Or how a Blount County problem will screw the rest of the state.

SB1614 Signed today March 28h. .


Everyone should be familiar with the Blount County battle over whether amplified music is an agricultural use. Background here (link...)

HB1410/SB1614 seeks to change the Right to Farm Act and allow an anything goes attitude as long as it happens on a farm. HB1410 cleared the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee yesterday with only Gloria Johnson logging in a no vote.

This is nothing short of yet another big power grab by the state because under the Right to Farm Act local zoning laws just do not apply.

Farms are found within every major city limit from Chattanooga and Johnson City to Knoxville, Clarksville and Memphis. With consumer emphases being placed on locally grown food, this is a good thing!

The Right To Farm Act supersedes any local zoning ordinance.

In 2009 Tennessee passed additional and separate Agritourism codes to limit liability and help protect farmers who invite the public to their farms. They clearly spoke on the floor of pick-your-own pumpkins and corn mazes That same code clearly defines that Agritourism (protection) is for farms only in Greenbelt status and over 15 acres.

The Right to Farm Act is for all farms regardless of size or tax status. The USDA defines a farm

As defined by Congress, a farm is any agricultural operation that had $1,000 in sales in the census year or had the potential to have $1,000 in sales in the census year.

Any changes to the Right to Farm Act will apply to anyone whose property meets the USDA definition of farm. And it should! We need to protect those who feed America no matter how small in size. These days we want more local production and that is going to mean smaller acreage farms and those are not offered Greenbelt tax savings.

So, how do we protect both our food source, the farmers and those neighboring property owners from events that are clearly not farm related?

We start by dumping the bill and continuing to allow local control over local farms via local zoning regulations. That may include expanding those local zoning laws to allow the occasional big/ noisy non-production event by special permit with clear rules in place that protect all of us. Where we go from there should be up to our local communities- not big Ag, not the mega-jority controlling the state house.

(In the past hour it appears the other two bills seeking to add entertainment to the Right to Farm Act have been withdrawn.)

Average Guy's picture

"Shut it down!"

That was a GOP mantra on the government, right up until the time some octogenarians got stopped from visiting war memorials.

The law of unintended consequences and all that.

So now we have “entertainment” is allowed on farmland. That’s it, just entertainment. No definition, no further explanation.

People here are pretty quick and clever. Let’s see how many “entertainment” ideas we can come up with that would have the GOP and their supporters thinking about what this may mean for them and their constituents.

I say find the largest farm parcel next to Rep. McCormick’s property and host a Rainbow Gathering.

For Senator Norris, helicopter rides! They’re entertaining!

yellowdog's picture

Good ideas. anyone able to carry them out?

It is fun to think up stunts on property next door to these characters, but of course actually doing something "persuasive" would be hard to do. A good rock and roll concert on a "farm" next to a big church during services would be fun.

Average Guy's picture

Hey, it works in the gas industry


But I do like the idea of rock concert (metal for effect) next to a church. More bang for the buck.

And of course some local Dems handing out literature on how the congregation’s local Republican legislators let it happen may warrant a better understanding.

Mello's picture

looking the wrong way

This bill is being pushed by the Tennessee Farm Bureau. Are all yee who belong happy this is going to happen in your own backyard?

The thing that continues to confuse me is why there has not been a peep out of any of our progressive city mayors regarding the loss of their zoning powers.

At the rate this mess is traveling it will all be over, done, approved and on Haslam's desk by March 11th. That is a week before the Tennessee Municipal League's Legislative Conference where they can learn what powers they have lost.

yellowdog's picture

Mayor Rogero and her lobbyist are aware of this.

I do not know about the other mayors but I cannot imagine that Knoxville's lobbyist does not work with the other cities' people in Nashville.

Whether it is strategically wise for them to be "out loud" about this or to work to modify it more quietly is not something I know enough about to offer an opinion. Especially in a case like this where the bill has the backing of very bigtime players.

Bbeanster's picture

Ain't it funny how Madame

Ain't it funny how Madame Speaker Harwell exiled G. Johnson to the Ag Committee instead of Education in hopes of muzzling her?

Mello's picture



jbr's picture

Whois on the Education

Whois on the Education committee?

Bbeanster's picture

Harry Brooks (Chair) and Bill

Harry Brooks (Chair) and Bill Dunn.

Mello's picture

I am a farmer!

