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April 08, 2011   Email to Friend  Download PDF of this Issue

Cotton is king again in Alabama

Alabama farmers expect to plant more cotton and corn this year and less soybeans and peanuts, according to the Alabama Agricultural Statistics Service's prospective planting report.

The survey of about 1,000 farmers calls for a 21 percent increase in cotton acreage and an 8 percent reduction in peanuts, compared to last year. Houston County Farmers Federation President George Jeffcoat said record-high prices have made cotton a more attractive option for those who already own harvesting equipment.

Across Alabama, farmers are expected to plant 410,000 acres of cotton, up 70,000 acres from last year and the largest total acreage since 2006. Peanut acreage is expected to drop 15,000 acres to 175,000. Farmers also plan to grow fewer soybeans, down 40,000 acres to 310,000. Higher prices for corn, however, will increase plantings to 280,000 acres, up 10,000 acres or 4 percent. Meanwhile, farmers are hoping spring rains and favorable temperatures will lead to a bumper wheat harvest. Last fall, Alabama producers planted about 190,000 acres of wheat, up 40,000 acres or 27 percent from the previous year.

Optimism about cotton prices is having an impact on planting intentions across the South. Nationally, farmers expect to plant about 12.3 million acres of cotton, up 14 percent from 2010. Corn is set to top 92 million acres, up 5 percent, and wheat is expected to be up 10 percent to 41.2 million acres.

The report predicts total U.S. acreage for soybeans and peanuts will fall by 1 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

Tight global supplies and strong global demand are driving the shift in acreage, according to crops economists.

Ag Industry Day at Auburn

Alabama Farmers Federation Commodity Department staff members were on the Auburn University campus during the annual College of Agriculture Ag Industry Day, March 31. Students were introduced to the Federation and the value of membership. Federation Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod and Horticulture Divisions Director Mac Higginbotham greets AU graduate student Blake Thaxton, a horticulture major.

Committee seeks membership growth

The Alabama Farmers Federation's Membership Growth Committee held its first meeting March 29 at the Federation headquarters in Montgomery. From left are Membership Director Marc Pearson; Committee Chairman Steve Dunn; Federation Controller Terrie Channell; Madison County Federation President Rex Vaughn and Women's Leadership Committee Chairman Debbie Freeland.
Optimism and excitement was the tone of the inaugural meeting of the newly formed Membership Growth Committee appointed by Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby, which met at the Federation home office in Montgomery, March 29.

Federation Secretary-Treasurer Steve Dunn of Conecuh County serves as chairman of the committee, which includes 20 organization leaders from throughout the state. Dunn said he's excited about the opportunity to work with such a talented group of people from throughout the state.

"This is a good team of leaders who are committed to the organization, have a passion for it and have a lot of knowledge about it," Dunn said. "Our main goal is to ensure that our membership feels like it is a part of this organization. Whether those members are farm members or policyholders, we want them to know they are important and that their membership has value to them."

The committee will work closely with Membership Director Marc Pearson, who formerly worked in Alfa's Marketing Services Department. The committee will report its findings and recommendations to the state board of directors.

In addition to identifying areas for membership growth and retention, the committee took home assignments in preparation for their next meeting, June 30.

"Each person is to contact another state Farm Bureau and find out what that state is doing for membership there," Dunn said. "So when we meet again, we will have 21 other ideas to consider."

"I think we'll see some results with so many good people all working on this committee. I'm optimistic about what we can accomplish."

Committee members include Rex Vaughn, Madison County; Jennifer Cruise, Morgan County; Will Gilmer, Lamar County; Randy Gilmore, Jefferson County; Delle Bean, Calhoun County; Dennis Maze, Blount County; Lamar Dewberry, Clay County; Terry Wyatt, Shelby County; Richard Edgar, Elmore County; Andy Wendland, Autauga County; Pat Buck, Sumter County; Peggy Walker, Tuscaloosa County; Shep Morris, Macon County; John Dorrill, Pike County; Sammy Williams, Henry County; Gloria Jeffcoat, Houston County; Meador Jones, Marengo County; Richard Holladay, Lowndes County; Sammy Gibbs, Escambia County and Debbie Freeland, Mobile County.

Dale County Dinner

The Dale County Farmers Federation Women's Leadership Committee hosted a dinner to honor State Legislators and Dale County Public Officials March 14 at The Ice House Restaurant in Ozark. Each honoree received a spring gift basket filled with commodities grown in Dale County. Standing from left are Sen. Jimmy Holley, Rep. Alan Boothe, County Commissioner Steve McKinnon, Rep. Steve Clouse, and Commissioner Charles Gary; seated are Congressman Martha Roby's services representative Lori Ward; Probate Judge Eunice Hagler; and County Commissioners Doug Williamson and Kurt McDaniel.

Repeal of 1099 Rule good news for farmers

The U.S. Senate passed a bill Tuesday that repeals onerous Form 1099 requirements hidden in the Obama Health Care Plan.

The health care law contains a provision set to begin in 2012 requiring that businesses submit a Form 1099 to the Internal Revenue Service for every vendor from which they purchase $600 or more worth of goods or services. H.R. 4, passed by both the House and the Senate, would repeal this new requirement.

"Farmers, ranchers and small businesses are overloaded with paperwork, and we are pleased that our leaders in Washington took steps to provide relief," said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman.

