SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has proposed funding for 16 new positions within the state veterinarian’s office for the 2023-24 budget, as recommended by Commissioner of Agriculture Charlie Hatcher, DVM. TPA was very involved in initiating this request last fall and took the lead in gathering the support of industry partners from other commodity groups. TPA has also voiced very strong need for the department’s salaries to be more competitive to aid in recruitment and retention, as there have been a number of existing positions vacant due to retirements, resignations, and leaves of absence. Keith Riley, complex manager for Tyson Foods in Union City, has also been very proactive in working closely with his district’s legislators in asking for this support. Governor Lee’s final budget has not been approved by the state legislature yet, so it is subject to change. Please ask your local representatives to support fully funding these positions without any cuts or reductions.
Bird flu is still a constant threat, and the state veterinarian’s office is predicting it will remain that way for the rest of the year. Most everyone by now is aware of the farm that was confirmed positive for H5N1 in Bledsoe Co. on Nov. 15th involving 20,900 broiler breeders, followed by two organic/free-range egg farms in Weakley Co. before Christmas on Dec. 14 (37,900 layers) and Dec. 21 (28,800 layers), and then two broiler breeder farms in Weakley Co. with 19,000 and 43,600 birds, respectively, on Dec. 28. A broiler flock was the last commercial premises to test positive in TN on Jan. 20, involving 278,000 broilers (8 houses) in Weakley Co. Very concerningly, these broilers were 4 weeks old, making them the youngest birds to be infected by H5 to our knowledge. To date, nationally, over 58.59 million birds have been affected since this outbreak began earlier in 2022, involving 321 commercial flocks. 463 backyard flocks have been reported, as well. Dr. Samantha Beaty, TN State Veterinarian, reminds everyone to wear their boot covers properly and practice optimal biosecurity measures at all times. Outdoor poultry are still under advisement to be kept indoors.
Black vulture depredation sub-permits are now available for TN Farm Bureau members. These permits allow farmers to legally “take out” black vultures attacking livestock. Applicants must agree to follow all rules and regulations required by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. The use of black vulture carcasses as effigy is highly encouraged to deter the return of other vultures. Applications are available at www.tnfarmbureau.org/blackvultures or at any county Farm Bureau office after March 15, 2023.
Expanded sales and use tax exemptions for agriculture (“ag exemption”) went into effect Jan. 1st for TN. Construction materials are now eligible for exemption, but only if directly purchased by the person named on the ag exemption certificate. Poultry equipment is also eligible if purchased directly by the grower named on their ag exemption certificate. Construction materials and equipment purchased by a builder and packaged into one loan are not eligible for tax exemption because it is then considered to be “real property”. A recently recorded webinar explaining the expanded exemptions is posted online, and detailed information can be found on this website. Be advised to seek official rulings and advice from the TN Dept. of Revenue before making major purchasing decisions and setting up construction loans.
A new cost share program for agricultural businesses in TN has been announced by TDA. The FARM cost share program will fund projects that promote stabilizing and strengthening the supply chain to prevent future challenges. Up to $1 million can be available at 50% cost share (or 75% if in a distressed county) if approved for funding. Details can be found at www.tn.gov/FARM, and the first application period ends March 31, 2023.
–Tennessee Poultry Association