Ag News

Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge Opens During National Small Business Week

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The American Farm Bureau Federation will open online applications for its third Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge on May 1, to coincide with National Small Business Week (May 1-7). Entrepreneurs will compete for $145,000 in startup funds.

The competition provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations that benefit rural regions of the United States. It is the first national rural business competition focused exclusively on innovative entrepreneurs working on food and agriculture businesses.

Competitors are invited to submit for-profit business ideas related to food and agriculture online starting May 1 at

Businesses related to food and agriculture include farms or ranches, value-added food processing, food hubs, community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs), farm-to-table restaurants, farmers' markets, wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries. Businesses can also support food and agriculture such as crop scouting, agritourism, ag advertising agencies and ag technology companies.

"Owners of all types of businesses across the food and agriculture supply chain are encouraged to enter the competition," said Dr. Lisa Benson, AFBF's director of rural development. "Through the challenge, we'll provide 10 rural entrepreneurs with access to funding to take their businesses to the next level."

All applications, which include a business plan, video pitch and photo, must be submitted online by June 30. Judges will review the applications and provide feedback to the participants.

The top 10 teams will be announced in October. This includes six teams who will each win $10,000 in startup funds.

The final four teams will compete in a live competition at AFBF's 98th Annual Convention in Phoenix on Jan. 8 to win:

  • Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year award and $30,000 (chosen by judges)
  • People's Choice award and $25,000 (chosen by public vote)
  • First runner-up prize, $15,000 and
  • Second runner-up prize, $15,000.

The Entrepreneur of the Year award and the People's Choice award will be awarded to two different teams. The team that wins the Entrepreneur of the Year award will not be eligible for the People's Choice Award. The competition timeline, detailed eligibility guidelines and profiles of the 2015 and 2016 finalist teams are available at

Contacts:   Kari Barbic
(202) 406-3672
  Cyndie Shearing
(202) 406-3649

Haslam Names Jai Templeton Commissioner of Agriculture

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of Jai Templeton, a sixth generation Tennessee farmer, as commissioner of the Department of Agriculture effective May 1. Templeton will replace Julius Johnson who recently announced his retirement.

Templeton, 44, currently serves as the department’s deputy commissioner, leading the day-to-day operations and directing programs and services that range from food safety to animal and plant health to agricultural development.

“Jai has played a critical role in developing the department’s 10 year strategic plan to grow Tennessee’s agricultural and forest industries. As a lifelong farmer, he will be a champion for the farming industry and continue the department’s work to strengthen our rural communities,” Haslam said. 

Prior to joining the department in 2011, Templeton served as mayor of McNairy County. He and his family have farmed in McNairy and Hardin counties for decades, producing grain, cotton, hay, timber, and cattle.

“I am honored to be asked by Gov. Haslam to serve as a member of his cabinet. Agriculture is my life. The past five years in the role of deputy to Commissioner Johnson have been a wonderful experience for me and I am grateful for the continuing opportunity to serve the agriculture industry,” Templeton said. “As a former mayor of a rural county, it is refreshing to work for a department and administration focused on the development of rural Tennessee.  I look forward to continuing the great work of this administration to strengthen our farm and forest communities all across our state.”

From 1995 to 2003, Templeton served as field representative for former U.S. Representative Ed Bryant. He is a former McNairy County commissioner and former president of the McNairy County Chamber of Commerce, where he helped form the McNairy County Regional Alliance to focus on economic development in the area.

A native of McNairy County, Templeton has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Union University in Jackson, Tenn. He is also a graduate of the University of Tennessee Certified Public Administrator program.

Templeton is a member of the Agricenter International Board of Directors, the McNairy County-Chester County Cattlemen’s Association, the McNairy County Forestry Landowner’s Association, the Tennessee Farm Bureau, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, Memphis Ag Club, Mid-South and First Farmer’s Cooperative and a former board member of the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association.

He and his wife, Allison, reside on the family farm in Stantonville and are members of First Baptist Church of Adamsville. They have three children, Canon and Eliza Smith, and Mycaela Rhodes and husband, Alex.

