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November 14, 2011   Email to Friend  Download PDF of this Issue

St. Clair County Farmers Federation Receives AFBF Excellence Award

The St. Clair County Farmers Federation was one of 25 county Farm Bureaus recognized by the American Farm Bureau Federation in this year's County Activities of Excellence program. St. Clair County's Young Farmers Committee planted a 1.5-acre vegetable garden at Big Oak Ranch, which will feed 100 children and their house parents. The county Federation will be honored during the AFBF's 93rd annual meeting in Hawaii.
The St. Clair County Farmers Federation was one of 25 county Farm Bureaus recognized by the American Farm Bureau Federation in this year's County Activities of Excellence program.

The winners will be spotlighted during AFBF's 93rd annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, Jan. 8-11.

St. Clair County was recognized in the Education & Agriculture Promotion category for a crops-teaching garden for the Big Oak Ranch. St. Clair County's Young Farmers Committee planted a 1.5-acre vegetable garden at the ranch that will feed 100 children and their house parents.

Founded in 1974 by John Croyle, Big Oak Ranch has housed more than 1,800 children during its 37 years. The ranch is currently home to more than 100 children between the Boys' Ranch in Gadsden and the Girls' Ranch in Springville.

"This is a great example of a Young Farmers committee serving the local community, and the work the committee did at Big Oak Ranch will pay dividends for years to come," said Brandon Moore, Young Farmers Division director for the Alabama Farmers Federation. "The garden gave the Young Farmers committee a presence in the community and taught a future generation of young leaders the importance of agriculture. We are so thankful to the ranch for allowing the St. Clair County Young Farmers to take on this project."

The American Farm Bureau program recognizes and shares successful county programs and activities in the Farm Bureaus for Excellence program. The awards honor innovative programs by county Farm Bureaus in five categories: Education & Agriculture Promotion; Leadership Development; Membership Services; Policy Implementation; and Public Relations & Information. For the first time in the competition, this year's awards are based on county Farm Bureau membership.

"Farm Bureau members attending AFBF's annual meeting in Hawaii in January will see first-hand how these 25 action-oriented programs do a great job in fulfilling Farm Bureau's mission," said AFBF President Bob Stallman. "The winning entries will be on display at the trade show where county Farm Bureau leaders from across America can discover what other county Farm Bureaus are doing to promote agriculture in their communities."

Other county Farm Bureaus for Excellence Award winners were from California, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Federal Judge Upholds State's Current Property Tax System

A federal judge has ruled that Alabama's property tax system does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith issued an 854-page ruling last month in Lynch v. Alabama that criticized the state's approach to funding schools, but stated the parents of school children who brought the lawsuit failed to prove the property tax system is discriminatory.

Plaintiffs had asked the court to order the state's property tax laws be rewritten, including ending special low rates for agricultural and timber landowners.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange issued a statement saying Smith's ruling supports the state's argument that Alabama's property tax system does not violate civil rights.

"It is the prerogative of the citizens of Alabama, through their elected representatives, to structure a tax system in a manner that best serves their interests," said Strange. "The Office of Attorney General remains committed to defending and vindicating this important right whenever necessary."

The case was tried this spring in Smith's Huntsville courtroom. It lasted four weeks and included testimony that traced Alabama's history from the Civil War to George Wallace.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs issued a statement calling the judge's opinion "regrettable," but did not indicate whether they intend to appeal the decision.

Alabama, Kentucky Young Leaders Tour Tennessee Valley

Several members of the Agricultural Leaders For Alabama (A.L.F.A.) and the Kentucky Farm Bureau Leadership Enhancement for Agricultural Development (LEAD) programs met in Huntsville Nov. 1-3 for leadership sessions and tours that showcased agriculture in Alabama's Tennessee Valley. During the three-day event, A.L.F.A. and LEAD members toured the ConAgra flour mill in Decatur (pictured above); the CDS-John Blue Co. in Huntsville; Tate Farms in Meridianville; Bragg Farms in Toney and Scott's Orchards in Hazel Green.

West Alabama Farmers Voice Farm Bill Concerns

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., (left) listens as Butch Wilson (far right) explains the farm bill's impact on his west Alabama catfish farm Oct. 28. Others representing the agriculture sector were Deputy Undersecretary of Rural Development Doug O'Brien, USDA; Director of Alabama Rural Development Ron Sparks; State Director for USDA Rural Development Ronnie Davis and Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., hosted a "Grown In Alabama: A Farm Bill Listening Tour," Oct. 28, using it as a chance to meet with farmers, producers and growers from the 7th Congressional District and across Alabama.

The tour provided a platform for farmers to share their opinions about the 2012 farm bill and various other issues affecting their businesses and the agriculture sector. Sewell, who is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said she looked forward to talking with farmers and growers as the House of Representatives begins to discuss the next farm bill.

