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June 17, 2011   Email to Friend 

Alabama Hosts Southern Region Commodity Leaders

Baldwin County Board Member Joel Sirmon, third from left, discusses his sweet potato crop with Farm Bureau leaders who toured his farm earlier this week. From left are Tennessee Farm Bureau Chief Administrative Officer Joe Pearson, North Carolina Farm Bureau Livestock Director Chester Lowder, Sirmon, American Farm Bureau (AFBF) Director of Congressional Relations Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF Economist Veronica Nigh and Alabama Farmers Federation Horticulture and Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod Divisions Director Mac Higginbotham.
The Alabama Farmers Federation hosted the 2011 American Farm Bureau Federation Southern Region Commodity Conference in Orange Beach attracting commodity directors from 13 states. More than 100 attendees participated in workshops and tours of outstanding farms in south Alabama and received an update on the coastal recovery from Dr. George Crozier, executive director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Farm Bureau commodity directors from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia attended the meeting.

"Alabama was pleased to serve as host for the event," said Federation Director of Governmental and Agricultural Programs Jimmy Carlisle. "The workshops helped all of us focus on issues that affect each state in the Southern Region. While our states are different in some ways, many of the challenges we face are the same, and it helps each of us to discuss those challenges and the solutions to help protect and improve agriculture.

"Meeting members of other Farm Bureau organizations is a valuable part of this meeting. Establishing a relationship with our counterparts in other states can be very valuable to each of us in the future."

Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan welcomed the group during the opening session Sunday evening. Workshops included updates on the 2012 Farm Bill and the commodity market, discussions about technological advances and innovations in agriculture and the agricultural water enhancement program.

Tour stops Monday afternoon included Magnolia Land Co. in Foley, which started as a dairy and evolved into a horse boarding business that includes newly constructed migratory bird habitats. Waters Nursery LLC in Robertsdale showed attendees its 120-acre container grown nursery and diversified row crop farm that produces peanuts, wheat, corn and soybeans. Sirmon Farms in Daphne featured a family-owned farm that grows cotton, peanuts and sweet potatoes and operates a sweet potato brokerage business. Oak Hollow Farm in Fairhope revealed how agritourism evolved into a successful business that includes fishing, horseback rides, skeet shooting, a playground and a restaurant. At Oak Hollow, state leaders also demonstrated the Fatal Vision Program aimed at educating teens about drunk driving.

Attendees were greeted at Monday night's dinner by Baldwin County Farmers Federation President and Federation State Board Member David Bitto and his wife, Gloria.

Program Aimed at Bridging Generation Gap

Farming is often a family business, but relationships can become strained when young enthusiasm collides with conventional wisdom and experience. There's room for both points of view on the farm, according to Jolene Brown, a professional speaker, farmer and author who will conduct a workshop at the Alabama Farmers Federation's Commodity Conference in Huntsville, Aug. 4-6.

This year's conference expanded its focus to include the Federation's Young Farmers Division with special attention on multi-generations working together.

Brandon Moore, director of the Farmers Federation's Young Farmers Division, said Brown is one of agriculture's most sought-after speakers.

"Jolene has a passion for the family business, specifically farm-family businesses," Moore said. "She brings years of experience both as a farmer and as counselor to farm families. She has a unique way of encouraging them to balance doing what is best for the business and the family, and not putting one against the other."

Brown's workshop, "The Top Ten Things Families Do To Break Up Their Business," involves discussion of in-laws, off-farm family members, estates, daily communications and important meetings. She also will discuss the relationship between the "senior generation" and the "next generation" and how to select the next business leader based on qualifications, not only age, gender or genetics.

The conference is expected to attract nearly 700 farmers from around the state and begins Aug. 4 with an opening banquet in the Rocket City. The next morning, conference participants will head out to tour some of the best farms in north Alabama and southern Tennessee.

The Young Farmers' Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture programs are scheduled for Saturday, with preliminaries set for that morning. The winners will be announced during Saturday's closing banquet.

Seminars on Saturday morning will be packed full of information farmers can take back and use on their farms. Topics include state and federal agricultural programs; biofuels and fertilizer prices; national environmental issues; emergency preparedness for natural disasters; forage variety trials; marketing agricultural products; immigration; and rural road restrictions. Saturday's sessions also include two hours of continuing education unit credit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.

Saturday will spotlight the Women's Leadership Division's annual quilt, handbag/purse and tablescapes contests. Contestants who previously won their county contests are eligible to participate. Winners will be announced during the women's luncheon that day.

The closing banquet Saturday evening will feature a performance by comedian Mickey Dean, sponsored by Alfa Dental, Alfa Health, Swisher International and Sunbelt Ag Expo.

Nominations Sought for County FSA Committees

Farmers and ranchers have until Aug. 1 to submit nominations for local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees.

To be eligible to serve on an FSA county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in a program administered by FSA, be eligible to vote in a county committee election and reside in the local administrative area in which the person is a candidate.

Members serve three-year terms, and committees consist of three-to-11 members elected by eligible producers. Farmers and ranchers may nominate themselves or others, and organizations representing minorities and women also may nominate candidates.

