Rural Routes Header
Commissioner Hatcher

Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M.
Building on the Foundation Placed Before Us

It is truly an honor to be Tennessee’s 38th Commissioner of Agriculture. I appreciate all of the kind words, the support, and the confidence that Governor Lee has placed in me to focus in Tennessee’s number one industry.

I am proud to build on the foundation laid by Jai Templeton and the Agriculture Commissioners who served before me. With the Governor’s farming background and tremendous support for agriculture and forestry, this is an exciting time for our industry.

We at the Department of Agriculture will work as hard as Tennessee’s farmers and foresters every day to promote and support those who provide for us. As we look toward the future, the department will focus on five key priorities:

  • Agricultural Economic Development – Increase profitability and viability of farms, forests, and agribusinesses which are vital to the state’s rural and overall economy.
  • Workforce Development, Education and Collaboration – Expand collaborative partnerships and workforce development initiatives through agricultural education and outreach efforts to increase citizen and customer understanding of the importance of food, farm, and forestry resources statewide.
  • Natural Resources Stewardship and Farm Preservation – Improve farm and forest resources through the support of voluntary practices to enhance forest health, water quality, and soil health.
  • Healthy Living – Develop and support collaborative efforts to improve the health, nutrition, and livelihood of all Tennesseans through agriculture.
  • Effective and Efficient Government – Improve the delivery of department services by streamlining programs and organizational structure.

Tennessee is positioned to be a national leader in agriculture and forestry through economic advancement, technology, innovation, and natural resource stewardship by commitment to service, family, farms, and healthy living. Our farmers and foresters are dedicated to transforming, producing, and providing. I look forward to working with you with that same kind of dedication as we go down this road together.

Following the rains and flooding that led to a State of Emergency in Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) coordinated with partners to assess damage, monitor food and fuel supplies, and assist farmers as floodwaters recede.

“Under Governor Lee’s direction, we have been coordinating responses with TEMA and other agencies to address the needs of Tennesseans ranging from ensuring food safety to assisting with livestock needs,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said.

”While there have been a few official reports of livestock losses at this time, many farmers have experienced livestock and crop losses due to excessive rainfall and flooding. We are working with USDA to see that damage assessments are conducted and we are prepared to support agricultural disaster designations where appropriate.”

Flooding and washouts in low-lying areas and river bottomlands, particularly in West Tennessee, have affected winter wheat and cover crops, which are planted to protect against soil loss.

Farmers in counties experiencing a crop loss of 30 percent or more may qualify for a USDA Secretarial Disaster Designation, making them and farmers in adjacent counties eligible to apply for low-interest emergency loans.

During the flooding event, TDA monitored and supported livestock and companion animal emergency responses, including dispatch of Disaster Animal Response Teams. Department fuel inspectors responded to locations in areas prone to water contamination. Additionally, food safety staff members ensured that food in low-lying warehousing and manufacturing facilities remained safe.

For more information, visit our flood resources page by clicking here.

SUSDA Spring Meeting

Tennessee is known for producing high-quality agricultural goods, and folks from around the world are eager to bring our food and beverage products to customers abroad.

This was reaffirmed earlier this week during our Canada inbound trade mission, where we introduced Tennessee beer, wine, and spirits producers to buying agents from Canada.

Our guests met with and learned more about businesses from all across the state, including Corsair Distillery. “We’re looking forward to taking the American craft element beyond America,” Nick Elliott with Corsair Distillery said.

Events like these are made possible through partnerships with regional trade groups like the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA).

TDA staff members attended the SUSTA State Spring Meeting in March where they learned more on how to provide resources and opportunities to Tennessee's agricultural businesses. These coordinated efforts will vie our farmers and agribusinesses valuable resources and opportunities for marketing abroad.

Connecting with international markets is a priority for us at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. If your Tennessee food, farm, or forest business is interested in exploring new markets abroad, reach out to us and visit our website.

Award Winners

The city of Pigeon Forge gained national attention for its work to safeguard the community against wildfires.

