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July 28, 2011   Email to Friend  Download PDF of this Issue

Groups challenge Alabama

Alabama's new immigration law, dubbed the toughest in the nation by some lawmakers, is being challenged by a coalition of civil rights groups in a federal classaction lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the state's new immigration law is unconstitutional because it interferes with federal authority over immigration regulations.

Those filing the suit have asked a federal court judge to delay implementation of the new Alabama law until a ruling is made in the case. However, the judge has not ruled on that specific motion.

In the meantime, the new law has left farmers and other business owners scrambling to make sure they comply with the regulations. Parts of the immigration law make it a felony if undocumented workers are found in their employment.

A series of seminars is being conducted by Alabama Employers for Immigration Reform (ALEIR), of which the Federation is a member. The seminars are designed to educate farmers and other employers about the new law.

The first seminar was held Monday in Semmes in Mobile County. Nearly 80 farmers and businessmen attended and many of their questions dealt with how the new law affects current and future employees.

"The biggest concerns farmers and other employers have with the legislation is how to be in compliance and who is going to fill those jobs," said Mac Higgingbotham of the Federation's Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department. "I know of specific farmers who have hired Americans, but most quit within a half a day. This type of labor is hot, back-breaking work, and most Americans aren't willing to do it, even for as much as $12 an hour."

Another seminar is scheduled during the Commodity Producers Conference in Huntsville, Aug. 6.

Dates and locations of the ALEIR seminars are:
• Birmingham, Aug. 3, Rosewood Hall, Soho
• Montgomery, Aug. 17, Gordon Persons Building Auditorium
• Huntsville, Aug. 31, location to be announced

Each seminar is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., followed by a question-and-answer session. The registration fee is $25. Forms are available on the Federation's website at www.AlfaFarmers.org.

Tuscaloosa donates to tornado victim relief

From left, Vice President Ed Harless, Salvation Army Captain Dean Mortez, President John Walker and Vice President John Lavender display the $5,000 check donated to the Salvation Army by the Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation July 6. Two other organizations also received $5,000 each.
Help, supplies, support and money flooded into Tuscaloosa after the April 27 tornadoes that swept across the town, but the crisis has faded out of the national media despite the continued need for support.

However, Alabamians like the members of the Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation haven't forgotten those who still need help.

After careful consideration, Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation leaders delivered three $5,000 checks to three tornado relief organizations in the county earlier this month.

"We knew help would still be needed months after the storms hit," said Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation President John E. Walker III. "We wanted to take our time and donate as much as we possibly could."

The Salvation Army, Samaritan's Purse of Tuscaloosa and the Tuscaloosa Disaster Relief Fund, which was created by the Tuscaloosa Chamber of Commerce, were the organizations that received the donations.

Walker said the Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation's executive board chose these organizations because all the money given would stay in Tuscaloosa County.

Membership dues in reserve funded the donation, Walker said.

"We definitely wanted to use our membership dues to help in this situation because we had a lot of members who were affected," Walker said. "It was devastating for our whole city and county, even for those who weren't directly involved. It was an easy decision to come to - it was something we needed to do."

Walker said residents of Tuscaloosa County are grateful for the support they've received from people all over the state and the country.

"We appreciate what everybody has done - people all over the country have supported us," Walker said. "It has brought us all together. That's something you expect Alabamians and Americans to do, and they did it. It will take a long time to recover, but if everybody pulls together, we'll get back to where we were."

Congressman says he'd like to delay farm bill

From left, Alabama Farmers Federation Southeast Area Vice President Ricky Wiggins of Covington County, Alabama Peanut Producers Association President Carl Sanders of Coffee County and U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., discuss the upcoming farm bill at the Southern Peanut Growers Conference in Panama City, Fla., last week.
Nearly 600 peanut farmers and industry leaders attended the annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference (SPGC) in Panama City Beach, Fla., last week. Drought conditions and the upcoming farm bill dominated discussions at the meeting.

"We had a strong crowd and delivered information on strong issues growers are facing," said Randy Griggs, executive director of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation. "The conference continues to be a successful event, delivering an exceptional educational program for producers."

U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., was among those who addressed farmers at the conference. He is a seventh generation cotton farmer and said he is proud to represent agriculture and help educate his colleagues about the importance of the industry.

Fincher said he would like to see the farm bill postponed until after the 2012 election.

"We've got to make sure as we approach writing a new farm bill that we're very levelheaded," he said. "Farmers understand that we've all got to tighten our belts a little bit, but we can't kid ourselves and think that we can balance the budget on the back of one percent of the budget, which is what ag gets."

Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations for American Farm Bureau Federation, is a veteran when it comes to farm bills. She told farmers they may see two new farm bills if the liability ceiling negotiations indicate the kind of shortfalls being considered for agriculture.

"We're unfortunately going to take a pretty fair amount of cuts this year, probably in the range of $30-40 billion out of the commodity and conservation titles," she said. "If indeed we lose that much money, it will sort of require us to write a farm bill in the next couple of weeks, and then to write it next year for re-evaluating what we have left and looking at other titles."

