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March 19, 2012   Email to Friend  Download PDF of this Issue

As Alabamians approach anniversary of tornado outbreaks, another disaster strikes

Tornadoes swept through Alabama March 2, leaving behind an all too familiar path of destruction in the state. As of March 15, Alfa had received more than 1,600 claims.

Becky Hubert of New Market, just north of Huntsville, said she had been listening to weather alerts that day and had a “gut feeling” it was going to hit her house.

“I just got in the truck and went to the storm cellar and several people were down there,” she said. “When I got in, we shut the door, and it just hit. It was over in a matter of minutes.”

When she walked out of the cellar, Hubert said she knew her intuition was right. The storm had hit her house. Her cellar, located a short distance from her home, also provided shelter for many of her neighbors, some random motorists driving by and several members of television news crews who were in the area.

“I can’t say enough kind things about the people in this community,” Hubert said the next day. “They just jumped in to help.”

Billy Harbin, also of New Market, recalled huddling in the hall of his brick ranch-style home during the storm with his invalid wife and her nurse.

“It was scary as everything,” he said. “But we survived.”

Harbin said he didn’t call anyone for help, but volunteers began showing up only minutes after the storm. He said when he tried to call Alfa’s toll-free claims number, an Alfa official interrupted his call to see if he needed help.

“I just don’t see how you can beat that,” he said, referring to the company’s service.

The Meridianville farm owned by Buddy Darwin, Bart Darwin and Bentley Walls was especially hard hit during the storm. Their equipment barns took a direct hit, giant tractors were tossed like toys and huge grain bins were obliterated.

“We actually were able to see both tornadoes form, and this one took a direct hit on our tractor shed, our combines, and our storage barns. It pretty much devastated most of our equipment fleet,” Walls said. “We’re just thankful no one was hurt.” 

To view a photo stream of storm damage, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/alfafarmers/. For video footage, visit http://www.youtube.com/alabamafarmersfed.

Details on next A.L.F.A. Leaders class announced

Alabama Farmers Federation members between the ages of 25-45 interested in increasing their leadership effectiveness and involvement in the Federation are encouraged to apply for the third class of the Federation’s Agricultural Leaders For Alabama (A.L.F.A.) program.

The program is a two-year intensive learning experience that focuses on personal and professional development, political involvement, effective communication. Participants also will receive practical experience in three core areas: communication, leadership and technical proficiency.

“Agriculture is our state’s largest industry, and as the number of farmers has declined over the years, it’s become even more important for agriculture to have a strong voice,” said Brandon Moore, director of the Federation’s Young Farmers program, who is coordinating the leadership program with Federation Catfish, Forestry and Wildlife Divisions Director Rick Oates. “Gaining the ability to utilize the legislative and political process gives these young leaders the ability to ensure that farmers remain a priority in terms of policy development and legislative concerns.”

County Farmers Federation presidents are asked to nominate participants for the program, who will be chosen by a selection committee. Applications are due by April 18.

To download an application, visit http://www.alfafarmers.org/programs/alfa_leaders.phtml.

For more information, contact Moore at (334) 612-5159 or bmoore@alfafarmers.org.

Deadline nears for Ag in the Classroom program

Educators interested in applying for this year’s Alabama Ag in the Classroom (AITC) Summer Institute have until April 15 to submit applications.

A grassroots program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, AITC teaches educators about agriculture and introduces them to new strategies for incorporating agriculture into their classrooms. Eligible applicants include K-6 teachers, media specialists and administrators.

The 2012 program will be held at the Marriott Grand National in Opelika, June 12-14. Tuition is free, and teachers can receive continuing education credits for the workshop.

AITC attendees will get their hands dirty with agricultural activities and field trips to working farms. They also will receive take-home educational materials and teaching strategies to incorporate agricultural education into their classrooms and schools.

“It’s very important to expose children to agriculture in the classroom because nowadays, many children never learn about rural life or the importance of farming,” said AITC Chairman Kim Earwood, who also serves as director of the Alabama Farmers Federation Women’s Leadership Division.