Under the USDA definition of farm I will be a farmer this year. Last year, I was not because I gave away instead of selling more than $1,000 in fruits and veggies. This summer, I will sell them instead.

I am not zoned 'agricultural' because we don't really do that here in Tennessee. For me it is a permitted use in my county's rural district.

redmondkr's picture

I have a 2.12 acre tree farm

I have a 2.12 acre tree farm on my hillside. I raise oxygen but I haven't figured out how to market it. I give it away (to some I would rather not have it - it's difficult to control). I suppose the trees could bring in a thousand bucks in a year but I don't know what I would do for the next year.

Joe328's picture

Get a rooster and hen, sell

Get a rooster and hen, sell one egg to parents for $1,000. Or sell hemp if Frank Nicely can change the law.

Mello's picture

Start a tree CSA

People pay a yearly fee for you to grow their trees. On weekends all owners can come and party down as they inspect the crop. How many trees do you have there pal?

redmondkr's picture

My friend Lanny has been

My friend Lanny has been talking about setting up a stage in my woods and streaming our little band regularly on the Whirled Wide Web.

Mello's picture

see update


Mello's picture

Definition of agriculture- secondary to

( ) Entertainment activities conducted in conjunction with, but secondary to,commercial production of farm products and nursery stock, when such activities occur on land used for the commercial production of farm products and nursery stock.

How will secondary to be defined?

Shall it be the noise made from entertainment? The income made from entertainment? The amount of time the land is used for entertainment when compared to actual farming?

yellowdog's picture

a lawyer protection act?

What does "in conjunction with" mean? I would think it means that they have to have something to do with each other. Corn maze has to do with raising corn. pumpkin patch to do with raising pumpkins, etc.

Rock and roll has nothing to do with any farming except for what you listen to on the tractor.

Mello's picture

secondary to-

This presentation from the Univ of Vermont is pretty darn clear that non farm production such as a concert is filed on 1040 Schedule C " Income or Loss from a Business" rather than the Schedule F for Farm Income.

And with the Schedule F including everything that is actually farm related including government assistance payments I can only think that we are talking about the time of the event rather than dollar amounts. Farming is a 365 day a year job so one day less is secondary to.....

Mello's picture

Passed in Senate Committee

7-0 and why do we even bother to try elect Democrats when they are as bad as the rest of the guys?

Mike Knapp's picture

Three words

Tennessee Farm Bureau

Mello's picture

with 600,000 family members

and 70,000 farms in Tennessee odds are they be screwing the majority of their family.

Mike Knapp's picture

I'm with you on that - how the game is played

It is a racket. Whenever anything is attempted in this state that has anything to do with agricultural related policy folks have to deal with the farm bureau. It is probably the most powerful organization in the state. That's why it doesn't really matter if lawmakers are dem/repub. It is more a rural/urban distinction. Just take a look at the ag committees and how they are stacked. Politically dem or repub from a rural are won't survive long if they buck the FB. An insurance company that counts policyholders as "members"...

Mello's picture

back fire-

Not so long ago Blount county had a focus on the problem of properties being rezoned from what is considered AG to commercial yet there was no increase in assessed value so those taxes did not go up. Remember most counties don't actually zone as AG but it is a permitted use. At that time we learned the state assessment guidelines followed not straight zoning but actual use of the land.
I would like to think their family members realize allowing full blown commercial use on properties deemed farms and receiving as much as a 70% tax break will result in a full blown tea party chant of giving tax brakes where they don't belong.
Again, all of this could be avoided by keeping the ability of local cities and counties to work with these concert farms for sensible regulations. So, I say, a vote against this horrible bill is a vote for our rural residents.

Mike Knapp's picture

I wish it might backfire

They're behind the bill at least according to their March 2014 newsletter.
Download, page 7.
Mark Norris has always been one of their guys. I'd love to here what the blount county local FB guys have to say about this. It always isn't a clean cut when they vote on these policy issues. This may have been a real battle.

Mello's picture


I bet they never ask the local realtors what would happen to the property values of the neighbors to these farms. I guess folks can go to the state to ask for their property taxes to be reduced to reflect the damage they will endure. Good luck selling!

Mello's picture

Final call folks!

Monday the house votes it in. The Senate has it on the consent calendar for Monday as well. Got that? The loss of zoning over loud concerts in both cities and rural areas just slips over on a consent calendar....as if it has nothing to do with YOUR property values.