New leadership in Tennessee youth organizations

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Tennessee 4-H Congress and Tennessee State FFA Convention were held the week of March 21 and both organizations elected new state-wide leaders for the next year.

These youth organizations teach young people across the state about agriculture, leadership and what skills are necessary to succeed in life after school. 4-H Congress is held in Murfreesboro and Nashville as students learned about state government and what it means to be an elected official, how to pass laws and how to run a meeting correctly. At 4-H Congress, the attendees also hold elections and vote on a new Governor, Speaker of the Senate and Speaker of the House.

The State FFA Convention is held in Gatlinburg and more than 3000 students, advisors and guests gathered to compete in state career development events, attend leadership seminars and action-packed sessions. They also hold interviews and elect their 2016-2017 State FFA officer team. The new officers are from left: East Tennessee Vice President Ally Clark of Meigs County; President Mackenzie Clark of Scotts Hill; Secretary Hannah Nave of Woodbury; Middle Tennessee Vice President Aaron Walls of Cookeville; West Tennessee Vice President Sam Daniels of Covington; Treasurer Abby Gass of Blackman; Sentinel Allison Parker of Station Camp; and Reporter Taylor Curtis of McEwen.

4-H elected Emily Pennington, Speaker of the Senate, Warren County; Hannah Reeves, Governor, Greene County; and Jacob Wade, Speaker of the House, Bedford County.

Haslam Announces Julius Johnson to Retire

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Department of Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson will retire at the end of April.

Johnson has led the department since the start of the administration in 2011 and was Haslam’s first commissioner appointment. He has been instrumental in development of the Governor’s Rural Challenge: a 10 year strategic plan to grow Tennessee’s agricultural and forest industries. Under Johnson’s leadership, many goals of the plan have already been met and foundations laid for future projects.

I want to thank Julius for his incredible leadership and service to the state as commissioner of the Department of Agriculture. He has been a champion for the agriculture industry the largest industry in Tennessee and a tremendous asset to our administration who will be missed,” Haslam said.

Inter-agency cooperation has been a priority for Johnson. He worked with other departments on many issues touching the agriculture industry, from preparations for a potential outbreak of High Path Avian Influenza to promoting the governor’s education initiatives and economic development in the rural communities.

“I’ve been truly blessed to cap a lifelong career advocating for farmers, forest landowners and rural Tennesseans by serving as commissioner of agriculture. The department has some of the best, most dedicated public servants in state government and I’m proud of the accomplishments we have achieved together,” Johnson said. “We, as Tennesseans, are healthier, better educated and have greater hope for our families due to Governor Haslam’s leadership. I’m so grateful to him for the opportunity to have played a role in making that happen.”

Johnson joined the administration after serving 37 years at the Tennessee Farm Bureau, 15 of those years as the Chief Administrative Officer.

A native of Forbus, Tenn., Johnson has served on the University of Tennessee Agriculture Development Board, the Maury County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Maury County United Way Board of Directors, the Maury County Vision 2020 Board of Directors and as president of the Maury County University of Tennessee Alumni Board. He was a Kiwanian and has served as past president of the Middle Tennessee Council of Boy Scouts. He has a B.S. in Agriculture from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Johnson’s last day as commissioner will be April 29.

Statement by Tennessee Farm Bureau President Jeff Aiken on Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey Not Seeking Re Election

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Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has announced he will not seek re election after a 24 year career in the legislature.  His agriculture roots and ties to farming have made him a friend to Farm Bureau throughout his career. Upon this announcement, Tennessee Farm Bureau President Jeff Aiken released this statement:
Tennessee Farm Bureau President Jeff Aiken praised Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey for his commitment to agriculture by saying, "Knowing the same hands that feed and care for cattle out of session are the same hands  gaveling the Senate into session has always been a comfort to farmers across this state.  Governor Ramsey worked to maintain a good business environment for agriculture in Tennessee and we owe a debt of gratitude for his commitment to Tennessee farmers during his 24 year career in the legislature."   