The Alabama Farmers Federation, a member of American Farm Bureau Federation, pushed for passage of the bill.

Speciality crop block grants available

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) is accepting grant applications for projects that enhance the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops in foreign and domestic markets. The application deadline for these specialty crop block grants through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is May 9 at 5 p.m.

Specialty crops are defined by the USDA as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture (including maple syrup and honey) and nursery crops (including floriculture).

Commodity groups, agricultural organizations, colleges and universities, producers, municipalities, state agencies and agricultural nonprofits are all eligible for the grant program, provided proposals meet all the specifications. The ADAI and a review panel of industry representatives will make the initial review and award recommendations to USDA.

Grants will range from $5,000 to $50,000. The w is looking to award multiple grants totaling more than $350,000.

Projects cannot begin until the USDA has made its official award announcement, expected in October 2011. For more information, visit www.agi.alabama.gov/agpro_rfp or contact Hassey Brooks (334) 240-3877.

Opening minds to different ways of thinking

Internationally known animal behavior expert Dr. Temple Grandin, right, recently toured the Auburn University Beef Teaching Unit while she was in Auburn lecturing high school and college students about practical handling of livestock and autism. AU Meats Lab Manager Barney Wilborn discussed the university's meats lab and livestock handling facilities during her campus tour.
Autism is a big part of who Dr. Temple Grandin is, but the internationally known animal scientist said it doesn't "define" who she is. She said she considers herself a teacher above all else. Grandin was at Auburn University March 31 where she spoke to students and faculty about her autism and the importance of recognizing and encouraging different kinds of "thinkers."

"It takes all kinds of minds working together to really get things done," said Grandin, who is the subject of an Emmy Award-winning movie about her life called "Temple Grandin."

While at Auburn, Grandin spoke often about the need for America to re-evaluate occupations that have moved away from getting their hands dirty.

"Programs like FFA and 4-H are so very important, and I'm absolutely shocked at the funding cuts being made to those," she said. "School officials are taking so many of the hands-on classes out of the schools like woodshop, auto mechanics, welding, music and art. Those are some of the classes where the kids are a little geeky or may have a touch of autism but they can really excel there because they can work with their hands. They can turn those classes into a really good career."

Young people need exposure to vocational training, including those involving agriculture, she said.

"Alabama has a lot of poultry farms, nurseries and cattle, and we need to get kids out working on them to get excited about going into those businesses," she said. "There's a hunger to get back in touch with agriculture and the land. You see it with the increased interest in buying local food, organic food and natural food. That's a good thing. But we need to expose them before they are grown and have already made a career choice."

For more information about Grandin, visit her Web site at Grandin.com

House increases penalties for illegals

The Alabama House of Representatives approved a sweeping immigration bill Tuesday that would create specific crimes related to illegal aliens and require electronic verification of the legal status by employers.

HB 56, sponsored by Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, was amended several times before passing by a 73-28 vote. The Federation is concerned that some of the requirements placed on employers would create a burden for farmers and could jeopardize the availability of legal guest workers. Similar legislation passed the Senate Job Creation and Economic Development Committee Thursday. SB 256, sponsored by Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, would use identification cards rather than an electronic system to verify the legal status of workers.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed several bills supported by the Federation including SB 123, sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn. It 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. The Senate also passed SB 253, sponsored by Sen. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, which would establish a license plate category for mini-trucks and exempt such vehicles from certain title requirements. The companion bill, HB 210, sponsored by Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatom, passed the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee Wednesday. The Senate also passed SB 49, sponsored by Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill, which would allow perch raised in farm ponds to be sold, provided the seller is permitted by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

In the House, a home-rule bill that would allow county voters to pass zoning ordinances and other laws related to public health and safety was assigned to a subcommittee. HB 181 is sponsored by Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana. In a recent public hearing, the Federation voiced concerns about the potential for the bill to be interpreted to allow for the regulation of almost any farming activity.

In other action, the Senate confirmed Federation Board Member and Tuscaloosa County President John E. Walker as a member of the Agriculture and Industries Board of Directors. The confirmation of Washington County Farmers Federation Director Emory Mosley was previously announced in the Capitol Connection.

U.S. House passes bill to reduce farm regulations

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby praised members of Alabama's congressional delegation for their leadership in the passage of a bill that would greatly reduce the regulatory burdens on American farmers.

U.S. Reps. Spencer Bachus and Martha Roby, both Republicans, along with Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat, all were co-sponsors of H.R. 872, known as the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011. Roby and Sewell both are members of the House Agriculture Committee and were instrumental in getting the bill out of committee to bring it before the House for a full vote.

"We are pleased that the House has approved H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011," said Newby. "We are especially proud that members of Alabama's Congressional delegation took a leadership role in co-sponsoring the resolution. We appreciate their leadership, and we commend the broad bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who produced this important victory."

Newby described the legislation as a permanent, sensible solution to the regulatory overkill of requiring farmers, ranchers and others who use pesticides to apply for duplicative permits. "Pesticide applications are effectively regulated under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide Rodenticide Act, which requires Environmental Protection Agency-approved label restrictions to protect the environment," Newby said. "Opponents attempted to derail this bill with last-minute charges that it would weaken the Clean Water Act and diminish the authority of the EPA, but they did not prevail."

Newby said the Alabama Farmers Federation, a member of the American Farm Bureau, is urging the Senate to swiftly approve this bill.

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