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September 24, 2010   Email to Friend  Download PDF of this Issue

Five counties eligible for help in fighting pigweed infestations

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced an initiative aimed at controlling infestations of the glyphosate-resistant species of pigweed in five Alabama counties.

According to State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett, the agency has allocated special funds under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help producers fight the weed in Barbour, Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison and Russell counties.

Applications must be submitted before Oct. 30 to receive consideration for funding for the 2011 fiscal year. Interested producers should visit the nearest USDA Service Center to determine eligibility.

For information, contact the local NRCS or Farm Service Agency Office. NRCS field offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Mitchell Endorsement

Sen. "Walking" Wendell Mitchell received endorsements last week from Pike County farmers and other local leaders during a press conference at the Pike County Cattlemen's Park. Mitchell represents Senate District 30, which includes Autauga, Butler, Crenshaw, Elmore, Lowndes and Pike counties. He is seeking re-election to his eighth, four-year term. Members of the Pike County Farmers Federation organized the conference and praised Mitchell for his sponsorship and support of several agricultural bills that were passed during the last legislative session.

Baldwin County takes aim at stopping DUI offenses

Area Organization Director Paul Brown, left, rides with a student from Daphne High School as she tries to negotiate a driving course while wearing goggles that simulate driving under the influence of alcohol. The program was sponsored by the Baldwin County Farmers Federation.
Students in south Alabama are getting first-hand knowledge of why drinking and driving is so dangerous thanks to members of the Baldwin County Farmers Federation.

The county Federation is sponsoring a program that, by using specially designed goggles, gives students the feeling of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs while trying to negotiate a driving course and taking a field sobriety test.

David Bitto, president of the Baldwin County Farmers Federation, said the county organization spent about $7,500 to purchase the customized John Deere Gator, a trailer to transport it and the special goggles.

"If we can save one life through this program, every penny that was spent will be worth it," he said.

The reaction from the students has been entertaining but serious, said Federation Area Organization Director Paul Brown who implemented the program in the schools. Brown also takes the opportunity to tell students about slow-moving vehicle signs and to watch for tractors and other farm equipment on the road. "Most of the students show up laughing, and we want them to have a good time," Brown said. "But when they get in here and put their hands on the wheel, it becomes serious and they realize, 'Man, this is a lot tougher than I thought it was gonna be.'"

The drivers wear goggles that simulate a .25 blood alcohol level, turning the relatively simple task of driving the utility vehicle through a path of safety cones into something much more difficult.

Tyler Beard of Daphne High School was among those who participated in the program.

"It was tough," he said. "I almost fell down during the field sobriety test. And driving - forget it - I couldn't hardly see the cones."

The Alabama Department of Public Safety has joined the Baldwin County Farmers Federation in the project by providing Alabama State Troopers who assist with the programs. Trooper Greg Eubanks commended the Federation for funding the program. "This allows us to interact with students and get the point across about how serious it is and how it can take people's lives," he said. "The goal of all this is to promote traffic safety."

Monroe and Escambia County Farmers Federations are partnering with the Baldwin County Federation to bring the program to those counties, Brown said.

Drought continues, USDA announces disaster programs

Red area indicates extreme drought.
The most recent report by the U.S. Drought Monitor shows the entire state is abnormally dry and some areas in east central Alabama are suffering from extreme drought.

Almost every segment of agriculture has been affected by the drought, coupled with unusually high temperatures. The drought and heat have caused row crops to wither and stressed poultry and livestock.

While most farmers are praying for rain, many also are reviewing aid recently announced by USDA from disasters a year ago.

The 2009 disaster assistance program has funds available for cotton, rice, soybean and sweet potato farmers whose crops were damaged by excess rain; poultry farmers who lost production when their integrator declared bankruptcy; and aquaculture producers who experienced unusually high feed input costs.

All Alabama counties are eligible for the disaster program except Coosa. For details about the 2009 disaster program, farmers should contact their local Farm Service Agency office.

Bird-hunting preserves have new license option

A bill backed by the Alabama Farmers Federation and passed by the state Legislature earlier this year is benefitting hunters and bird-hunting preserve owners. The new law allows preserve owners the option to purchase a blanket license that covers the operation of the preserve as well as those who hunt on the preserve. This license option negates former requirements that all hunters must purchase a state hunting license while on the preserve.

Traditional preserve licenses are still available. Those require each hunter to purchase an individual hunting license.