"This bill must promote economic growth, rural development, nutritional and food assistance for struggling families, conservation and job creation," said Sewell. "While our next farm bill has to take into account these challenging budgetary times, we must also continue to provide Alabama farms and farmers with a strong safety net and the assistance they need to be successful. As a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, I am excited about helping draft a 2012 farm bill that works for everyone."

Tour stops included a meet and greet with minority farmers at the Selma/Dallas County Co-Op, a tour of Dean Wilson's farm in Marion Junction, a listening session at the Catfish Feed Mill in Uniontown and a tour of George Hall's farm in Boligee.

Sewell has pledged to keep in touch with her constituents and to provide regular updates about policies, resources and opportunities for constituents of the 7th Congressional District.

Farm-City Week Focuses on Healthy Food Choices

Volunteers across Alabama are tackling the obesity epidemic this month by promoting healthy food choices during National Farm-City Week, Nov. 18-24.

Alabama Farm-City Chairman Jeff Helms said this year's theme, "Harvesting Healthy Choices," is an opportunity to correct the myth that modern agriculture - rather than lifestyle choices -- is to blame for America's expanding waistline.

"This theme gives our farmers an opportunity to join forces with their city neighbors and sponsor educational programs and activities aimed at creating a healthier Alabama," Helms said.

The theme coincides with the recent release of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "MyPlate" nutritional guide, which calls for a balanced diet.

"For Alabama farmers, 'Harvesting Healthy Choices' gives the agricultural community a chance to talk about the health benefits of locally grown produce and other foods," Helms added. "The bone-building power of milk; the leaner choices in beef, pork, poultry and catfish; the cancer-fighting properties of soybeans; and the antioxidant power of blueberries are just a few of the messages that can be incorporated into this years's theme."

Farm-City Week, founded in 1955, strives to foster better understanding between farmers and their urban neighbors. In Alabama, Farm-City activities include a poster and essay contest for students, as well as Farm-City banquets, tours, media events, civic club presentations and breakfasts for elected officials and business leaders.

"Eating well and living well are about choices, and this year's theme gives us a chance to highlight the bounty of healthy options produced by Alabama's farm families," said Helms.


James Andrew Wheeler, a Perry County board member, died Oct. 7. He was 90.

A World War II veteran, Wheeler graduated from the University of Tennessee and married Marian Moody in 1949. Following their marriage, they moved to Perry County, bought farmland and established Grassland Farm.

Wheeler served in various capacities on the Alabama State Milk Control Board, Perry County Farmers Federation and Perry County Cattlemen's Association. In addition to serving on the board of directors of the Alabama Farmers Co-Op in Selma, Wheeler was a founding member and chairman of the Perry County Bank from 1972 to 2000.

He is survived by his sister, Nell Burns (Knoxville, Tenn.); four daughters, Judith Wheeler (Tuscaloosa), Vickie Wheeler Meehan (Golden, Colo.), Andrea Wheeler Lucas (Pelham) and Fran Wheeler Alley (Jefferson City, Tenn.); eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to Siloam Baptist Church, 505 Washington St., Marion, AL 36756.

Silent Auction Items Sought

The Alabama Farmers Agricultural Foundation silent auction, hosted by the Young Farmers Division, will be at the Alabama Farmers Federation's 90th annual meeting in Mobile. County Federations are asked to donate a minimum of two items valued at $50 or more each. Items may be delivered Dec. 4 near the registration area from 1-4 p.m.

Classes Educate Potential Political Candidates

Becki Breckenridge of Escambia County, left, attended one of four candidate schools conducted by the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Rural Electric Association. Also on hand at the Oct. 19 class in Robertsdale were Gabriel Snow, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; Escambia County Probate Judge Emilie Mims and State Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton.

Mobile to Host Young Farmers Conference Feb. 24-26

The Alabama Farmers Federation's Young Farmers Division will host the 2012 Young Farmers Leadership Conference and Outstanding Young Farm Family program at the Riverview Plaza Hotel in Mobile, Feb. 24-26.

According to Brandon Moore, director of the Young Farmers Division, registration details will be available soon at AlfaYoungFarmers.org.

The Alabama Farmers Federation's Young Farmers Division helps young producers prepare for their future with leadership development and personal growth. Leadership conferences allow young agricultural leaders to serve in the industry and build their skills.

The Outstanding Young Farm Family program recognizes young farmers and farm families between the ages of 18 and 35 who are doing an outstanding job in their farm, home and commodity activities and promote a better understanding of agriculture with the urban populace.

For more information on the Young Farmers Leadership Conference or the Outstanding Young Farm Family program, contact Moore at (334) 612-5159 or email bmoore@alfafarmers.org.

Farmers Federation Earns Five AFBF State Awards

The Alabama Farmers Federation will be recognized at the American Farm Bureau Federation's (AFBF) annual meeting in Hawaii as a winner in five state awards categories.

The Federation received awards for Ag Education/ Ag Promotion; Leadership Development; Member Services; Policy Implementation; and Public Information/Information.

Alabama will be recognized at the 93rd annual AFBF meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii on Jan. 8.

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