Tennessee farmers are continuing to use no-till or reduced-till practices on the lion’s share of their acres, and they are setting an example for many other growers to follow, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said.
Haslam, the main speaker at a VIP Breakfast that kicked off this year’s Milan, Tenn., No-Till Field Day Thursday (July 24), cited figures showing that Tennessee farmers planted slightly more than 70 percent of their acres no-till in 2014.
Noting that no-till started in Tennessee at the Milan Research Station, Haslam said, “Now 70 percent of all row crops are grown in that fashion. That talks about a great result from a very specific objective that we had here. I want to congratulate the UT Institute of Agriculture and the Research Center here for the difference it has made not only in Tennessee but across the country.
(According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, farmers planted 2.34 million or 70.7 percent of their row crop acres no-till in Tennessee this year. That’s down slightly from 72.5 percent in 2013. But if you combine no-till and other conservation tillage acres in 2014, only 7.4 percent of Tennessee’s cropland was planted with conventional tillage this year.)
Haslam also talked about the new Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program, a cost-share program coordinated by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, which initially was created and funded out of Tobacco Settlement money.
The Ag Enhancement grants was begun in 2005 to assist farmers in making long-term investments in projects such as purchasing and constructing livestock handling facilities through cost-share assistance.
Since 2005, 31,802 projects have been funded for close to $90 million in cost share assistance. About 30 percent of the dollars have been used for livestock equipment and another 30 percent for hay storage structures. The remaining dollars are divided among the other four sectors.
A recent University of Tennessee study revealed that for every enhancement dollar invested, $3.89 was generated in the rural economies in the form of retail farm store business, construction business, veterinary services, machinery and equipment manufacturing and a multitude of jobs.
Haslam thanked members of the audience who serve in the legislature for their continued support of the program. “Sometimes when you do things in government, you don’t see the direct impact for a long time. But the Ag Enhancement Program is one where we can see direct results, direct growth because of that
“A lot of people think that government is deciding between good things and bad things,” he said. “It’s really not. Often it’s deciding between good things and other good things. And the Ag Enhancement Program is one of those things that has stayed in the budget because of the commitment of our General Assembly.”
The governor also cited work being done on a 10-year strategic plan aimed at ensuring the growth and prosperity of agriculture and forestry. In 2012, Haslam asked the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture to develop such a strategy.
He set a goal of making Tennessee number one in the Southeast in the development of agriculture and forestry, and emphasized opportunities to increase farm income and agribusiness investment and asked that a strategic plan be developed by 2014.
The plan includes 27 action steps proposed for implementation by the Executive Committee with a focus on building production capacity and incentivizing the private sector. For More information on the plan, see https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/publications/ruralchallenge/AgReport.pdf