Federation to Congress: pass free trade agreements
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby urged Congress Sept. 16 to quickly pass trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that could boost exports and create jobs.
"For more than four years, these agreements have sat in Washington while other countries negotiated bilateral trade deals that cut into the market for U.S. goods," said Newby. "Now is the time to act. If lawmakers don't pass the trade agreements this fall, U.S. businesses - especially farmers - will be at a competitive disadvantage with other nations."
The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates the three trade agreements represent almost $2.5 billion in new agricultural exports. Since every $1 billion in farm exports supports almost 9,000 U.S. jobs, the pending deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama could create nearly 22,500 new ag-related jobs.
"If Congress and the Obama administration fail to reach agreements on the trade deals, U.S. agricultural exports - the lone bright spot in America's trade balance - could dry up," said Newby. "Exports account for 24 percent of all U.S. agricultural production and total almost $900 million a year in Alabama alone. Nationally, we export about $115 billion in farm products, compared to ag imports of about $79 billion. This positive trade balance creates job, keeps farm families on the land and helps feed the world."
Currently, U.S. agricultural products face tariffs of up to 500 percent in South Korea. American exporters pay an average tariff of 30 percent to access the Colombian market and up to 160 percent to access the market in Panama.
Beef Tour attendees in New York state of mind
Forty-four members of the Alabama Farmers Federation participated in the 2011 Beef Tour in upstate New York Sept. 11-17. Members said the most surprising thing about the tour was the amount of agriculture in New York and the amount they had in common with farmers who live so far away.
|Robert Groom of Fleur-De-Lis Farm in Seneca Falls, N.Y., right, discusses his Black Angus farm with Federation members who attended the 2011 Beef Tour. From left are Bill Lipscomb of Autauga County, June Dunn of Bullock County, Winford Parmer of Autauga County and John Morris of Jefferson County. |
"Agriculture is our state's largest industry," said Richard Brown, owner of Equity Angus of Montezuma, N.Y. "A lot of people think of just New York City or Manhattan when they think of our state, but there's a lot more to us than that."
Federation members toured Brown's ranch along with 15 other stops that included registered and commercial beef cattle farms, a dairy, wineries, an apple orchard, cattle feedlots and a feed processing business. The tours primarily were in and around New York's Finger Lakes area. The group also visited Niagara Falls on the final day of the trip.
The tours were educational, but it was the interaction with other farmers that Autauga County farmer Bill Lipscomb said he enjoyed most.
"It's just always interesting to see how other people run their farms," Lipscomb said. "I also enjoyed visiting with the other farmers from our state who were on the tour."
Bullock County Farmers Federation President Mike Dunn said he has been on a couple of the beef tours in the past, and each one was educational.
"I was surprised at just how much I could learn on one of these trips," he said. "I might see something different here that I can use on my farm. It's also good to know that farmers in New York face a lot of the same issues we do. These tours give us access to people and things that we would never have known otherwise."
Federation Beef Division Director Nate Jaeger said the farmers in New York were hospitable and were anxious to talk to Alabama farmers as well.
"Several of the farmers we visited were interested in talking to our members, too," Jaeger said. "They didn't just talk about beef cattle, either. They talked about politics, environmental issues, feed costs and genetics. It was a great learning experience for everyone."
Next year's beef tour will be in Louisiana, with details to be released at a later date.
Fish Fryin' With Friends On Capitol Hill
|U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery (left), and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, pose with Captain Catfish during a catfish fry on Capitol Hill, Sept. 14. Sponsored by the Catfish Farmers of America and the Alabama Catfish Producers, the event included members of Congress, staff and industry supporters. Following the event, Federation members Will Pearce, Butch Wilson and Townsend Kyser visited offices of the Alabama delegation, while Catfish Farmers of America members visited congressmen from Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.
New job assignments enhance Federation communications
Jeff Helms, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation Public Relations and Communications Department, recently announced several changes with the department.
Debra Davis has been named publications director and will serve as editor of both Neighbors and Friends & Family magazines. Davis joined the Federation staff in 1998 as county communications director and Cultivator editor. In 2005, her responsibilities grew to include that of editor of Friends & Family and assistant editor of Neighbors.
"Debra has extensive experience in journalism and publications management and will do an outstanding job of directing the editorial and financial budgets of our publications," Helms said. "She will continue to play a vital role in the coordination and execution of public relations campaigns, special projects and other communications initiatives."
Federation Graphic Designer Mike Moody, who has worked for the Federation since 2005, has been promoted to director of new media. His primary responsibilities had been the design of Neighbors, Friends & Family and the Alfa Journal. In addition to those duties, his role has been expanded to include digital magazine editions and strategies to help the Federation more effectively utilize the Web, e-publications, smartphones, electronic newsletters, social media, syndicated Web content and other technologies.
"Mike's experience and innovative thinking helps add a new dimension to our department," Helms said. "As technology changes, it's important we stay on top of the new and best ways to deliver our message. His creativity will help steer us into a new information age."
Melissa Martin is now the Cultivator editor and Web content manager for the Federation. Melissa joined the Federation two years ago after working for Alfa Insurance since 2004. She earned her bachelor's degree in communications from Auburn University - Montgomery.
"Melissa has been a valuable addition to our staff, and we are excited about her expanded role," Helms said. "She has already used her creative talents to write news releases, feature stories and advertising copy. In her new position, Melissa will be able to dedicate more of her time to telling the stories of our farmer members."
