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February 25, 2011   Email to Friend 

Farm of Distinction finalists selected

Farm of Distinction contestants Andy Sumblin, right, and his wife, Anne Sumblin, left, visit with judges who toured their Coffee County farm on Wednesday. The judges were Tom Tribble, territory manager for John Deere, Grace Smith, co-host of Alabama Farmers Cooperative's "Time Well Spent" and Spencer Ryan, executive director of Alabama PALS.
Six of Alabama's finest farms were judged this week in the annual Alabama Farm of Distinction Contest sponsored by the Alabama Farm-City Committee. Each of the farms will be recognized during the annual Farm-City Awards luncheon April 11 in Birmingham. The winner will receive prizes valued at more than $10,000 and will represent Alabama in the Southeast Farmer of the Year competition in Moultrie, Ga., at the Sunbelt Ag Expo, Oct. 18-20.

SunSouth, TriGreen and Snead Ag Supply will donate a new John Deere Gator to the 2011 winner. In addition, the Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC) will present each division winner with a $250 gift certificate and the state winner with a $1,000 gift certificate redeemable at any of its Quality Co-op stores. The state winner also will receive a $2,500 cash award from Swisher International of Jacksonville, Fla.

The nominees for this year's award were Webb and Joy Thornhill of Pisgah in Jackson County; Andy and Dawn Wendland of Autaugaville in Autauga County; Bud Hopson of Salem in Lee County; Andy and Anne Sumblin of Kinston in Coffee County; Roy and Becky Jordan of Demopolis in Marengo County; and Phillip and Nancy Garrison of Vinemont in Cullman County.

General signup for CRP begins March 14

The signup period for farmers and ranchers to enroll eligible land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is set for March 14 through April 15, according to USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA).

The CRP is a voluntary program for agricultural landowners whereby farmers and ranchers can receive annual rental payments (based on the agriculture rental value of the land) and up to 50 percent of the participant's costs in establishing approved conservation practices. Participants enroll in CRP contracts for 10 to 15 years.

FSA evaluates and ranks eligible CRP offers using an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) that shows the environmental benefits to be gained from enrolling the land in CRP. The EBI consists of five environmental factors (wildlife, water, soil, air and enduring benefits) and cost. For information, contact Vickie Lane at (334) 279-3501 or visit www.fsa.usda.gov.

Gasoline tax refund deadline is March 31

The Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR) reminds Alabama farmers that March 31 is the deadline date for filing their 2010 state fuel tax refund claims with the ADOR.

The refund claims are based on portions of the state excise tax paid by farmers on gasoline and "clear" motor fuel used in tractors or any auxiliary engines attached to tractors during 2010 for agricultural purposes. The refund rate is 11 cents per gallon for gasoline and "clear" motor fuel.

The refund provision also allows Alabama farmers transporting biomass to electricity-generating facilities to receive a fuel tax refund up to $1,000.

For more information contact the Alabama Department of Revenue, Sales, Use and Business Tax Division, Motor Fuels Section at (334) 242-9608, or email Steve.Dubose@revenue.alabama.gov.

Travis Wilson named Alabama Catfish Farmer of the Year

Keisha and Travis Wilson and their two sons, Trevor, 8, and Cole, 6.
Travis Wilson of Dallas County was honored as Alabama's Catfish Farmer of the Year during the Catfish Farmers of America annual convention Feb. 17-19 in Mobile. The winner is selected for environmental stewardship, production, innovations and leadership.

The Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, selected Travis earlier this year as its nominee, which was confirmed by the Catfish Farmers of America.

"We are blessed to have clean, fresh water and a good clay-based soil on our farm," said Wilson, who grows catfish with his father, Butch Wilson, and his brother-in-law, Willard Powe, in ponds that cover 450 acres in Browns, just west of Selma. "Without good water quality, you won't be successful in the catfish industry. I think I owe whatever success I have to my father who has always been willing to try new things. Some of them have worked, and others, well, we know now that they won't work."

As Alabama's Catfish Farmer of the Year, Travis will represent the state this March at the Boston Seafood Show, the nation's largest seafood show. He also will appear in promotional advertising for the Catfish Farmers of America.

Travis, 37, grew up farming with his dad on their 1,750-acre farm where they also raise beef cattle. His dad began raising catfish in 1990, and when Travis finished college, he returned home to the family's business, as did his brother-in-law. Married for 10 years, Travis and his wife, Keisha, have two sons, Trevor, 8, and Cole, 6. The farm typically produces about 3 million pounds of catfish a year.

"One of the best attributes of being a farmer is being with your family most of the time," he said. "I like the fact that my sons are growing up the same way I did. It allows me to instill my principles and values in them every day." Wilson said trying new things is what has kept their farm afloat when a lot of others have gone under.

"If you're not constantly taking care of your fish, you won't be in the fish business long because they won't survive," he said. "And I want consumers to know that when they eat fish grown on our farm that they are getting a safe, delicious product grown by farmers who care about what they do."

Alabama has about 200 catfish farmers who grow fish in 19,200 acres of water. The state ranks second in the nation in catfish production, and in 2010 produced 137 million pounds of catfish valued at $106 million.