Monsanto Searches for Next "Farm Mom of the Year"

They are warm and caring, yet tough as nails. They’re dedicated, nurturing, gritty, loving, hard-working and fun go-getters who go above and beyond to care for and protect their farms, families, communities and the agriculture industry they love. Monsanto Company once again wants to recognize these inspiring women, and today announced it has officially opened up nominations for its 2016 America’s Farmers Mom of the Year contest.
“This is the seventh year we’ve held the America’s Farmers Mom of the Year contest, and each year we are introduced to the most phenomenal women,” says Tracy Mueller, Monsanto Corporate Brand Communications Manager. “We read every nomination and their stories are powerful, encouraging and hopeful. These women inspire us, and we’re proud, humbled and excited to share their stories with the rest of the country.”
Nominations are open from February 23, 2016, through March 29, 2016. Anyone can enter their favorite farm mom, whether it’s their mom, sister, aunt, daughter, friend or community member. Just visit during the nomination period and submit a brief essay online or by mail that explains how the nominated farm mom contributes to each of four areas -- her family, farm, community and the agriculture industry.
A panel of judges from American Agri-Women will once again review nominations and help Monsanto select five regional winners. They will specifically look for nominations that include all four areas addressed above (farm, family, community and agriculture).  
 “So many women, particularly in agriculture, just focus on what needs to get done, and they do it – no matter what challenges or adversities they may be facing,” says Donnell Scott, Vice President of Education for American Agri-Women. “They don’t do it to get credit or attention. These women have a ‘get it done’ attitude and love what they do and who they do it for. We love reading about their efforts and are proud to help acknowledge their hard work and contributions.”
The five regional winners will be announced at the end of April, and each winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize. Profiles of the winners will then be posted to, where the public can vote for one national farm mom winner. Announced just prior to Mother’s Day, the national winner will receive an additional $5,000 cash prize above and beyond her regional prize, for a total of $10,000.
For more information on the program or for complete eligibility requirements and official contest rules visit Interested parties may also send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to America's Farmers Mom of the Year, Attn: Sue Dillon, 349 Marshall Ave., Ste. 200, St. Louis, MO 63119.
About American Agri-Women
AAW has been empowering women in agriculture for 41 years. AAW educates consumers; advocates for agriculture; and offers networking and professional development opportunities. Go to the AAW web site for more information, Find AAW on social media at: and (@Women4Ag).
About Monsanto Company
Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. Monsanto remains focused on enabling both small-holder and large-scale farmers to produce more from their land while conserving more of our world's natural resources such as water and energy. To learn more about our business and our commitments, please visit: Follow our business on Twitter® at, on the company blog, Beyond the Rows at, or subscribe to our News Release RSS Feed.
Notes to editors: Monsanto and the Vine Design are trademarks of Monsanto Company and its wholly-owned subsidiaries.

Statement by Tennessee Farm Bureau President Jeff Aiken Regarding Governor Haslam’s State of the State Announcement on Investments in Rural Tennessee

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“The Tennessee Farm Bureau is pleased that in his State of the State address, Gov. Bill Haslam continued to show support for Tennessee's farm and rural communities. His administration announced plans to propose a major rural economic development initiative, called the Rural Economic Opportunity Act (REO).

We are thrilled Gov. Haslam is focusing on rural Tennessee communities, which are the lifeblood of our state. Under the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. Gerald McCormick, communities can apply for economic incentives by proving their intent and capacity to grow jobs in those areas. The initiative will be paid for through the Propelling Rural Economic Progress (PREP) fund allocated annually by the legislature.

The governor also unveiled his plans to further the mission of the Drive to 55 education campaign by restructuring higher education governance among other efforts. The proposal is one of many his administration has made in attempt to improve Tennessee’s education system.”

The entire state of the state speech can be found at

Young Farmers Take Home National Honors

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During the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation in Orlando, Florida, the Tennessee Young Farmers & Ranchers took home honors in each of the three contests held at the national level - the Achievement Award, Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture. Young farmers and ranchers from around the country competed for the awards by demonstrating knowledge of and achievement in agriculture, as well as commitment to promoting the agriculture industry.

