By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
FRANKLIN - Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday asked Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation leaders at their convention to develop a plan next year for agricultural growth, and Marshall County farmers reacted positively.
Such an economic development plan should be practical, actionable and affordable, the governor said. If farmers deliver such a plan, then the Haslam Administration will be their partner in making those ideas become a reality, he said.
"It's something to be looked at to further agriculture in the state and to keep it profitable," Marshall County Farm Bureau President Jimmy Ogilvie of Lunns Store Road said.
Also attending at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Cool Springs were Tony White, president of the Tennessee Dairy Producers Association; Bedford County Farm Bureau President Marty Davis; and local Farm Bureau Board member Talitha Liggett, wife of Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett.
"Agriculture is a vital part of the economy in Tennessee," Davis said, interpreting Haslam's point. "Every $1 a farmer has generates $7 in economic activity, so if you generate more economic activity for farmers, agriculture will generate even more on the other side."
Haslam said George Washington advocated agriculture for economic development.
"I'm asking you to be a willing partner with Commissioner Johnson and me," Haslam said, referring to Julius Johnson of Columbia, the state agriculture commissioner and immediate past chief executive officer at Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation headquarters in Columbia.
Asked about Farm Bureau leaders' discussions surrounding points made by the governor, Ogilvie replied, "Property rights are the most important thing."
White, a Marshall County dairyman, explained farmers are still reacting to a bill brought up by now-former state Rep. Eddie Bass (R-Prospect), the former Giles County sheriff who asserted gun owners' right to keep a gun in their vehicle even if it was on their employer's parking lot.
This does "not necessarily" align farmers with factory owners, White said. Davis went further on the point of contention during the last session of the state Legislature.
"Somebody with a gun carry permit can exercise his right, but if the property owner says no, that takes precedent," Davis said. Some farmers are concerned about being able to control who has the right to carry firearms on their property, just as some factory owners don't want employees to have guns on their property.
Haslam's request for help from farmers for economic development came with his recollection that they asked him to eliminate the inheritance tax, and Davis acknowledged Tennessee's new law.
"The death tax is being phased out on the state level with language to protect us if someone tries to bring it back," Davis said.
Brandon Whitt, immediate past chairman of Tennessee Young Farmers, said passage of property down to the next generation is the biggest issue in his age group.
"Marshall County is not immune to this problem," said Whitt of Rutherford County. "Land values still go up even though housing has been slow."
He complimented Haslam and doesn't want Congress to impose death taxes again.
Bio-technology, animal welfare and safety were other issues considered at the convention.