Pigeon Forge recently received a Wildfire Mitigation Award, which is the highest honor a community can achieve for outstanding work in wildfire risk reduction.

Experts and leaders in the field established the Wildfire Mitigation Award in 2014 to recognize programs and projects that are making a difference nationwide. Recognizing the comprehensive challenge posed by wildfires, these awards applaud dedication to wildfire mitigation across a broad spectrum of activities and among a variety of individuals and organizations.

“The City of Pigeon Forge has been a wildfire risk reduction leader in Tennessee for more than a decade,” Tennessee State Forester David Arnold said. “Both their fire department and community development department have championed change to protect lives and save homes and businesses. Their past, ongoing, and planned actions clearly demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to wildfire risk mitigation—within and beyond the city limits.”

The 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Awards were presented at the Wildland Urban-Interface Conference in Reno, Nev. on March 27, 2019. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry is proud that the city of Pigeon Forge was on stage with other national leaders to receive their award.

The Wildfire Mitigation Awards committee comprises the National Association of State Foresters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Fire Protection Association, and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

“Wildfire is as destructive and costly as ever before, but there are actions we can take to minimize these losses,” Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry Fire Chief Wade Waters said.

Pigeon Forge has taken several actions to address wildfire risk including:

  • Hosting a county-wide, interdisciplinary community leader workshop to promote wildfire risk reduction.
  • Providing a curb-side brush removal program for residents to reduce the risk of wildfire.
  • Being one of only nine pilot communities nationally to test the Ready, Set, Go! Program, which prepared home and business owners for evacuations.
  • Becoming a Firewise USA® Site in 2017 and holding public meetings to encourage all stakeholders to participate to reduce wildfire risk.

“We are greatly appreciative for this honor recognizing the hard work of the city employees,” Pigeon Forge City Manager Earlene Teaster said. “We need to enjoy this significant moment, however, our work is far from finished. We are still encouraging neighborhood and business leaders from all disciplines to join us in integrating wildfire risk reduction into our short- and long-term community wildfire planning.”

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry is committed to helping all homeowners, communities, and cities to reduce wildfire risk. For more information about the award or ceremony, please contact Leon Konz at 865-414-5667 and click here.

Tennessee pesticide applicators will now have improved access to required certification testing thanks to new and streamlined services. Applicators will be able to pay for and schedule tests online and receive results immediately following their exam.

“We are serious about providing effective services while wisely using taxpayer dollars,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “This change will improve the registration process and make it more convenient for applicators to take certification exams without any additional burdens to the industry or taxpayers.”

The new pesticide certification, scheduling, and exam process is being administered for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture by PSI Services based out of Glendale, CA. The company has been doing business with Tennessee agencies since 2004.

State and federal law requires any person who commercially applies or supervises the use of pesticides to be certified. There are 12,623 commercial applicators, 1,464 chartered pest control companies, and 215 restricted use pesticide dealers licensed in Tennessee.

“We will continue to work closely with industry partners to ensure that they always have the testing access needed to responsibly, properly, and effectively apply pesticides,” Hatcher said.

Testing is administered at the following locations: Chattanooga, Clarksville, Dyersburg, Jackson, Johnson City, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville. Examinations are provided Monday through Saturday at various locations, and Tennessee certification exams may also be taken out of state where offered.

For more information on pesticide certification and licensing, click here.

Fruits and Vegetables

Tennessee farmers looking to expand their markets and increase food safety by becoming Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified now have the opportunity to receive financial assistance from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA).

GAP certification allows producers to sell directly to more businesses and institutions with stringent food safety requirements, such as grocery stores or hospitals. These new opportunities allow producers to increase their income, and the certification helps to ensure food is safe and wholesome for specialty crops throughout Tennessee.

The application period closes Aug. 31, 2019. Qualified producers will have the opportunity to offset the cost of a GAP Certification inspection by being reimbursed 75% of the inspection cost up to $750.

Funds are available on a first come, first served basis. Grant funds are available to producers only; warehouses and distributors may not apply.

You will find more information and the cost share application by clicking here or by emailing Grant Pulse at