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March 11, 2011   Email to Friend 

A.L.F.A. Class Visits Capitol

Participants in the Agricultural Leaders For Alabama (A.L.F.A.) program, sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation, recently attended a three-day program on state government in Montgomery that included attending the state-of-the-state address by Gov. Robert Bentley and a meeting with State Treasurer Young Boozer. The leaders also met with their state senators and representatives to discuss upcoming legislative issues and the state budget process. Other meetings were held with Alabama Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan and Alabama Department of Environmental Management Director Lance LeFleur. Front row from left are A.L.F.A Director Mitt Walker; Scott Poague, Elmore County; Corey Hill, Marshall; Toby McCormick, DeKalb; Bradley Stewart, Clay; Troy Tindal, Butler; Hassey Brooks, Montgomery; and Kevin Holland, Baldwin; Back row, John Hegeman, Calhoun; Trey Flowers, Montgomery; Jeremie Redden, Russell; Kelly Pritchett, Pike; Monica Carroll, Dale; Rachel Holland, Baldwin; and A.L.F.A. Director Brandon Moore.

Goat Day is April 16 at Tuskegee University

Silvo-pasture and browse management as well as goat nutrition and feeding will be on the agenda April 16, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m., when Tuskegee University hosts its annual Goat Day at Patterson Hall Auditorium and the Caprine Research and Education Unit. This year's featured speakers are Dr. Sandra Solaiman, and Dr. Nar Gurung.

Solaiman, often called "The Goat Lady," has more than 25 years of experience working with goats nationally and internationally. She has conducted research on all areas of goat nutrition and is well published in the area of her expertise. She is a member of the Small Ruminant Committee, National Research Council and was involved in revising nutrient requirements for goats.

Dr. Gurung has worked extensively on feed by-products for goats and has vast experience in outreach and Extension, working in the area of silvo-pasture and browse management. The featured workshop is breeding soundness evaluation and pasture management.

For information, contact Solaiman at (334) 727-8401 (334) 421-0704. Vendors interested in exhibiting should contact Mel Jones at (334) 421-2220.

Agricultural Water Enhancement Program signup ends April 29

Members of the Alabama Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) recently toured Bragg Farms in Madison County to see how projects are working there. From left are: Steve Dunn, president of the Geneva County Farmers Federation; State USDA Conservationist Bill Puckett; Dennis Bragg of Bragg Farms; and Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby. AWEP sign-up closes April 29.
An April 29 cutoff date has been set for signing up for the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP), according to Dr. William "Bill" Puckett, state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Applying for AWEP is continuous; however, selecting applications for funding is completed periodically through batching periods with specific cutoff dates.

"We must take steps to protect and preserve our water resources, and AWEP provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to improve water conditions on their land," said Puckett. The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program promotes ground and surface water conservation and improves water quality by helping farmers and ranchers implement agricultural water enhancement activities. Alabama AWEP will focus on the installation of upland storage ponds. Stored water will be used during the summer for irrigation. Practices that will be available include:

• Constructing upland irrigation storage ponds
• Installing pumps and pipelines to fill storage ponds
• Irrigation system improvements or irrigation efficiency enhancements to improve the efficiency and reduce the energy needs of existing irrigation systems
• Installation of soil moisture sensors and water meters to monitor and improve irrigation efficiencies

AWEP was established by the 2008 Farm Bill and funding comes from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). NRCS administers AWEP by entering into EQIP contracts directly with agricultural producers.

Funding for this project was a direct result of a grant proposal by the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee, and the Alabama Universities Irrigation Initiative.

All AWEP recipients must meet EQIP requirements. It is designed for bona fide agricultural producers that have been in crop production and have the need for water. The amount of storage will be determined by an irrigation budget based on the exact amount of water justified by the crops irrigated. Applicants must be in agricultural production in order to apply. The statewide signup will be continuous with the first batching period ending on April 29. Successive batching periods may occur if additional funds become available.

Applicants will be ranked competitively statewide. Those applications with true upland ponds that do not impact wetlands and which rely on winter pumping from a stream or creek on the property to fill the pond will rank highest. Other pond and irrigation factors will be used to further rank the applicants. When applicants are ranked, they will be funded in order of rank until funds are exhausted.

Applicants will be notified if funded and EQIP contracts will be developed with their input to implement the plan over a 2-3 year period.

Interested producers should visit their nearest USDA Service Center to determine eligibility. Individuals are not eligible for EQIP until they have completed the Farm Bill eligibility requirements. Contact your local NRCS or Farm Service Agency Office to begin this process.

NRCS field offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Department of Agriculture or online at rcs.usda.gov.

State officials enjoy 'Taste of Alabama'

Gov. Robert Bentley had an audience with both Federation members and legislators during the 'Taste of Alabama' event. From left are Marengo County Farmers Federation President Meador Jones, Rep. Ralph Howard of Sumter County, Gov. Bentley and Hale County Farmers Federation President Joe Wilkerson.
The Alabama Farmers Federation hosted its annual "Taste of Alabama" legislative reception Wednesday, March 2, giving state legislators, constitutional officers and justices a sampling of what the state's farmers have to offer.