Shelby County celebrates Food Check-Out Week

The Shelby County Women's Committee recently held a food drive as part of National Food Check-Out Week which was Feb. 20-26. Now in its 13th year, Food Check-Out Week highlights America's safe, abundant and affordable food supply, made possible largely by America's productive farmers and ranchers. From left are Shelby County Women's Leadership Committee Chairman Karen Wyatt, committee members Jane Jones and Joyce Bice.

Newby among inductees in Auburn's Agricultural Hall of Honor

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby, center, was among those inducted into the Alabama Agricultural Hall of Honor Tuesday night in Auburn. He is shown with Auburn Ag Alumni Past President Richard Holladay, left, and dean of Auburn University's College of Agriculture Dr. William Batchelor.
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby was among five farm leaders inducted into the Alabama Agricultural Hall of Honor Tuesday night in Auburn.

Newby joined former Extension Peanut Specialist Dallas Hartzog and Charolais cattle producer Harold Pate in accepting the state's highest agricultural award.

Honored posthumously with the Pioneer Award were Alabama poultry industry trailblazer Buck Appleton and former Auburn University poultry professor G.J. "Doc" Cottier.

More than 250 people attended the event, which is hosted annually by the Auburn University Ag Alumni Association. In accepting the award, Newby thanked his family as well as the leaders and employees of the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance for helping him achieve his goals.

"There are many others who are more deserving, but I am truly honored," Newby said. "God has blessed me throughout my life by surrounding me with people who have made me better. I never dreamed of receiving an honor like this, but I sincerely appreciate it."

The Ag Alumni Association created the Hall of Honor in 1985 as a way to recognize Alabama men and women whose work has benefited all residents by strengthening the state's agricultural industry.

Since its inception, 82 individuals have been inducted into the Hall of Honor for their work in production agriculture, education and government and agribusiness. In addition, 32 have been honored posthumously with the Pioneer Award.

Finalists chosen for Outstanding Young Farm Family contest

Outstanding Young Farm Family division winners are, from left, Allie Corcoran of Barbour County, horticulture; John Eberhart Jr. of DeKalb County, hay and forage; Jason and Leslie Cleckler of Chilton County, wildlife; Jon and Amy Hegeman of Calhoun County, greenhouse, nursery and sod; Jamie and Amy Griffin of Shelby County, beef and equine; Kevin and Ashlee Stephens of Pike County, with their daughter, Mary Holland, peanuts; Ben and Miranda Looney of Limestone County, with their sons, Colby and Clay, wheat and feed grains; Stan and Kayla Usery of Limestone County, with their daughter, Jessa, cotton; Mike and Teresa Dole of St. Clair County, with their children, Henry and Katie Sue, meat goat and sheep; Jeremy and Lindsey Brown of Montgomery County, with their daughter, Ansley, poultry; and Isaac Jones of Cherokee County, dairy.

Outstanding Young Farm Families (OYFF) were recognized in 12 commodity divisions when the Alabama Farmers Federation concluded its Young Farmers Leadership Conference last weekend in Huntsville.

The awards banquet was held in the shadow of a 426-foot-long Saturn V rocket at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center's Davidson Center for Space Exploration.

"With Huntsville's rich history as a leader in technology, it offered a great backdrop to underscore the important role technology plays in modern agricultural production," said Federation Young Farmers Director Brandon Moore.

More than 350 young farmers participated in the three-day conference, which included educational seminars and the OYFF contest. The OYFF program, now entering its 49th year, seeks to recognize young farm families and farmers between the ages of 18 and 35 who are doing an outstanding job in their farm, home and community activities, and promoting a better understanding of agriculture with the urban populace.

Commodity division winners were: Jamie and Amy Griffin of Shelby County, beef and equine; Isaac Jones of Cherokee County, dairy; Jon and Amy Hegeman of Calhoun County, greenhouse, nursery and sod; John Eberhart Jr. of DeKalb County, hay and forage; Allie Corcoran of Barbour County, horticulture; Mike and Teresa Dole of St. Clair County, meat goat and sheep; Jeremy and Lindsey Brown of Montgomery County, poultry; Ben and Miranda Looney of Limestone County, wheat and feed grain; Jason and Leslie Cleckler of Chilton County, wildlife; Stan and Kayla Usery of Limestone County, cotton; and Kevin and Ashlee Stephens of Pike County, peanuts.

Each commodity winner receives a plaque and $200 cash award. From the commodity winners, six finalists were chosen to compete for the title of overall Outstanding Young Farm Family for 2011. The finalists were: the Hegemans, Corcoran, the Browns, the Looneys, the Userys and the Stephenses. The overall winner will be named at the Federation's 90th Annual Meeting in Mobile, Dec. 4-6 and will receive a John Deere Gator, courtesy of Alabama Ag Credit and Alabama Farm Credit; the use of a new vehicle; and a computer package sponsored by Valcom/CCS Wireless.

The state winner also receives an expense-paid trip to the 2012 American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Hawaii, where he/she will compete for the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award.

The keynote speaker for the Young Farmers Leadership Conference was Chad Hymas, a Utah rancher who was paralyzed in a farm accident at the age of 27. A decade later, Hymas is president of his own communications company and travels 150,000 miles a year sharing his motivational message.

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