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February 06, 2012   Email to Friend  Download PDF of this Issue

Alfa Insurance agents, claims adjusters mobilize to serve storm-affected policyholders

Alfa policyholders Mark and Juliet Mullens accept a check from Alfa Adjuster Dan Headley Monday afternoon to help cover their temporary living expenses. The Mullens’ home was heavily damaged when a tornado ripped through the Paradise Valley subdivision northeast of Birmingham shortly before dawn Jan. 23.

Alfa Insurance continues to work hard to serve policyholders hit by the Jan. 23 tornadoes. As soon as it was safe to mobilize, Alfa dispatched extra resources to handle claims, and adjusters were in the hardest hit areas within hours of the storm. As of Jan. 31, Alfa had received 787 claims, 33 of which were farmowner policies.

Mark and Juliet Mullens were among those trying to salvage some of their belongings in the Paradise Valley subdivision in the Clay-Chalkville area. Overwhelmed by the chaos surrounding them, they said they weren’t sure where to start.

Alfa Claims Adjuster Dan Headley made his way through the debris-strewn streets in their neighborhood to help.

“Everything we have is with Alfa,” said Mark. “We’re glad to see you.”

The Mullens have lived on San Marcos Drive for 32 years and have been Alfa customers most of that time. Their house received heavy damage from the storm, much of it caused by giant trees uprooted throughout their neighborhood. Their front lawn was covered with debris from their across-the-street neighbor’s home that was completely blown off its foundation.

After surveying the damage, Headley wrote the Mullens a check to help them with securing temporary housing and storage for their belongings.

Alfa adjusters were also busy in Tuscaloosa and Chilton counties, where heavy damage occurred.

Surveyors with the National Weather Service identified the tornado that tore through Paradise Valley as an EF3, with winds of 136 mph to 165 mph. They said two storms in Tuscaloosa County were EF3- and EF2-strength tornadoes that caused moderate to heavy damage.

”Nothing like this has ever happened to us,” Juliet said. “We just feel lucky to be alive. It’s amazing that no one on our street was killed. That’s not the case just a little ways from here.”

Though anticipating what awaits Alabamians  in terms of spring storms is an educated guess at best, experts are predicting this severe storm trend will continue throughout the spring, with record-high temperatures partially to blame.

According to the National Climatic Data Center, almost 2,800 record-high temperatures were either tied or broken across the country in January (compared with about 160 daily record lows that were either tied or broken).

Greg Forbes, Weather Channel severe weather expert, says the climate pattern ­— La Niña — tends to produce large tornado outbreaks from January to April across the country. La Niña refers to cooler-than-average tropical Pacific Ocean water that affects weather and climate around the world.

In the event these predictions become reality and disaster strikes, policyholders are encouraged to make temporary repairs to their property to prevent additional damage and should save all receipts. Additionally, policyholders should only do business with reputable companies.

To report a claim, contact a local Alfa service center or call 1-800-964-2532. Policyholders also may file claims online at AlfaInsurance.com.

New Leader Orientation

Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan, left, discusses legislative issues with new county presidents and state board members during the Federation’s New Leader Orientation program Jan. 24 at the Federation headquarters in Montgomery. New leaders learned about various Federation departments, Alfa Insurance Co., and participated in a media training exercise.

Changes ahead for Capitol Connection legislative newsletter

The Alabama Farmers Federation is excited to announce a change to the Capitol Connection newsletter.

Instead of remaining a separate mail piece, the Capitol Connection — published by the Federation to keep county Federations up-to-date on agricultural legislation — will be distributed via email beginning with the first issue of the 2012 session.

“The electronic format will allow us to provide Federation leaders more timely information about issues that impact their lives,” said Public Relations Director Jeff Helms. “We are no longer limited by space, time or cost when it comes to distributing legislative news to our members. The electronic format will not only save money, but it will also allow our leadership to receive news as it happens rather than days later.”

Sign up today for Capitol Connection e-News alerts at AlfaFarmers.org, or text CAPCON to 22828.

For questions, contact News Services Director Mary Johnson, (334) 612-5671 or MLJohnson@AlfaFarmers.org.

Pork contest aims to ‘inspire’ healthy eating

The Alabama Pork Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, is seeking winning pork recipes from each county Federation’s annual pork cooking contest. A selection of winning recipes will be featured in the June issue of Neighbors magazine. 

Federation Pork Division Director Guy Hall said he hopes counties will take advantage of this promotional opportunity, adding that one winner will also receive $100 for his or her entry.

“We want our members to ‘be inspired’ to use pork recipes that will lead to a happier, healthier lifestyle,” said Hall. “This contest should provide them with an incentive to fire up their grills or Crock-Pots and show off their culinary craftsmanship.”

