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Industry in focus

Ag Day events put farming, forestry center stage on Capitol Hill
Story and photos by: Chris Villines 4/25/2019


Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee gives remarks to legislators, spectators, media, and agriculture industry leaders during Ag Day on the Hill activities March 12 in Nashville. As he did throughout his campaign and since taking office in January, the governor communicated his commitment to agriculture and rural initiatives.
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Bill Lee propped his foot up on a log, put on his chaps and trusty 4-H cap, grabbed one end of a cross-cut saw, and got to work.

But Tennessee’s governor wasn’t at his Williamson County farm. He was smack in the middle of downtown Nashville near Capitol Hill.

Gov. Lee was partnering with Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation President Jeff Aiken to compete in a log sawing contest, part of the festivities on March 12 associated with Ag Day on the Hill and the 46th observance of National Agriculture Day. The Farm and Forest Families of Tennessee once again served as sponsor of the event.

State legislators, agriculture representatives, media members, and other spectators cheered on the participants, which also included the House of Representatives team of Chris Todd (R-Jackson) and Glen Casada (R-Franklin) and the Senate team of Bo Watson (R-Hixson) and Mike Bell (R-Riceville).

By a single second, Gov. Lee and Aiken prevailed with a winning time of 34 seconds. The ultimate victor of the competition was Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, as the organization received a $1,000 check from Farm and Forest Families of Middle Tennessee on behalf of the governor and legislature.

The governor’s appearance was no surprise given his steadfast support of Tennessee agriculture and pledge to bolster the state’s rural communities. And he stated this devotion when addressing the Ag Day audience:

“As a person who grew up in the ag industry all my life, had a farming family for multiple generations, and as one who understands that agriculture is the No. 1 industry in our state, I’m proud about Ag Day on the Hill, but mostly I’m excited about the renewed focus that I think many of us [have] on understanding why agriculture is so important. I celebrate ag and am grateful to be a part of today’s celebration.”

Ag Day on the Hill is held each spring to recognize the vital role that agriculture plays in the state’s economy and culture. Agriculture is one of Tennessee’s leading industries, contributing more than $81 billion a year to the economy and accounting for more than 351,000 jobs. The state has some 66,000 farms representing 10.8 million acres, as well as 14 million acres of forestland.

“We’re proud to be celebrating this day and thankful to the governor for declaring it Ag Day,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M., in his remarks to attendees. “In today’s world, most of society is three generations removed from the farm. Whatever we can do to educate people and let them know about the hard work and dedication that farmers, ranchers, and foresters put into their jobs and businesses, the better off we are.”

In addition to the cross-cut saw contest, Ag Day on the Hill featured outdoor exhibits from agribusinesses, educational institutions, and other related agencies. There were also live animal displays of cattle, sheep, and swine, and lunch was provided by Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q.

“This is the first time we’ve had our cattle here and have really enjoyed it,” said Matt Collins of CN Cattle Co. in Marshall County who, along with son Mason, brought three of their registered Herefords to exhibit. “We’ve met a lot of people. Some of them have never been this close to cattle before, so it’s neat that they can see the animals and know more about where their food comes from.”

After lunch, a standing-room-only crowd participated in a special House Agriculture Committee session that featured comments from Commissioner Hatcher as well as Tennessee State 4-H Council President Will Dalton of Grainger County and Middle Tennessee Regional FFA President Kaitlin Taylor of Rutherford County.

“A lot of people read about agriculture but don’t really experience it in person,” said Taylor, a senior at Oakland High School in Murfreesboro who will double major in agricultural communications and animal science at Oklahoma State University this fall. “For them to come out here, see live animals, and talk to those who farm and are involved in FFA or 4-H fills the missing piece to what they see and hear elsewhere.”

Tennessee Farm Bureau Communications Director Lee Maddox, who also serves as president of Farm and Forest Families of Tennessee, emceed Ag Day on the Hill and perhaps best summed up the emphasis that should be placed on the industry.

“Not only today, but every day is Ag Day,” he said. “Agriculture is vitally important, and we appreciate lawmakers and the support you give to this industry and others related to it. Thank you for what you do and thank you for being here.”

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