This week the Senate committee could not even define what the heck 'entertainment' is but they would know it when they see it.

I wish someone would explain to me how, we, as citizens, were suppose to know that these bills are 'administration" bills. They may be marked for the reps in chamber but there is nothing on the pdfs for the public.

Since the weather has finally turned I will now ready my soil for a nice crop of music. Knowing that I heard in both house and senate committees that if there is a problem they will revisit it next year- and that can only mean removing the word entertainment next year and happily grandfathering in all those who were able to book loud festivals and concerts this summer. Get busy gang!

Brad Ansley's picture

The Right to Farm Act is very sick and it needs to be healed.

The Right to Farm Act is very sick and it needs to be healed. That treatment requires in depth discussion by the people of Tennesse in the bright light in front of closed doors. There needs to clear definition of "a farm", farming, agritourism, agritainment and entertainment. I'm sure some of the KKK thought it was entertaining to watch African Americans lynched, but it's hardly farming.
As many may remember from a few years ago a family was tired of farming decided they wanted to sell their beautiful working farm that went back for generations because a guy was willing to pay them more than the farm was worth to construct a soccer complex that would have included hotels, delis and other commercial businesses. It was considered against zoning regs and was eventually voted down. The soccer complex guy bit the bullet, bought more expensive land inside the Urgan Growth Boundary (oh yeah, that will be virtually become un-enforcable with this new bill) and built his complex. The zoning regs worked. Perfect!

With this bill what's to stop or discourage any entrepeneur from building his or her business on much cheaper, lower taxed farmland. This could reduce the amount of locally produced agricultural products and the subsequent loss of greenspace and rural atmosphere that we so cherish in Tennessee. This bill could very be very bad for local small farmers.

How about a strip club for entertainment?

Mello's picture

Here is some really curious timing on legislation

Last year the AG GAG bill was introduced in a non-election year.

This year, the newest version of AG GAG is lagging in committee scheduling.

Could it be that the April 3 deadline for filing as a candidate to run in a statewide race has anything to do with the timing?

Anyone who votes for HB1410 will still have to answer to their constituents but at least they are rushing the vote to allow an opportunity for someone to run against their record.

yellowdog's picture

It's about the future of everyone's rights to be left alone!

I think people who live "in town" do not care what happens outside the urban growth boundaries and thus have sat this out, at least on Knoxviews. If someone wanted to make it ok for anyone "in town" to make as much noise as they want as long as the noise is "entertainment," people would be all upset.

That is pretty much what this bill will do to those of us who live outside the cities and towns. There is a serious property rights issue at stake for everyone.

There is also a parallel threat to farmers' own property values, for people who may want to buy farmland near other farmland cannot be certain that their neighbor will not set up a Go Cart Track.

The Farm Bureau is primarily an insurance company, not a representative of real farmers, even though some real farmers are active in the FB.

The ability of farmers to do the things the FB says this is about could be handled with some careful attention to details but this is a bazooka approach to problem solving.

Mello's picture

City folks should be screaming!

Do Knoxville, Maryville, Alcoa, Clarksville, Johnson City and every other town in the state have an exemption to this part of the code? 6-54-126. Zoning limitations on agricultural land.

For any land that is used for agricultural purposes as of May 10, 1998, a municipality may not use its zoning power to interfere in any way with the use of such land for agricultural purposes as long as the land is used for agricultural purposes.

Cities don't define what agricultural purposes are- the state does. And the same folks who brought us the AG GAG bills are the same folks who are trying to gag local zoning regs. Too bad we don't have some blonde singer telling the Governor how bad this bill is.

Mello's picture


Not a peep on the senate side- tossed into the consent calendar and not a vote against.
House side only one question was ask and it of course was framed wrong so the answer remains...oh, no.. no new Bonnaroo.. only four votes against.

So, someone tell me what the hell Getting It Done means? Getting it done for what special interest?

bizgrrl's picture

A sad state of affairs in TN.

A sad state of affairs in TN.

If he [Gov. Haslam] approves the law, the definition of agriculture will be changed to include: “Entertainment activities conducted in conjunction with, but secondary to, commercial production of farm products and nursery stock, when such activities occur on land used for the commercial production of farm products and nursery stock.”

The law would apparently exempt those types of entertainment activities from local zoning laws.