To become a candidate, an eligible individual must sign the nomination form, FSA-669A. The form and other information about FSA county committee elections are available online at www.fsa.usda.gov/elections. Nomination forms for the 2011 election must be postmarked or received in the local USDA Service Center by close of business Aug. 1.

Elections will take place this fall. FSA will mail ballots to eligible voters beginning Nov. 4, and the ballots are due back to the local county office either via mail or in person by Dec. 5. Newly elected committee members and alternates will take office Jan. 2, 2012.

While FSA county committees do not approve or deny loans, they make decisions on disaster and conservation programs, emergency programs, commodity price support loan programs and other agricultural issues.

"Farmers know best the programs farmers will need during times of disaster and for conservation as well," said Alabama Farmers Federation Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Division Director Mac Higginbotham. "This is an excellent opportunity for producers to have input and make decisions on important agricultural programs."

A Big Fish Fry

The Barbour, Henry and Houston County Farmers Federations sponsored a catfish supper and all the trimmings for 158 attendees at the annual Alabama Association of County Agents and Specialists meeting in Eufaula, June 1-2. From left are Houston County Farmers Federation Board Members Carl McEntyre, Sammy Roney and Fred Helms who, along with several of their friends, cooked the catfish in giant syrup kettles.

Alabama Agriculture Fares Well in Legislative Session

The new quadrennium of the Alabama Legislature in 2011 began with Republicans gaining control for the first time in 136 years.

The Alabama Senate has 22 Republicans, 12 Democrats and 1 Independent, while the House of Representatives has 65 Republicans and 40 Democrats.

Del Marsh, R-Anniston, was elected Senate President Pro Tempore, and Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, was elected Speaker of the House. Committee chairs with agricultural roots were appointed to the Senate Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry (Tom Whatley, R-Auburn) and House Agriculture & Forestry (Chad Fincher, R-Semmes) committees.

Alfa Symposium
In February, the Alfa Symposium was held at the Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Attending were seven state officials, 13 state senators, 27 state representatives and eight other guests, including the deans of the land grant colleges.

Issues of importance to Alabama agriculture were discussed, including some of the Federation's legislative priorities: Forever Wild, Agritourism, Fertilizer Preemption, Immigration, Animal Welfare, CAFOs, Rural Medicine, coastal insurance and other insurance issues.

Legislative Reception
The annual "Taste of Alabama" reception was held in March for the State Board, County Presidents and Farm PAC Advisory Trustees to talk to their legislators about the Federation's priorities.

This event was the best attended to date, including Gov. and Mrs. Robert Bentley, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan, members of the statewide courts, 19 senators and 76 representatives.

A wide variety of agricultural products from Alabama was served, including some from farms of Federation members.

Forever Wild Reauthorization
Bills (sponsored by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, and Rep. Randy Davis, R-Daphne) sought legislative reauthorization of Forever Wild "as is" for the next 20 years.

The Federation supported measures that would have established a legislative study committee (sponsored by Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, and Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana) to review the program.

Legislators passed a proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Pike Road. The constitutional amendment requires a vote of the people in November 2012. Federation members who testified in public hearings on Forever Wild were Brian Agnew, Richard Edgar, Jimmy Parnell, Dan Rhyne, Rex Vaughn and Stanley Walters.

Fertilizer Preemption
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, with the companion sponsored by Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, the fertilizer preemption law affirms the state's authority to regulate fertilizer and prohibits local governments from regulating the registration, packaging, labeling, sale, storage, distribution or use of fertilizer.

Landowner Liability
Sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, with companion by Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, the new law limits the liability of landowners who lease property for hunting and fishing.

Immigration Reform
Sponsored by Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, the new law creates specific crimes related to illegal aliens and requires verification of the legal status by employers, among other provisions. Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, also sponsored an immigration bill that included extensive immigration reform measures. Among the differences with Rep. Hammon's bill, Sen. Beason's bill did not require E-verify. The Federation worked as a part of the Alabama Employers for Immigration Reform to address concerns.

Mini Trucks
Sponsored by Sen. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, with a companion bill sponsored by Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatom, the new law establishes a license plate category for mini-trucks making them legal on all roadways except interstates. The law also exempts them from titling requirements.

Agritourism Signage
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Elwyn Thomas, R-Oneonta, with companion by Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill, was signed into law and gives the Department of Agriculture and Industries authority to approve roadside signage, in conjunction with Department of Transportation and county engineers, for agritourism operations.

Honeybee Protection
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, with a companion bill sponsored by Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, the new law establishes a fine of $100 per hive for honeybee colonies brought into Alabama without a certificate of inspection from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. It also allows rewards for information related to the movement of illegal hives into the state.

Education Trust Fund Budget
Funding was received for the Career Technology Initiative (with $900,000 for agriscience), Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance (AALGA), the Rural Medical Scholars Program and fire ant research. The Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and Alabama Cooperative Extension System maintained funding similar to the previous year.

General Fund Budget
Funding to reimburse farmers for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) registration fees was decreased by 36 percent. The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) received $150,173 in state matching funds to help expand on-farm irrigation. Agencies of importance to farmers face additional cuts in their budgets over the previous year: Agriculture and Industries (reduced 8 percent), Alabama Forestry Commission (reduced 7 percent), Farmers Market Authority (reduced 5 percent), and Soil and Water Conservation Committee (reduced 13.3 percent).