About 250 people, including Gov. and Mrs. Robert Bentley, attended the meet-and-greet event that affords farmers from throughout the state an opportunity to meet their elected officials face-to-face.

"This was one of the most successful 'Taste of Alabama' events we've had," said Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan. "It's always good to see our farmers and our governmental leaders meeting one-on-one in a casual setting like this. Not only does it give our elected leadership a chance to see the importance agriculture plays in our state, but it also gives our farmers an opportunity to show off some of the good food they're producing right here in this state."

"Coming off an election year, especially in a time of budget cutbacks, it's important that our farmers build personal relationships with our leaders, lawmakers and decision-makers," he added. "It's good to visit with elected officials to see what's on their minds and what's important in their districts.

"This year's gathering drew 19 state senators, 76 state representatives and a host of other elected officials who mingled with Federation leaders and state board members.

Others attending included: Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Cavanaugh and Dr. William Batchelor, dean of Auburn University's School of Agriculture.

Judges in attendance included Supreme Court Justices Kelli Wise, Jim Main, Tom Parker and Mike Bolin; Civil Appeals Judge Tommy Bryan; Criminal Appeals Judges Beth Kellum, Mike Joiner, Liles Burke and Mary Windom and her husband, Steve.

Guests moved about the room, sampling a variety of Alabama-grown products including beef, pork, chicken, catfish, peanuts, fruits, vegetables, grits, honey, peanut butter and wild game.

House committee votes to reauthorize Forever Wild

Alabama Farmers Federation Board Member Richard Edgar of Deatsville testifies before the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee asking that they evaluate Forever Wild before reauthorizing the program.
A House of Representatives committee voted Wednesday to earmark up to $300 million over the next 20 years to buy land through the Forever Wild program.

The vote came immediately after a public hearing on HB 126, sponsored by Rep. Randy Davis, R-Daphne, which would reauthorize Forever Wild more than a year before funding for the program would change.

Representatives on the committee who voted in favor of the early re-authorization were: Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka; Jim Patterson, R-Meridianville; Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga; Berry Forte, D-Eufaula; K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville; Alan Baker, R-Brewton; John Merrill, R-Tuscaloosa; Micky Hammon, R-Decatur; Rod Scott, D-Fairfield; Mike Ball, R-Huntsville and Terri Collins, R-Decatur.

Voting against the measure were Representatives Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery and Bill Roberts, R-Jasper.

Created in 1992 by a constitutional amendment, Forever Wild receives 10 percent of the investment income from the oil and gas trust fund to purchase unique and environmentally sensitive land. Since its inception, the program has spent more than $160 million to buy about 220,000 acres in Alabama, including the former State Cattle Ranch in Greensboro and portions of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

About a dozen people testified at the hearing called by the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee including Alabama Farmers Federation Board Member Richard Edgar of Deatsville, Madison County Farmers Federation President Rex Vaughn and Marengo County farmer Stanley Walters. All three expressed support for the original mission of Forever Wild but voiced concern over the program's purchase of productive agricultural land. They recommended the Legislature use this year to evaluate Forever Wild and set priorities for the future, rather than rushing to reauthorize the program when the state is in such dire financial straits.

The Federation supports HJR 89, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, which would create the Forever Wild Program Temporary Joint Legislative Committee to evaluate the effectiveness of the program and make recommendations regarding its future. HB 126 will now go to the full House for consideration.

Federation members are urged to contact their legislators and ask them to support HJR 89 instead of HB 126.

Several other bills affecting agriculture and rural Alabama saw action in legislative committees this week as well.

FERTILIZER PREEMPTION, SB 123, sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, and HB 198, sponsored by Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, would affirm the state's authority to regulate fertilizer and prohibit local governments from regulating the registration, packaging, labeling, sale, storage, distribution or use of fertilizer. SB 123 passed the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday. AFF supports.

AGRITOURISM SIGNS, SB 153, sponsored by Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill, would allow the Alabama Department of Agriculture to define what constitutes an agricultural tourist attraction and to authorize the posting of signs along roadways directing the public to those attractions. The bill passed the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee on Wednesday. The companion bill in the House of Representatives is HB 188, sponsored by Rep. Elwyn Thomas, R-Oneonta. AFF supports.

LANDOWNER LIABILITY, SB 84, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would limit the liability of landowners who lease property for hunting and fishing. The bill has been assigned to a subcommittee along with AGRITOURISM LIABILITY, SB 85, also sponsored by Sen. Allen, which would limit the liability of agritourism operators and require agritourism attractions to post certain warning notices at the entrance to the activity. AFF supports both bills.

In other legislative action, the Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would do away with the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) for state employees, and the House passed a bill to create a rolling reserve for the Education Trust Fund budget and to cap ETF spending based on tax collections from the previous 15 years.

HB 56, which is the Republican leadership's key immigration bill, passed the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday. AFF monitoring.

There will not be a Capitol Connection next week because legislators will be on spring break.

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