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October 21, 2011   Email to Friend  Download PDF of this Issue

Federation praises passage of free trade agreements

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby praised Congress for passing free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which the Obama administration says could boost exports by $13 billion a year.

"We appreciate Congress ratifying these trade agreements, which will open up markets for U.S. agricultural products and create jobs for American workers," Newby said. "During the last four years, South Korea, Panama and Colombia have opened their doors to our competitors while America continued to pay high tariffs on products exported to these countries. These agreements will allow our farmers to fairly market their products and expand agricultural exports."

Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan said he is optimistic about the changes Alabama farmers will see with the trade agreements' passage, including their ability to compete on a level playing field.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, of which the Alabama Farmers Federation is a member, estimates the 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 deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea could create nearly 22,500 new ag-related jobs.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 278-151 for the South Korea agreement, 300-129 for Panama and 262-167 for Colombia. The U.S. Senate voted 83-15 for South Korea, 77-22 for Panama and 66-33 for Colombia.

The agreements have been sent to the president for his signature.

Fish farming lures new industry to Hale County

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., center, who represents Alabama's 7th Congressional District, participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Alabama Protein Products Plant that will be built on the Kysers' catfish farm in Hale County. Sewell is pictured with Bill Kyser, left, and his son, Townsend.
Hale County catfish farmer Bill Kyser and his family are bringing home a new technology from Auburn University to help catfish farmers net more value for their fish.

The Kysers held a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 19 for their new Alabama Protein Products Plant at their farm near Greensboro.

"It is not difficult to demand a fair price for catfish fillets, but the key to making the catfish industry more successful is squeezing every penny out of the byproducts of the process," Kyser said.

The new plant will produce fishmeal and fish oil from the offal created as a byproduct of the catfish industry. Kyser described offal as the non-edible portions of the fish left after it's processed.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., who represents the 7th Congressional District that includes most of Alabama's catfish-producing counties, was on-hand for the announcement. She praised the Kysers for their pioneering spirit.

"I'm pleased to see them investing in agriculture, investing in Alabama and investing in the 7th Congressional District," she said.

The Kysers expect the plant, which will cost almost $2 million, to be finished early next year and employ eight to 12 people.

Fish byproducts are used in fertilizer, animal feed additives and energy production.

New program links employers, workers

Gov. Robert Bentley announced the launch of "Work Alabama," an initiative by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations (ADIR) to help identify temporary workers and make job seekers more aware of current job postings. Supporting the initiative were, from back left, ADIR Director Tom Surtees, Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan, Alabama Home Builders Association Executive Vice President Russell Davis and Associated Builders and Contractors President Jay Reed.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced a new initiative Oct. 13 that will match job seekers with short-term employment.

"Work Alabama," developed by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations (ADIR), allows employers and job seekers access to JobLink, the state's free online jobs database. Once job seekers indicate interest in accepting temporary work, their name is placed on a master list and provided to employers who have jobs available.

Since parts of Alabama's immigration law went into effect, several farmers and agribusiness owners have lost workers. Bentley said he is optimistic "Work Alabama" will remedy that situation.

"Many have said that our residents are too lazy to do manual labor," said Bentley. "These claims are insulting. Alabama has a strong workforce who are willing to do labor-intensive jobs. They just need the opportunity."

Bentley also announced that he's assembled a team of representatives from industries that provide thousands of jobs to manual laborers. The team, led by ADIR Director Tom Surtees, will assess the workforce needs of industry groups and make recommendations about how state government can help meet those needs.

Team members include Johnny Adams, Alabama Poultry and Egg Association; Greg Canfield, Alabama Development Office; Russell Davis, Homebuilders Association of Alabama; Brian Hardin, Alabama Farmers Federation; State Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn; Chris Isaacson, Alabama Forestry Association; Del Marsh, Alabama Senate President Pro Tem; Commissioner John McMillan, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries; and Jay Reed, Associated Builders and Contractors.

To access temporary jobs or find available workers, visit JobLink.Alabama.Gov.

Changes ahead for Cultivator newsletter

The Alabama Farmers Federation's Communications Department is excited to announce a change to the Cultivator newsletter.

Instead of remaining a separate mail piece, the Cultivator will now be inside FB News, a biweekly publication printed by the American Farm Bureau. The next Cultivator will be published Nov. 14.

The content of the Cultivator will remain the same and will be distributed only to Federation leaders.

For questions, contact Cultivator Editor Melissa Martin, (334) 612-5448 or mmartin@alfains.com.

Harvest data shows cotton yields up, corn down from last year

A survey by the Alabama Agricultural Statistics Service shows the state's cotton harvest will be up, and corn yields will be lower.

An Oct. 1 survey of state farmers predicts the Alabama cotton crop at 670,000 bales, up 30,000 bales from last month and 190,000 bales from a year ago. The acres of cotton planted are estimated at 460,000 acres, 35 percent above last year. Of that, 440,000 acres are expected to be harvested, up 30 percent from 2010. Yields are forecast at 731 pounds per acre, up 49 pounds from last year.

Officials estimate 270,0000 acres of corn were planted in Alabama this year, unchanged from the September estimate and last year. Corn production is forecast at 25.68 million bushels, down 3.32 million bushels from a year ago. Yield per acre, at 107 bushels, is down 9 bushels from 2010. An estimated 240,000 acres of corn are expected to be harvested, which is down 4 percent from last year and unchanged from the Sept. 1 estimate.