Average Guy's picture

What this means to your quiet neighborhood

What prompted this was helicopter rides a "farmer" was providing as part of his farms "entertainment". (the farm is right next to several residential neighborhoods)

The State Supreme Court said this was NOT agricultural entertainment.

What these legislators are doing is changing the law, so a "farmer" CAN host such activities.

Keep in mind a helicopter at 100ft is 100 decibels. (or 8 times louder than 70dB)

A rock concert is 120 decibels. (or 32 times louder than 70db)

For comparison, an alarm clock next to your head is 75 decibels.

Maybe Green Acres ain't the place to be...

yellowdog's picture


This is just as advertised, a Farm Bureau overreaction which undermines the rights farmers' neighbors have to be left alone. It is a shame that legislators cannot muster the nerve to act responsibly when the governor and the FB want to trample on the rest of us.

All they would have had to do was spell out what makes a person a "farmer," prohibit non-farmers (middlemen selling real farmers' products) from eligibility to "entertain," and then prohibit the sounds of "entertainment" from being heard outside the "farm."

Apparently that is to much trouble for the legislators

Bbeanster's picture

I'd wager that Joe McCord had

I'd wager that Joe McCord had a finger in this pie.

R. Neal's picture

Here's some background on

Here's some background on this issue:


Interesting reading about how the plaintiff was allegedly harassed. I had a little taste of it (nothing compared to Ms. Shore), which led to me to pretty much abandon BlountViews. (The Mrs. keeps it up from time to time.)

Also, this was interesting:


I notice that our local newspaper did not publish the results from their on line poll on 02/13/08.

This poll ask the following question: SHOULD FARMS BE BANNED FROM HOLDING CONCERTS?

The results from 450 votes cast were 66.2% in favor of banning these concerts and 33.8 were in favor of allowing these concerts.

Note this poll did not indicate that our local zoning regulations do not list the use of concerts as an accepted use that is allowed, nor as a use that can be granted as a special exception.

Joe328's picture

Driven by Maple Lane Farms

Driven by Maple Lane Farms many times but mostly during the day. Seen a few event but never seen a band. Is it really that bad. If so, I would be upset since the community is so peaceful.

Mello's picture

here- read

Do what our legislature never did.... read it... (link...)
and (link...)
I'll repeat myself time and again- the Farm Bureau clearly said they support this legislation because of a Blount County farmer. And that is because one homeowner paid the huge money to get this appealed twice! How many of us could afford the attorney for the first complaint let alone three more? The law will apply statewide. I have yet to hear anyone explain to me how this will be limited to 15 acre greenbelt parcels nor how it will NOT be applied to farms in city limit.

Joe328's picture

I'm against the bill, but

I'm against the bill, but didn't realize this was such a problem at that location. My crystal ball tells me that Lamar Alexander probably had a big hand in this. Lamar keeps a very low profile when helping himself and friends in Blount County. West Miller Cove Rd is the who's who of corrupt politicians.

It seems everyone has forgot that it was Governor Larmar Alexander that first proposed the parkway extension into Townsend. Most of his prior real estate is now owned by LLC or family members. He brags he has no interest in the completion of the parkway.

yellowdog's picture

there are lots of foes of good sense

I doubt Lamar has a hand in this particular bit of silliness. Even though Joe328 is right about the rest of Lamar's legacy re: Pellissippi Parkway Extension. And I have never heard Lamar say he has no interest in the completion of the parkway.

Mello's picture

This bill will not include concerts?


No.... listen to the response. Water quality. Bonnaroo. Pretty clear to me from the final vote and various committees the only group in the room paying any attention to this was TCWN.

Funny how the only definition of concert that was ever discussed was Bonnaroo.

yellowdog's picture


"Farmer" Schmidt in today's Daily Times makes it clear that 1) he cannot make a living farming, 2) he fully intends to have more concerts and bother his neighbors, and 3) he is not remotely sorry to be an obnoxious bully. If much of his income comes from concerts and not from actually growing or raising anything to eat, how will his "entertainment" be secondary to his farming?

This is a nasty joke on good sense and decency.

Mello's picture

Breaking news- Chickens are a farm product!


Yes, someone ask for an AG Opinion on chickens in farm trucks. Yet no one could be bothered to ask the AG what constitutes 'secondary'. Wait, does this mean tour buses are now farm trucks??? ( oh, how I miss Snarkbites!)

