New Ag Commissioner Comes From Good Stock

If you haven’t heard it by now, then let me be the one to tell you that the next commissioner of agriculture for Tennessee is going to be Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation Chief Administrative Officer Julius Johnson. Having worked alongside Julius for 38 years, I can tell you Governor-elect Haslam could not have picked anyone more qualified for the job than Julius. Of course, many of you are thinking I’m saying that because he currently is my boss, but that is not the case at all. I’m making these statements because I’ve known the man since 4-H Roundup in 1967 when we both were kids with a lot more hair, and since that time, just as he has watched me face life’s challenges, I have done the same with him.
He comes from Fentress County and understands agriculture from being reared on the family farm and later getting his degree in ag from the University of Tennessee. He began his career in the Extension service and moved from there to being a Farm Bureau employee in Morgan County. Since that time we have rode the Tennessee roads together, seen our children grow up in the same community and even been there for each other during times of family losses and other crises. But, more than a friend, I know he loves Tennessee and is about as sharp as anyone today about the issues of agriculture that affect our farmers and consumers. I have no fear with him at the helm of our Department of Agriculture.
I am sure with the coming of the New Year, we are going to see and hear some interesting happenings occurring up in Nashville, but just maybe all of the promises made this past summer will be fulfilled to make our hopes and dreams come true. If not, take a number and wait until the next election. Then you will have your chance to get even.
Some legislation that occurs can even cause fear in many of us. By the time we hear the media reports and listen to the discussion around the country stores, a lot of legislation becomes so taken out of context that it doesn’t even resemble the originally introduced bill.
I heard a story the other day about a ninety-year-old lady at the assisted living center who received a visit from one of her church members.
“How are you feeling these days, Mrs. Smith?” the church member asked.
“Oh,” said the lady, “I’m just worried sick and scared to death!”
“You sure look well. What are you worried about?” her friend asked. “Are you in any pain?”
“No, I have never had a pain in my life and feel as fit as a fiddle,” Mrs. Smith answered.
“Well, what are you worried about anyway?” her friend asked again.
The elderly lady leaned back in her recliner and explained her major worry to her friend, “Every close friend I ever had has already died and gone on to heaven. I’m afraid they’re all wondering where I went.”
Just like this story that has gone around for years, we all have fears and sometimes those fears are not worth the effort we put into them. We heard polls all during the election and they all were a little frightening for somebody. However, we also found out many of them didn’t know what they were talking about. A few years back, a Harris Poll came out with a study on what people are afraid of. I have used that information before and think it needs repeating.
They interviewed 1,254 adults to find out just what people are afraid of. Their detailed poll did find out that snakes are our number one fear and women have more fears than men.
The poll did show that two out of every five Americans are afraid of snakes. Fifty-seven percent of the women said they were afraid of snakes and twenty-two percent of the men.
Here is the interesting part about our fears. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) has reported that only 2 people a year die from snakebites. I still wouldn’t handle one, but it goes to show you our fears, a lot of the time, really have no background to justify the fear.
The CDCP also reported that 22 people died in 2003 from being crushed by human stampedes. That means you should have the fear of going to grand-opening sales at the mall or being caught in the halls of legislative sessions during a tax vote, and in 2011, I would stay way away from Congress and the state legislative halls during what I’m sure will be many interesting votes on that subject.
Congratulations again to Julius Johnson! The agricultural community is looking forward to working with you. He will be there to help calm those fears for Tennessee’s farmers. As thirty-second President of the United States Franklin Roosevelt once said, “There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.” That is unless you are one of the two people who statistics say was bitten by a snake.
Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at