River and other scenic rivers in the county,” said Ezell.

‘People Relocate Where They Recreate’

Appreciating the benefits of expanding recreation-based tourism is a perspective that makes a lot of sense to Marvin Bullock, president of the Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce. He says he often encounters transplanted Upper Cumberland entrepreneurs who tell him “our outdoors are why they moved to our area.”

“I am proud that Tennessee recognizes the value of tourism,” he said. “Rural communities with recreational opportunities benefit beyond the dollars spent on tourism and retirees. People relocate where they recreate, and that includes business owners.”

“In the case of Sparta and White County, tourism has substantially contributed to industrial growth and attracting workforce as well,” added Bullock, who points to Jackson Kayak as the best local example of what leveraging nearby recreation potential can achieve in the realm of business and industry development.

Not only is world-champion kayaker Eric Jackson’s company White County’s largest employer, but it regularly helps attract major kayaking events that splash visitors’ dollars around the area.

Just this spring alone, the Upper Cumberland is playing host to two major paddle-sport competitions — the U.S. Freestyle National Team Trials at Rock Island March 16-17, and the inaugural Pan-American Kayak Bass Championship from May 28-31 in Cookeville. The latter is billed as a first-of-its-kind in the world, and will bring more than 100 of the most elite kayak bass anglers from around the globe to Center Hill Lake.

Strengthening Farming, Forestry

Tourism may be a little more flashy and seemingly open-ended in terms of capacity for growth, but farming, ranching and timber-harvesting are still backbone industries in much of rural Tennessee.

That’s especially true around the Upper Cumberland — and in particular the “Nursery Capital of the World,” Warren County.

“Warren County boasts more than 160,000 acres of farmland, with more than 300 nurseries operating in McMinnville and the surrounding vicinity,” according to an economic assessment published last year by the Upper Cumberland Development District. “In 2012, nursery sales totaled $17,691,000, making Warren County the top nursery stock crop producer in the entire country.”

Nevertheless, like in rural areas across the state, farming in general has been diminishing in profitability.

“Agriculture is undoubtedly important in Warren County, however with the industry on a steady decline for the last fifty years, farmers have been struggling to sustain locally owned agribusinesses,” the UCDD report states.

Lee’s new agriculture commissioner, Charlie Hatcher, said his department will be looking to “facilitate or create an environment that is better for farmers or ag businesses” across the state, especially in counties and communities where farming has played a significant role in the local economy

“We are at a time when we know that farm income is down 50 percent,” Hatcher said during Lee’s state budget hearings. He added, “We know that government is not the answer.” Even so, he said “whatever money we have available for cost-shares and grants we would like to use” to make it easier to make a living on the farm.

Gov. Lee is hinting that he might like to see farmers in distressed counties receive “premium scoring” on applications for agriculture enhancement funds and farm-enterprise grant requests with the department.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is in the process of forming an internal task force to counsel the agency on rural economic development, said Hatcher. The task force will advise on “all commodity groups throughout the state,” he said.

In addition, the agency will host an online “suggestion box for ag ideas” to promote outreach and communication with farmers, rural communities and ag-focused businesses and entrepreneurs, said Hatcher.