Phillip Hunter of Shelby County, a member of the Federation's State Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Committee; Emory Mosley, the Washington County Farmers Federation Secretary-Treasurer; and Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation President and District 5 Director John E. Walker III were appointed by Gov. Bentley to the Agriculture and Industries Board and confirmed by the Senate.

Marion County Farmers Federation President Kenneth Real was elected chair of the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Choctaw County Farmers Federation President Leo Allen was appointed by former House Speaker Seth Hammett to the Forever Wild Land Trust Board.

Bill Signing Ceremony

Gov. Robert Bentley held a bill-signing ceremony for the Landowner Liability Protection act Tuesday morning in the state capitol. The new law limits the liability of landowners who lease property for hunting and fishing. Also present for the signing were, from left, Montgomery County Farmers Federation President Bill Cook; Jim King of Westervelt; Dr. Salem Saloom; Tom Saunders of the Alabama Forestry Association; State Sen. Gerald Allen, who sponsored the bill; Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey; Monte Simpson of Weyerhaeuser and Chris Isaacson of the Alabama Forestry Association.

Legislative Reception

Sen. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, right, sponsored the Mini Trucks legislation that passed during the legislative session. The new law establishes a license plate category for mini-trucks, making them legal on all roadways except interstates. Pictured with the senator are, from left, Southwest Area Federation Vice President and Wilcox County Farmers Federation President Jake Harper and Choctaw County Farmers Federation President Leo Allen.

Youth Leadership Conference Equips Next Generation of Ag Leaders

State Young Farmers Committee Chairman Ben Haynes, right, talks with, from left, Madison Tew of Dale County, Haley Hicks of Montgomery County and Deontre Hollis of Lamar County at the Alabama Farmers Federation's Youth Leadership Conference held June 10-12 at the Alabama 4-H Center in Chilton County.
More than 100 high school students from 27 counties around the state showed off their leadership skills June 10-12 during the Alabama Farmers Federation's annual Youth Leadership Conference at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana.

"Students were challenged to think about the important leadership roles they hold within their schools, churches and communities," said Brandon Moore, director of the Farmers Federation's Young Farmers Division.

Moore said this year's conference also was geared toward educating students about the importance of participation in professional organizations like the Alabama Farmers Federation.

"Regardless of what career path they choose, there are industry and trade organizations in Alabama and beyond in need of strong leaders to carry out the organization's mission," Moore said.

Greensboro Market Opens

The Hale County Farmers Federation worked with local business leaders and farmers to open a new farmers market in downtown Greensboro. The market's grand opening was June 2 and attracted several farmers and lots of shoppers. From left are Greensboro City Councilman Steve Gentry, Chilton County farmer William Crowe and Hale County Farmers Federation President Joe Wilkerson. Farm stands for the new market were designed and built by Auburn University's Rural Studio in Newbern.

Meetings Seek Hispanic and Female Farmers Who May Have Suffered Discrimination

A series of outreach meetings is being held throughout the country with farmers and ranchers to talk about the process that has been put in place to resolve the claims of Hispanic and female farmers and ranchers who assert that they were discriminated against when seeking USDA farm loans.

Most recently, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Fred Pfaeffle held a series of outreach meetings in California.

"We want to make sure that any Hispanic or women farmer or rancher who alleges discrimination is aware of this option to come forward, to have his or her claims heard and to participate in a process to receive compensation," Pfaeffle said.

Potential claimants can register to receive a claims package by calling the Farmer and Rancher Call Center at 1-888-508-4429 or visiting www.farmerclaims.gov.

The program USDA announced earlier this year with the Department of Justice provides up to $50,000 for each Hispanic or woman farmer who can show that USDA denied them a loan or loan servicing for discriminatory reasons for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000.

Commodity Field Day Set for June 21

The Blount County Farmers Federation has planned an event that will be useful for forage and livestock producers.

The field day will begin at 10 a.m. June 21 at the Whitley Red Angus Sale Barn in Horton.

"Ranching, Business or Hobby Farm?" will be taught by Robert Page of Northeast Farm Analysis at 10 a.m.

Kent Stanford, a nutrient specialist, will speak about nutrient management in forage crops at 10:30 a.m.

At 11 a.m., Dennis Brothers of NPTC will discuss solid construction of poultry houses.

The final session will be "Animal Agriculture 101," presented by Alabama Farmers Federation Commodity Division Directors Guy Hall and Nate Jaeger.

At noon, lunch will be served. Contact Tim Whitley at (205)-446-5090 for more information.

Agricultural Literacy Project

The Montgomery County Farmers Federation's Ag in the Classroom Committee recently sponsored a project to promote agricultural literacy. The committee contacted Scott Poague, Holtville High School's agriscience instructor and FFA advisor, and requested assistance from his students to construct a barn and silo bookcase. The bookcase was delivered to Leanna Brother's kindergarten class at Forest Avenue Academic Magnet School in Montgomery.

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