Preserve owners may purchase the new blanket license at any county probate office or from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. For more details, contact Federation Wildlife Division Director Steve Guy at SGuy@AlfaFarmers.org or (334) 613-4305.

Rural Medical Scholarships

Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan, right, and Federation Organization Department Director Mike Tidwell, left, recently presented 10 $500-scholarships to students in the UAB School of Medicine's, Rural Medicine Program. The ceremony was held at the Health Resource Center at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika. Up to 10 qualified students from rural areas are chosen each year for the Rural Medicine Program, which is a highly selective pre-med and medical school program, based on high academic achievement, character and leadership qualities. The program grooms recruits to return to their rural roots to help improve health care in under-served areas.

Promoting Ag Careers

The Elmore County Farmers Federation Women's Leadership Committee participated in Elmore County Career Day Sept. 14 at the Wetumpka Civic Center. County Women's Leadership Committee Chairman Betty Barrett, right, encouraged students to consider agriculture as a career choice and course of study in college.


Dan Anders, an honorary board member and long-time board member of the Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation, died Sept. 10. He was 89.

Anders graduated from Tuscaloosa High School and served four years in the Army during World War II. He later worked 16 years for the Alabama Department of Agriculture.

Survivors include his wife, Julia Agnes Hobson Anders; sons, Dan Hobson (Connie) Anders and Joseph Earl (Donna) Anders, all of Northport; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Memorials may be made to the Pleasant Ridge Primitive Baptist Church or Mt. Hebron Church Cemetery.

Alabama Treasure Forest Conference

Cleburne County Farmers Federation Board Member Jimmy Jimmerson, right, was among those attending the Alabama TREASURE Forest Association Conference in Troy Sept. 10-11. Tauna Pierce of Nature's Echo, Inc., left, was among the speakers for the event. She discussed the role birds of prey have in the forest. Jimmerson is president-elect of the association, which is dedicated to improving Alabama forest lands, wildlife habitats, pine and hardwood timber resources, clean water, recreation opportunities and beautiful scenery.

Safety and Health Screening

Dee River Ranch in Pickens County recently sponsored a Farm Safety and Health Screening Day for their employees. Students from the University of Alabama School of Medicine's Rural Medical Scholars Program, Russell Allinder, left, and Theresa Berry, right, screen Annie Dee for high blood pressure, diabetes and other health-related information. Dee said she plans to make the screening a regular event.

Peanut producers excluded from federal crop disaster program

As if a federal proposal to eliminate peanuts and peanut products from commercial airlines was not enough, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced an agricultural disaster program earlier this week that excludes peanut producers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a summary of the 2009 agricultural disaster assistance earlier this week that lists rice, soybeans, cotton and sweet potatoes. However, peanuts were not included.

Peanut growers in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi produce about 80 percent of the nation's peanuts but will be excluded under the proposal.

"Our congressional delegation is trying to assist us, but common sense should have preceded this decision and the administration should have included peanuts in the disaster program," said Coffee County peanut producer Carl Sanders, president of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association.

The USDA program's stated intent was to mirror agriculture assistance legislation proposed in the House and Senate, both of which made peanut producers eligible for assistance.

Five Representatives from peanut-producing regions joined U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Ala., in sending a letter to Vilsack demanding the proposal be amended to include peanuts. "The USDA does not seem to have any valid rhyme or reason for excluding peanuts from its proposal," Bright said. "Though I am grateful for the inclusion of cotton and soybeans in the proposal, our peanut producers experienced tremendous hardships from record rain last year, causing them to harvest their crops far behind schedule. The result was a lower-grade crop than expected, forcing them to sell their product at a fraction of the normal price."

Bright said the USDA is picking "winners and losers" and the result is that peanut producers continue to suffer.

"I am pleased to join with my colleagues who represent peanut-producing regions to demand answers and a remedy to this obvious wrong," Bright said. "While our peanut growers continue to suffer, USDA has chosen to ignore their needs. We believe the USDA should make decisions based upon what is best for all struggling sectors of American agriculture--not just a few of them."

The Alabama Peanut Producers Association is part of the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation (SPFF), which is asking Congress to reconsider the plan and include peanuts in the program. The association also includes the Florida Peanut Producers Association, Georgia Peanut Commission and Mississippi Peanut Growers Association.

More information on the disaster proposal is available online at www.AmericanPeanuts.com.

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