For a detailed look at Alabama's harvest, see November's issue of Neighbors magazine.

Auburn University receives research grant

Alabama is one of 19 states that will receive grants to develop and share science-based tools to address the needs of America's specialty crop industry.

Auburn University, Alabama's grant recipient, will receive $1,542,160 to develop and field test an inexpensive, accurate, easy-to-use biosensor for the detection of Salmonella contamination of fresh globe fruits (tomatoes, cantaloupes and watermelons).

According to an Oct. 14 release issued by U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is awarding the grants, totaling $46 million, through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).

"Over the last 60 years, agriculture, including horticulture, has become increasingly reliant on science and technology to maintain profitable production," Merrigan said. "Specialty crop producers in the United States--as with all of American agriculture--are seeing sales surge both domestically and abroad as consumers search for high quality, 'Grown in America' fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. These projects will help provide specialty crop producers with the information and tools they need to successfully grow, process and market safe and high-quality products, supporting jobs and opportunities for Americans working in specialty crops."

Specialty crops are defined in law as "fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture."

Funded projects address five focus areas: 1) improve crop characteristics through plant breeding, genetics and genomics; 2) address threats from pests and diseases; 3) improve production efficiency, productivity and profitability; 4) develop new innovations and technologies and 5) develop methods to improve food safety.

Other state grant recipients were California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

NASS eliminates catfish report, reduces frequency of others

Citing cuts in funding in fiscal year 2011 and the likelihood of additional decreases in fiscal year 2012, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) announced Oct. 17 that it is decreasing the frequency of several data surveys and eliminating other reports altogether.

NASS eliminated 10 reports, including annual reports on farm numbers, land in farms and livestock operations; all catfish and trout reports; the mid-year cattle inventory report; the nursery report; the January sheep and goats report; and the annual bee and honey report.

The fruit and vegetable in-season forecast and estimates report, printed monthly and quarterly prior to the cutbacks, has been reduced to an annual report.

For more information or to view reports, visit http://nass.usda.gov.

Nominations sought for Federation's Ag Communications Award

The Alabama Farmers Federation is seeking nominations for the 2011 Agriculture Communications Award.

The award will be presented to a newspaper, radio station or television station during the Federation's 90th annual meeting in Mobile, Dec. 5.

The award honors a media outlet that has helped tell farmers' stories by presenting timely, accurate and fair information.

County presidents should submit letters of recommendation for their nominees before Oct. 28.

Letters should be sent to Alabama Farmers Federation Communications Director Jeff Helms, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191-0001 or emailed to JHelms@AlfaFarmers.org.

Autaugaville Farm Honored At Sunbelt

Autauga County Farmers Federation President Andy Wendland, a row crop and cattle farmer, represented Alabama in the 2011 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest in Moultrie, Ga., Oct. 18-20. North Carolina farmer Thomas Porter Jr. was selected as the overall winner. Pictured above are, from left, Swisher International Inc. President J. Thomas Ryan; Wendland; and Sunbelt Ag Expo Executive Director Chip Blalock.

USDA awards millions in crop block grants

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded 55 specialty crop block grants to fund 740 initiatives across the U.S. The grants, which total approximately $55 million, will help strengthen the market for specialty crops.

According to a USDA release, Alabama received $438,645.47 to fund eight projects, which include partnerships with:

• The Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association to conduct regional training sessions to meet the guidelines for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Handling Practices (GHP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

• The Alabama Cooperative Extension System to teach specialty crop producers how to utilize MarketMaker.

• The Alabama Farmers Market Authority to develop an educational DVD describing benefits of locally grown specialty crops.

• The Chattahoochee Trading Co., Inc., to inform fruit growers of significant return potential from small acreage production.

• The Department of Horticulture at Auburn University to determine the feasibility of growing Vitis vinifera grapes in Alabama.

• The Chilton Food Innovation Center to lower the processing time per each producer's output batch.

Projects also include assisting producers in meeting GAP/GHP requirements through educational meetings, workbook development and a cost-sharing program; and performing pre-award and post-award activities to ensure that awardees abide by federal and state requirements.

For more information, visit http://www.ams.usda.gov.

SPCC compliance date extended for farms

The deadline for farmers to prepare or implement a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan has been extended to May 10, 2013, according to a release issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. The original deadline was Nov. 10, 2011.

EPA extended the deadline after floods and fires affected hundreds of farms across the country.

The extension, which only applies to farms, does not remove the regulatory requirement for farms in operation before Aug. 16, 2002. The amendment also does not relieve farms from the liability of any oil spills that occur.

Farms starting operation after Aug. 16, 2002, through May 10, 2013 have until May 10, 2013, to prepare and implement an SPCC Plan.

For information, visit http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/spcc/spcc_extfarms.htm.

Agriculture Promoted In Parade

Members of the State Women's Leadership Committee recently participated in the Centre Fall Festival and annual parade, which promoted Cherokee County and Alabama agriculture. Committee member Rita Garrett coordinated the event. Pictured are, from front left: Delle Bean, Calhoun County; Kathy Anderson, Jefferson County; Virginia Abercrombie, Morgan County; Debbie Freeland, Mobile County; Kim Earwood, Women's Leadership Division director; Faye Dial, Clay County; Sharon Byrd, Dale County; and Gloria Jeffcoat, Houston County.

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