Jay Head of Montgomery County was named runner-up in the Achievement contest. He receives a Case IH Farmall 65A tractor and $3,000 in cash and STIHL merchandise.  Head farms 5,300 acres near Clarksville in an owner/partnership operation. His major crops are corn, soybeans, wheat, tobacco, hay and indigo. Head also raises more than 200 Angus-cross cows and recently began selling beef on a retail basis. The Achievement Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who have excelled in their farming or ranching operations and exhibited superior leadership abilities. Participants are evaluated on a combination of their agricultural operation’s growth and financial progress, Farm Bureau leadership and leadership outside of Farm Bureau.

Hunter Grills of Dyer County was named a runner-up in the Discussion Meet and receives a Case IH Farmall 55A tractor and $3,000 in cash and STIHL merchandise.  Grills made it all the way to the final four after three rounds of competition and was announced as a runner-up on stage. The Discussion Meet simulates a committee meeting in which active discussion and participation are expected. Participants are evaluated on their ability to exchange ideas and information on a predetermined topic.

Jimmy and Lydia McAlister from Greene County were named to the top ten in the Excellence in Agriculture competition. The Excellence in Agriculture Award recognizes young farmers and ranchers who do not derive the majority of their income from an agricultural operation, but who actively contribute and grow through their involvement in agriculture, their leadership ability and participation in Farm Bureau and other organizations.

Delegates returned home Wednesday following the annual meeting of the voting delegates, who discuss and set policy for the national farm organization. A total of 355 voting delegates, of which Tennessee Farm Bureau had 34, representing every crop and livestock sector in the United States deliberated on policies affecting farmers’ and ranchers’ productivity and profitability. The policies approved at the convention will guide the nation’s largest general farm organization throughout 2015.


Washington County Farmer Aiken Elected 8th President of Nation’s Largest State Farm Bureau

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During their 94th annual convention held in Franklin, the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation’s delegates, representing agriculture and farmers across the state, not only debated policy proposals and passed resolutions to work on passage of legislation in 2016 at the state and federal levels, they also elected their 8th president of the nation’s largest state Farm Bureau organization.

Washington county farmer Jeff Aiken, 52, was elected today by the voting delegate body to serve as the organization’s president, representing more than 644,000 family members in Tennessee. Aiken has served as vice-president since 2012, and a director-at-large on the state board of directors since 1998 when he was elected to that office by the Farm Bureau’s county leadership statewide.  He has headed up numerous committees at the state level, as well as being his county’s president for many years.  He has held the office of state YF&R chairman and was the 1992 Tennessee Young Farmer of the Year.
 Aiken and his wife Carol farm 900 acres near Telford in upper East Tennessee where he produces corn, hay, straw, 100 acres of tobacco and more than 600 head of beef cattle.
Elected as the new vice president was Humphreys County farmer Eric Mayberry. Mayberry, 50, and his wife Lynn farm 1000 acres of row crops and a nearly 300 head commercial cow/calf operation near Hurricane Mills. Mayberry was first elected to the state board of directors representing District II in 2005. He has also served on his county’s board of directors since 1988, including five years as president.
Also newly elected to the state board were Lincoln County’s Josh Ogle, representing District II; Smith County’s Mike Scudder, representing District IV; and Robert Elliott of Robertson County was selected as the new state Young Farmer and Rancher chairman.
Others re-elected to the board of directors by the voting delegates were: Charles Hancock from Bumpus Mills, Mrs. Catherine Via from Alamo, David Richesin from Lenoir City, Malcolm Burchfiel from Newbern, James Haskew from South Pittsburg, David Mitchell from Blaine and Mrs. Jane May, State Women’s chairman from Newbern.

2015 TN Farm Bureau Annual Meeting

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The 2015 Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation's Annual Meeting will be held December 7-8 in Franklin, Tennessee. We hope you will join us for two days packed full of information, entertainment, awards and much more! County Farm Bureau leaders from across the state gather in Franklin to network, learn new trends and technologies in agriculture and learn which counties are leading the way in policy, leadership, communications, membership and service.

Follow Tennessee Farm Bureau on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest news and results while the convention is going on, or follow the hashtag #tnfbcon15

2015 TFBF Convention Agenda