Mello's picture

Noise Pollution- Clean Air Act

The idea that my 'farm' neighbor is now going to have rights to my property still infuriates me. This little house is all we own yet this law will allow my neighbor to bombard me with his version of entertainment. If a kid pulls up next to you and blasts music at you from his car- the cops can arrest him for that. But the same cops can not arrest your neighbor for doing the same thing to you-in your own home. Or rural business. Or rural school. Or nursing facility.

Did you know Title IV of the Clean Air Act is Noise Pollution?
Then Reagan came into office and enforcement of such was pretty much moved to the states where is was promptly ignored. The exception we see is enforcement of noise pollution regarding airports and truck mufflers.

Further reading (link...)

Mike Knapp's picture

The Blount county farm bureau

Should be made to go on the record about this; this should be a solid story for for the daily times, right up wildsmith's alley...

Mello's picture

Why just Blount County?

Yes, this was all about one farmer in Blount but since it will apply statewide should not that smiling guy in the red hat have to explain it to all of us?


yellowdog's picture

Forget the Daily Times

Someone with clout at the Daily Times has an "interest" in Maple Lane Farm and the paper has been on the wrong side of this issue from the beginning. Maybe Steve Wildsmith could write about it and not get fired but it is not really up his alley, so to speak.

Mello's picture

Thanks,, YD

That is what I wanted to say but found myself in that big flashback of all the many battles down there and how TDT responded in the past.

Mello's picture

Is it time to end all zoning???

If helicopters, unregulated amplified music and who knows what they will think of next are legal farm uses then why should we continue to have any zoning regulations?
They set this change up so every place from a rural cemetery and church to a nursing home or public school has to be 'secondary' to the whims of any farmer.

So, I do ask- why continue to have any zoning laws?

Mello's picture

KNS LTTE behind paywall

Mello's picture

Dan Rather's in town-

or at least he is in East Tenn. Says he is listening to Dolly Parton songs which makes me guess he is here to interview Dolly for his show "Dan Rather Reports" Recently he did an interview with Crosby, Stills and Nash which was great.

Average Guy's picture

Farm Bureau

Wonder what the rate difference is to insure normal farming as opposed to "entertainment" on a farm?

Mello's picture

oh, you missed that part-

When they passed the bill in 2012 it was for those engaged in agritourism SB 2439. Blah, little signs, tort reform...blah...
so- I guess they got that covered, eh?

Mello's picture

camping is also a farm product?


Is camping educational, recreational or entertainment?

If all farms can be campgrounds can many campgrounds be farms for reduced taxes via Greenbelt status? This is not to0 far fetched because my neighboring campground is 40 acres, taxed at 40% commercial rate for the entire property but only 5 acres are used as campground. The rest is some woods and actual productive crop lands.

Here is a look at just how we got here- (link...)

Mello's picture

Signed today.

Never any doubt this was going to be signed but the Unintended Consequences will be really interesting.

Not to mention that should you-

Go to the BZA-win
Go to Chancery Court-lose
Appeal to the state-lose
Appeal to the TN Supreme Court and WIN
They will just change the law around you.
And when you are scheduled to go back to Chancery
To find out that which was once not permitted is now permitted-

The powers that be will schedule a special called meeting on the same morning.

And any reporter who normally might be interested in covering this won't. Too many advertising dollars at risk. My, gosh, they might get McNutted....

bizgrrl's picture

Lawsuit against Maple Lane

Lawsuit against Maple Lane Farms continues. Judge denies motion to dismiss.

yellowdog's picture

Never mind the lawsuit.

The legislature has enabled the very misbehavior that led to the lawsuit in the first place, Even if Ms. Shore eventually "wins" the lawsuit that asked Mr. Schmidt to adhere to the Board of Zoning Appeals' restricting them to one loud and obnoxious concert a year (and why should there be even one?), the new state law removes the ability of the BZA to make such restrictions.

Is this a great state or what?

Mello's picture

And all but four state

And all but four state democrats supported this.

Just wait until a farm within a newly designated Adventure Tourism District gets rolling...... there is no end to the insanity.

Joe328's picture

Pig Farm on one side and

Pig Farm on one side and Chickens on the other side should fix the loud concerts.

Knoxgal's picture

Manure lagoon, too

Make sure that pig farm includes a large manure lagoon

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