Sponsors of the program include the Alabama Farmers Federation, Alfa Insurance, the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, the Alabama Poultry Contract Growers Association, the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, the Alabama Farmers Federation State Soybean Committee and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Proceeds from the sale of ag tag license plates also benefit the program.

Lodging, meals and workshop materials are provided for AITC participants. Applications are available online at AlabamaAITC.org.

For more information, contact Earwood at (334) 612-5370 or kearwood@alfafarmers.org. Mail applications to: Kim Earwood, Alabama Ag in the Classroom, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191.

Registration available now for Federation’s Beef Tour

The Alabama Farmers Federation’s annual Beef Tour will be heading to “Cajun Country” this fall as participants visit a variety of locations throughout Louisiana. Attendees will also visit farms and ranches in Mississippi.

According to Federation Beef Division Director Nate Jaeger, the Beef Tour has been scheduled for Oct. 28-Nov. 3. Attendees will depart from the Federation’s Home Office in Montgomery.

In addition to cattle farms and ranches, some of the stops along the bus tour include a visit to the Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter and the Louisiana State Fair and Rodeo.

The cost of this year’s tour is $936 per double occupancy and $1,364 single occupancy. Travel insurance will not be included in the cost of the tour.

“Registration is due by Sept. 28, but I encourage those interested in the Beef Tour to register early as space is available on a first-come, first-served basis,” added Jaeger.

For more information, contact Jaeger at (334) 613-4221 or njaeger@alfafarmers.org.

Annual Alabama Dairy Field Day set for April 3 in Shorter

Pasture-based dairying and the public’s perception of dairy farmers will be on the agenda April 3, as state dairy producers gather at the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station’s E.V. Smith Research Center in Shorter for the 2012 Dairy Field Day.

The program, which begins at 8:45 a.m. and continues until 2:30 p.m., will also include presentations on incorporating forages and grazing into dairy operations, soil fertility, precision agriculture equipment and the economics of growing hay versus buying it.

Dairy producers and others interested in the event are encouraged to pre-register. The event is free for producers and $10 for non-producers. Payments will be accepted during field day registration, which opens at 8 a.m.

Sponsors for the field day include Auburn’s College of Agriculture, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.

For more information, contact Boyd Brady in Auburn University’s animal sciences department at bradybo@auburn.edu, (334) 844-1562 or (334) 321-8826.

The E.V. Smith center is just off Exit 26 on I-85. The dairy unit is at 4725 Macon County Road 40 in Shorter.

Hoerr retires after 25 years of service to agriculture

After 25 years of heading the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ state diagnostic laboratory, Fred Hoerr retired Feb. 28.

An expert in poultry, Hoerr was instrumental in the design and construction of the Thompson Bishop Sparks State Diagnostic Laboratory, which opened in 2006. The lab, which acts as a reference lab for veterinarians treating animals with diseases and offers regulatory support between federal and state departments of agriculture, gained full accreditation under his leadership. 

Alabama Farmers Federation Dairy, Pork and Poultry Divisions Director Guy Hall said when someone thinks of animal agriculture in Alabama, they think of Dr. Fred Hoerr.

“Dr. Hoerr has been a great asset to agriculture through his years of service at the Alabama Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories,” said Hall. “Whether you were an individual farmer or the president of a large corporation, he would take the time to help solve the mysteries of animal pathology affecting your operation. He was one of the best laboratory directors in the country.”

Applications sought for specialty crop block grants

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) is accepting grant applications for projects that enhance the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops in foreign and domestic markets. Applications are due by May 4.

Specialty crops are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture (including maple syrup and honey) and nursery crops (including floriculture).

Commodity groups, agricultural organizations, colleges and universities, producers, municipalities, state agencies and agricultural nonprofits are all eligible for this grant program, provided submitted proposals meet all the specifications. 

The specialty crops block grant is a competitive grant process, with awards ranging from $5,000 to the maximum amount of $25,000 per applicant. ADAI officials expect to award multiple grants totaling more than $325,000.

An official award announcement is expected by October.

For more information, visit http://agi.alabama.gov/blockgrant or contact Hassey Brooks, (334) 240-3877.

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