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March 05, 2012   Email to Friend  Download PDF of this Issue

Federation members discuss farm bill with Alabama congressional delegation

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby, center, meets with U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, left, and Terri Sewell, right, outside the U.S. Capitol during the Federation’s Washington Legislative Conference Thursday morning. The Federation’s Farm Bill Committee met with Roby and Sewell while in D.C. Both congresswomen serve on the House Agriculture Committee.

More than 100 members of the Alabama Farmers Federation visited Washington, D.C., Feb. 28-March 2 to meet with congressional leaders on an issue affecting their livelihoods and the future of American agriculture — the 2012 Farm Bill.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nursery and Forestry, told Federation members during a breakfast meeting Feb. 29 that now is the right time for farmers to reach out to their congressional delegation.

“It will be critically important for you to remind legislators, both in the House and Senate, of the sacrifices agriculture has already made in terms of the budget,” said Roberts. “We need your help in getting this (farm bill) over the goal line.”

Cullman County cattle and grain producer Darrel Haynes echoed Roberts’ emphasis on meeting face-to-face with policymakers, noting that while there are many obstacles farmers face that they have no control over, establishing a worthwhile relationship with their representatives shouldn’t be one of them.

“There are 2 percent of us (farmers), and it becomes increasingly difficult to convince the other 98 percent that agriculture and agricultural programs are vitally important... not just to us and our existence, but to their existence as well,” said Haynes. “It’s always encouraging to know that we have people in Washington that share our passion for agriculture and the agricultural industry that we love.”

In addition to farm bill discussions, members received information on the Clean Water Act and other environmental issues, agricultural labor and youth employment standards, immigration, estate tax reform and rural education funding during the Federation’s annual Washington Legislative Conference. They also met with Alabama Republican Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, as well as their representatives from each of the state’s seven congressional districts.

Other speakers during the conference included Washington attorney Gary Baise, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Senior Economist John Anderson, AFBF Deputy Executive Director of Public Policy Dale Moore, and National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservationist for the East Leonard Jordan.

Outstanding Young Farm Families honored during annual leadership conference

Outstanding Young Farm Family finalists are, from left, Ben and Miranda Looney of Limestone County with their sons, Colby and Clay, soybeans; Lance and Stephanie Miller of Blount County with their son, Reed, cotton; Josh and Amanda Simpson of Monroe County and their children, Drew, Cate and Jack, beef; Matt and Mandy Armbrester of Talladega County and their son, Hayes, wheat & feed grains; Jon Hegeman of Calhoun County, greenhouse, nursery & sod; and Paul and Vicki Morrison of Dale County, peanuts.
Young farmers representing 10 agricultural commodities were honored as division winners in the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) competition Feb. 25 during the Young Farmers Leadership Conference in Mobile.

Six finalists also were selected from the group to compete for the title of overall OYFF at the Federation’s 91st annual meeting to be held this December in Montgomery. The winner will receive a 2013 Chevrolet or GMC pickup truck, courtesy of Alfa Insurance and Alabama Farmers Federation; a John Deere Gator XUV, courtesy of Alabama Farm Credit and Alabama Ag Credit; lease of a John Deere tractor, courtesy of SunSouth, TriGreen Equipment and Snead Ag dealers; and a personal computer system from Valcom/CTS Wireless. Alabama’s top young farm family will represent the state in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Achievement Award competition at its January 2013 annual meeting in Nashville.

The OYFF commodity division winners were: Ben and Miranda Looney of Limestone County, Soybeans Division; Jon and Amy Hegeman of Calhoun County, Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Division; Matt and Mandy Armbrester of Talladega County, Wheat and Feed Grains Division; Paul and Vicki Morrison of Dale County, Peanut Division; Lance and Stephanie Miller of Blount County, Cotton Division; Josh and Amanda Simpson of Monroe County, Beef Division; Daniel and Jessica White of Randolph County, Meat Goat and Sheep Division; Chase and Noelle Bradley of Monroe County, Poultry Division; Jamie and Amy Griffin of Shelby County, Equine Division; and Jeff Whitaker of DeKalb County, Hay and Forage Division.

The six finalists that will compete for the overall OYFF title are the Looneys, the Hegemans, the Armbresters, the Morrisons, the Millers and the Simpsons.

In addition to the OYFF competition, the Young Farmers Leadership Conference included educational workshops and inspirational seminars on leadership, estate planning, farm management and agricultural advocacy.

The opening keynote speaker Friday night was Retired U.S. Army Chaplain Jeff Struecker. An Iowa native with more than 22 years of active federal service, Struecker served for 10 years in the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Other speakers included agricultural education specialist Betty Wolanyck, who spoke on agricultural advocacy. Custom Ag Solutions hosted a workshop on risk management and crop insurance; and Brooke Poague, an attorney with Wetumpka-based firm Bailey and Poague, led a workshop on wills and estate planning.

Warm winter causes worry for some Alabama farmers

Alabama poultry farmers and cattle ranchers are enjoying one of the state’s mildest winters in nearly a half-century, but the warm weather has some peach farmers wishing for a little more chill in the air.

Peach producers are watching their calendars and the thermometer, hoping temperatures will drop and give their crop the required amount of cold needed to make the best peaches.

“Peach trees need a certain number of chill hours between October and February,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Horticulture Director Mac Higginbotham. “If warm weather causes the trees to bloom too soon, it could put them at risk if a late frost occurs.”

Peaches typically need 800-1,000 hours in temperatures below 45 degrees, depending on the variety and the time of year they mature.