Lamont Tommy Davis, a Geneva County board member, died Aug. 26. He was 84.
A World War II veteran, Davis spent most of his life as a farmer and cattleman. He served as an Emirates Deacon of Piney Grove Baptist Church, where he was a member for more than 80 years.
Davis was a former member of the Alabama Cattlemen's Association and the Coffee County Livestock Association. He was also a member of Farm Service Agency and the American Legion.
He is survived by his wife, Mary E. Davis; son, Ronnie Davis, Piney Grove; daughter, Carol McMurphy, Hattiesburg; brother, Ralph Davis, Piney Grove; three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Donations may be made to the Piney Grove Baptist Church Cemetery Fund, c/o Kate Strickland, 108 S. Broad St., Samson, AL 36477.
U.S. Catfish industry gains competitive edge
Several Alabama catfish producers attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 9 for Auburn University's new Center for Aquatic Resource Management, a $9 million addition to the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture's E.W. Shell Fisheries Research Center.
|Auburn Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture Extension Specialist Jesse Chappell explains the fiberglass tanks in the market section of Auburn's new Center for Aquatic Resource Management to Alabama Farmers Federation Catfish Division Director Mitt Walker and Catfish Farmers of America President Butch WIlson at the ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 9. The center is a $9 million addition to the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture's E.W. Shell Fisheries Research Center.
The center, which consists of a 17,000 square-foot laboratory and a 20,000 square-foot administrative building, will offer cutting-edge aquatic research facilities, enhanced classroom environments and improved community education opportunities.
The laboratory houses fish tanks and state-of-the art labs, including several climate-controlled wet labs that allow for year-round research.
Auburn Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture Extension Specialist Jesse Chappell said the U.S. catfish industry is facing growing international competition, and the research that will come out of the new laboratories will give domestic catfish producers the edge they need to succeed in the global market.
Improved farming practices and the development of more resistant breeds of fish, vaccines and probiotics also will allow U.S. producers to be more competitive and likely more profitable, Chappell said.
Alabama Farmers Federation Catfish Division Director Mitt Walker said catfish producers across the state are anticipating how the new facilities will benefit the industry.
"The new facility will put researchers at Auburn University in a much better position to tackle industry challenges and transfer this information to the growers," Walker said. "Alabama catfish farmers will definitely benefit from the advances made possible by the capabilities of this new building."
For more information, contact Chappell at 334-844-9209.
Public hearings to discuss legislative districts begin Oct. 3
State lawmakers on the Legislative Redistricting Committee will soon face the daunting task of redrawing districts for the 140 districts they represent.
Beginning Oct. 3, the committee will hold public hearings throughout the state to allow public input on the makeup of those districts. During the last legislative session, lawmakers held public hearings for seven congressional districts and eight state school board seats. This time, they will redraw the 105 House and 35 Senate districts.
Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, who serves on the committee, told reporters, "We want to take into account the information that we receive at the public hearings and then work very hard to draw fair and reasonable districts that recognize communities of interest and that also comply with federal law."
According to John Pudner, Alabama Farmers Federation Director of External Affairs, redistricting is particularly crucial for agriculture because of the potential to lose several rural seats.
"The population shifts toward the cities can result in more urban and suburban districts," said Pudner. "But the shift can also result in fewer voices for less-populated rural areas that feed the rest of the state."
For a district to theoretically stay the same, it would have had to grow 7.5 percent in population.
The redistricting committee has 22 members comprised of 11 House members and 11 senators. Lines must be redrawn after each census is released, or every 10 years, to reflect population shifts.
The Oct. 3 meetings involve the areas of Fort Payne, Guntersville and Huntsville. To see a complete list of public hearings, visit http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/NoticeView.aspx. For more information, contact Pudner at (334) 613-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New firefighting equipment helps farmers
Residents of Walker County have one thing less to worry about thanks to new firefighting equipment purchased by the Walker County Farmers Federation.
|Walker County Farmers Federation Vice President Dorman Grace, left, talks with Boldo Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Chris Hopper about the Federation's recent purchase of foam nozzle attachments and buckets of foam for the county. Beneficial in both farm and non-farm situations, foam is a specialty tool growing in popularity with firefighters because of its ease of use and ability to quickly smother flames. |
With the $5,000 given by the county Federation, all fire departments in Walker County now have access to two ChemGuard Foam Maker aspirating nozzle attachments and 24 five-gallon buckets of high expansion foam, which allow firefighters to get flames under control quicker than with water alone.
Foam can be used to extinguish structure fires, electrical fires, flammable liquid fires and fires involving combustibles. It's also helpful in controlling wildfires, where water may not be available.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, foam can also be used to humanely euthanize poultry in emergency situations.
Walker County Farmers Federation Vice President Dorman Grace, a row crop and poultry farmer, suggested purchasing the foam equipment earlier this year when a snow and ice storm caused the roof on one of his poultry houses to collapse.
"After talking to the Department of Agriculture and Industries about the best way to euthanize chickens following the collapse, it turned out that the best way was with foam. Unfortunately, no one in our area had a foaming device," recalled Grace. "Whether I ever have another chicken house situation again or not, our first responders need this equipment. Since they're all volunteers, our Federation was able to procure funds for the equipment. Now, all 24 volunteer fire departments in Walker County - and even the larger cities like Jasper - can use the foamer when they need it."
Biodegradable and low in toxicity, the foam is environmentally friendly.