Bob Redding, who represents the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation in Washington D.C., says there has never been a more important time for farmers to have their voices heard in the nation's capital.

"Farmers need to keep up with what's going on, let their congressmen and senators know exactly how they feel and what they would like to see in a farm bill," Redding said.

In addition to talking about the future of the industry, farmers also learned about the importance of financial planning.

Dr. Marshall Lamb with the National Peanut Research Lab told farmers sound financial planning is just as important as planning what crops to plant. He emphasized that current farm commodity prices are volatile.

"The prices for cotton, corn, wheat and soybeans are at unprecedented levels," he said, noting that even peanuts are experiencing price volatility. "The best way to cope with it is to know from your farm plan, where your break-even prices are, and when you reach those break-evens, go ahead and contract something. A farmer never went broke making a profit."


Oscar Dowling Smith of Clio, a board member of the Barbour County Farmers Federation, died July 10. He was 88.

Smith was a World War II veteran and a graduate of Troy State Teachers College. In addition to serving as a county Federation board member, Smith formerly served as chairman of the county horticulture committee and first vice chairman of the county catfish committee.

Smith was a member of Elamville Assembly of God Church, the Greater Clio Ruritan Club and served on the board of directors of the Southern Alabama Regional Council on Aging.

Survivors include his wife, Lena Belle Stafford Smith of Clio; two sons and daughters-in-law, Harold K. (Jeanette) of Clio and Delmar E. (Edith) Smith of Troy; a sister and brother-in-law, Elinor (Kenneth) Chisholm of Dothan and three grandchildren.

Clay County Legislative Update

The Clay County Farmers Federation Women's Leadership Committee recently held a luncheon in Lineville where State Sen. Gerald Dial and State Rep. Richard Laird gave a legislative update. From left are Dial, Laird, State Women's Leadership Committee Member and County Chairman Faye Dial, County Women's Leadership Committee Member Marsha Moorehead and Clay County President Lamar Dewberry.

Applications sought for historic farms

The Department of Agriculture and Industries is accepting applications for the 2011 Century and Heritage Farm program.

The program is designed to recognize and honor farms that have been in operation as a family farm over a long period of time and have played a significant role in Alabama history.

A Century Farm is one that has been in the same family continuously for at least 100 years and currently has some agricultural activities on the farm. The farm must include at least 40 acres and be owned by the applicant or nominee.

A Heritage Farm is one that has been operated continuously as a family farm for at least 100 years. The farm must possess interesting and important historical and agricultural aspects, including one or more structures at least 40 years old. The farm must be at least 40 acres of land owned and operated by the applicant, who must reside in Alabama.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries administers the programs, and to date more than 500 farms have been recognized in the state.

Applicants must complete an ownership registration form supplied by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

For an application or more information, contact Amy Belcher at (334) 240-7126 or amy.belcher@agi.alabama.gov.

The application deadline for the 2011 Century and Heritage Farm program is Aug. 26.

Applications are available on the agriculture department's website at www.agi.alabama.gov under the "Forms" icon.

A complete list of all farms that have previously received a Century and Heritage Farm designation also is available on the website.

Beef tour registration deadline is Aug. 8

The Alabama Farmers Federation's annual beef tour, Sept. 11-17, includes some of the top cattle farms in New York's famous Finger Lakes region. The deadline for tour registration is Aug. 8.

In addition to seeing commercial cattle farms, tour participants will enjoy stops at Cornell University and Niagara Falls.

The tour is limited to 80 participants. For information, contact Federation Beef Division Director Nate Jaeger at njaeger@alfafarmers.org or (334) 613-4221. For travel and registration questions, contact Lynn Cook at (334) 613-4080 or lcook@alfains.com.

Pecan growers tour set for Aug. 2 in Baldwin County

The annual Alabama Pecan Growers Summer Tour and Field Day is Aug. 2 from 8 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. in Baldwin County.

This year's field day will include tours of Underwood Pecan Farm and Nursery in Foley and B&B Pecans south of Fairhope, as well as an update on late season pecan orchard management at the Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center of Auburn University in Fairhope.

Lunch will be provided at the center auditorium following the tours. The entire day, including lunch, is free.

Attendees should arrive at Underwood Pecan Nursery at 21919 U.S. Highway 98 by 8 a.m., and guests will carpool to the other locations.

For more information, contact Cathy Browne at (334) 844-5483 or visit www.alabamapecangrowers.com.

OYFF Judging

Judging for the Alabama Farmers Federation's Outstanding Young Farm Family was held July 19-20. Judges visited the six finalists' farms, including Jon and Amy Hegeman of Calhoun County. The winner will be announced at the Federation's annual meeting in Mobile in December. From left are judge Chris Carroll (2007 Outstanding Young Farm Family winner), Amy and Jon Hegeman, judge Ken Baggett of First South Farm Credit and judge Dan Durheim, executive director of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture.

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