In contrast, the state’s warmer winter has been a blessing for Alabama poultry farmers who represent the state’s largest industry, with an estimated economic impact of $10.9 billion.

“Propane gas used to heat poultry houses is the single largest expense poultry farmers face each year,” said Federation Poultry Director Guy Hall. “The mild winter has helped them save money.”

Hall said propane consumption for some poultry farms might be as much as one-third less than previous years. Because of the price, however, which has increased as much as 50 cents-per-gallon in the past two years, the farmers’ total fuel bill may be about the same.

Beef cattle are thriving in the mild winter as well.

“Cattle farmers are feeding less hay and enjoying strong stands of winter grazing forages because of the mild winter,” said Federation Beef Director Nate Jaeger. “That’s fortunate because, had last year’s long, wet and cold winter been repeated, hay supplies would have been very, very tight.”

Jaeger said cattle farmers should take advantage of the weather to establish strong hay and forage stands this spring in case dry weather returns this summer.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center forecasts above-normal temperatures through the end of April for Alabama and the Southeast.

Ag Hall of Honor

Five Alabama agriculture leaders were inducted into the Alabama Agriculture Hall of Honor Feb. 23 following the Auburn University Ag Alumni Association Annual Meeting. The inductees were Ben Bowden for production agriculture, Herman McElrath for agribusiness and Rudy Schmittou for education. Also honored were Pioneer Award winners George Henry Blake Jr. and William M. Warren. From left are Auburn Ag Alumni President Bill Gilley, Schmittou, McElrath, Bowden, and AU College of Agriculture Associate Dean Paul Patterson.

Tuskegee University’s Goat Day event slated for April 28

Participants attending the 2012 Tuskegee University Goat Day April 28 at Patterson Hall and the Caprine Research and Education Unit will have two avenues of interest to explore with acclaimed speakers Ralph Noble and William Witola.

Noble, an expert in goat production and reproduction, is the chair of the Department of Animal Sciences at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, N.C. He will provide a historical view of general goat production.

Witola, an expert in molecular and genetic mechanisms of drug resistance, is a Tuskegee University faculty member. He will  provide a background on drug resistance in animal parasites.

Featured workshops include alternative, sustainable approaches to parasite control and pasture management. Events will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 3 p.m.

Registration received by April 1 is $15 and includes lunch. Registration received after April 1 is $20. Children 12 and under are admitted free.

To register, mail checks to Louise Herron, GWC Agricultural Experiment Station, 100 Campbell Hall, Tuskegee University, AL 36088.

For more information, contact Dr. Sandra Solaiman at (334) 727-8401, (334) 421-0704 or email ssolaim@mytu.tuskegee.edu. Vendors should contact Danny Williams at (334) 401-9472.

New program provides free weather warning services

Alabamians now have access to a free severe weather alert system, thanks to a partnership between the State of Alabama and Baron Services, Inc.

SAF-T-Net®, a free weather warning system, notifies subscribers when inclement weather is in their area via email, text and landline phones.

Gov. Robert Bentley, along with weather officials from around the state, unveiled the program Feb. 22 during Severe Weather Awareness Week, which focused on tornado safety.

SAF-T-Net allows users to upload four locations such as home, work or school, by physical address or latitude and longitude coordinates. Users are also given the option to select the type of warning received, such as tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings. If a warning is issued for the selected addresses, SAF-T-Net will notify subscribers by text or e-mail. For users who do not have e-mail or cell phones, a landline alert is also available.

The Tornado Recovery Action Council (TRAC), established by Bentley after the April 27 tornadoes, suggested such a system.

“We at Baron Services are proud to serve the residents of Alabama and are happy that our technology is capable of responding to the recommendations of the Tornado Recovery Action Council,” said Bob Baron, president and CEO of Huntsville-based Baron Services, Inc. “We are especially pleased to be able to offer this service at no cost, and we hope people will use this tool as an added component of their severe weather safety plan."

To sign up, visit AlabamaSAFTNet.com.

Federal Communications Commission revokes LightSquared waiver

The Federal Communications Commission has revoked a waiver granted to wireless broadband company LightSquared that would have allowed the company to build a wireless broadband network, which could have interfered with GPS for precision agriculture.

The FCC pulled the waiver after testing by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration indicated that LightSquared’s system would interfere with the effectiveness of GPS receivers.

The agency concluded that although a technical fix to the interference issue is possible, the cost and time to correct the millions of GPS receivers in the marketplace would not be possible within LightSquared’s proposed timeline.

Alabama Farmers Federation National Legislative Programs Director Mitt Walker said while the Federation supports development of broadband access for rural areas, the organization was concerned about interference from LightSquared.

“This ruling will make sure that our farmers can continue to rely on GPS equipment in their efforts to be more productive,” Walker said. “Farmers also rely on this technology to ensure they continue to be good stewards of the environment. The Federation will continue to support rural broadband development projects, but only when we can be certain it will not interfere with technology already in place.”


Robert Baxter “Bobby” Burkhalter, a Jackson County Farmers Federation board member, died Feb. 21. He was 72.

A poultry and cattle farmer, Burkhalter also served as a trustee of Farmers Telephone Cooperative, Inc., and worked with TVA Construction.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Patsy Taylor Burkhalter of Pisgah; mother, Flora Bouldin Burkhalter of Pisgah; daughters Beth Reed (Robin) of Dutton and Robyn Starkey (Ralph) of Pisgah; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to Pisgah Baptist Church, P.O. Box 10, Pisgah, AL 35765.

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