According to Hall, 10-12 winning pork recipes from the counties will be selected for the magazine. To encourage entries from across the state, counties that host cooking contests in the fall are allowed to submit recipes from last year’s contest.

To be eligible, county Federations must return completed entry forms and a copy of the winning recipe by April 15. Mail entries to: Alabama Pork Producers, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191. 

For more information, contact Hall at (334) 612-5181 or GHall@AlfaFarmers.org.

Federation leaders testify before agriculture committees

Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill, center, visits with Joe Sumrall of Gov. Bentley’s office, left, and Walker County Farmers Federation President Dorman Grace, right, prior to a Senate and House Agriculture Committee meeting Jan. 27. Federation leaders encouraged legislators to invest in poultry research and expand irrigation during the session.

Alabama Farmers Federation leaders encouraged legislators to invest in poultry research and expand irrigation during a joint session of the Senate and House agriculture committees Jan. 27 in Auburn.

Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee Chairman Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, praised the work being done by the National Poultry Technology Center (NPTC) at Auburn University and pledged to sponsor $250,000 in state funding for the complex.

As a poultry farmer, Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill, said he’s seen first-hand how technology being developed at the NPTC is helping keep farmers on their land.

“Implementing their research at my farm has saved me a lot of money. That’s money in my pocket,” Scofield said. “It has allowed me to continue to work on the farm and do what I love.”

While poultry farmers are looking to Auburn for new technology that will reduce energy consumption and improve chicken health, Auburn College of Agriculture Dean Bill Batchelor said the best way for many farmers to improve profitability is by increasing the use of irrigation.

“The quickest way our farmers in Alabama can increase yields is by adopting irrigation technology,” Batchelor said.

The senators on the panel are looking at a number of bills that would encourage the expansion of on-farm irrigation, including tax incentives.

In addition to poultry technology and irrigation, Federation leaders also spoke on issues ranging from career and technical education to immigration. Speakers included North Region Vice President Hal Lee of Morgan County, Southeast Vice President Ricky Wiggins of Covington County Federation Board Member and Elmore County Farmers Federation President Richard Edgar, Montgomery County Farmers Federation President Bill Cook, Pike County Farmers Federation President John Dorrill and Walker County Farmers Federation President Dorman Grace.

As the meeting drew to a close, Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, illustrated how agricultural research and technology can improve the lives of people and the economy of a nation with. A combat veteran, Williams recalled seeing Afghan farmers progress from pulling plows by hand to using modern farm equipment during his tour of duty.

Farmers urged to take immigration survey

In an effort to gauge current and potential labor shortages resulting from enactment of the state’s immigration law, the Alabama Agribusiness Council (AAC) is asking farmers, producers and agribusinesses to complete a Web-based survey by Feb. 13.

According to AAC officials, survey participation is critical to providing a clear assessment of the law’s impact on Alabama’s agricultural industry.

A cost-benefit analysis conducted by University of Alabama economist Samuel Addy estimates up to 80,000 jobs were vacated by illegal immigrants who left the state fearing a crackdown, which cost Alabama’s economy approximately $10.8 billion.

“As we look for ways to address labor shortages and other issues that have arisen after passage of this new law, it is essential to have actual numbers to create solutions,” said Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan.

A link to the survey is available online at AlfaFarmers.org. For details, visit http://www.alfafarmers.org/headlines/headline.phtml?id=6171

Program offers financial relief for rural borrowers

Rural Alabama homeowners may be able to reduce their monthly mortgage payments thanks to a pilot program launched Feb. 1 by the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to a release issued by USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the Single Family Housing Guaranteed (SFHG) Rural Refinance Pilot Program will help rural borrowers refinance their mortgages to reduce their monthly payments.

“This pilot program will help homeowners to take advantage of historically low interest rates,” said Vilsack. “By working closely with lenders, we are helping rural homeowners protect one of the most important investments they will ever make.”
USDA Rural Development estimates 235,000 homeowners will be eligible to refinance their loans. Terms cannot exceed 30 years, and no cash out is permitted to the borrower. To qualify for the reduction, borrowers must have made their mortgage payments on time for 12 consecutive months.

The two-year pilot program will operate initially in 19 states, applying only to homeowners who have loans that were made or guaranteed by USDA Rural Development. States eligible were among those hit hardest by the downturn in the housing market.

Other states selected for the program include Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee.

For more information, contact Guaranteed Loan Coordinator Brian Yarbrough at (256) 532-1677 ext. 4, or email brian.yarbrough@al.usda.gov.

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