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July 30, 2012   Email to Friend 

Next generation of A.L.F.A. Leaders explore Baldwin County agriculture

The third class of the A.L.F.A. Leaders program kicked off its first meeting of the year at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Foley, July 24. Participants from left are, front row: Colin Wilson, Jackson County; Josh Turner, DeKalb County; Garrett Henry, Montgomery County; Abby Stewart, Clay County; Nick Gibbs, Etowah County; Hope Cassebaum, Baldwin County; Allie Corcoran, Barbour County; and Eric Lovvorn, Cleburne County; back row: Lee Haynes, Cullman County; Clint McElmoyl, DeKalb County; Jeremy Brown, Montgomery County; Jay Stewart, Clay County; Grant Buck, Sumter County; Zachary Burns, Marshall County; and Shawn Keel, Calhoun County.

Sixteen young farmers from across the state met in Baldwin County for the first time as the newest members of the Agricultural Leaders For Alabama (A.L.F.A. Leaders) program, sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation.

The three-day session, July 24-26, provided an overview of American Farm Bureau Federation Policy, along with a history of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

“Participants have the opportunity to hone their leadership skills while getting a closer look at how the Alabama Farmers Federation works,” said A.L.F.A. Leaders Coordinator Rick Oates, who also serves as director of the Federation’s Forestry, Catfish and Wildlife divisions. “The A.L.F.A. Leaders program helps develop each candidate into a better leader within the organization and, most importantly, within the local communities.”

The group will gather for seven additional sessions in different areas of the state before their expected graduation ceremony at the 2013 annual meeting. Each session, or institute, is designed to provide classroom instruction and practical experience in three core areas of development: communication, leadership and technical proficiency.

Attendees toured local attractions and agricultural sites, stopping at Water’s Nursery, Sirmon Farms, Alabama’s state docks and Blakeley State Park.

As homework, each A.L.F.A. Leaders member was asked to prepare a speech about a personal quality required for leadership.

The two-year program focuses on personal development, political and organizational involvement, effective communication and other leadership skills.

Members of the program were nominated at the county Federation level, and final selections were made by a committee.

Participants for the new class of A.L.F.A. Leaders include Justin Barrett, Elmore County; Jeremy Brown, Montgomery County; Grant Buck, Sumter County; Zachary Burns, Marshall County; Hope Cassebaum, Baldwin County;  Allie Corcoran, Barbour County; Nick Gibbs, Etowah County; Lee Haynes, Cullman County; Garrett Henry, Montgomery County; Shawn Keel, Calhoun County; Eric Lovvorn, Cleburne County; Clint McElmoyl, DeKalb County; Jay and Abby Stewart, Clay County; Josh Turner, DeKalb County; and Colin Wilson of Jackson County.

For more information, contact Oates at (334) 613-4305 or email roates@alfafarmers.org. Program details are also available online at http://www.alfafarmers.org/programs/alfa_leaders.phtml.

Farm bill may idle until after general election

Partisan politics and the upcoming presidential election could keep the farm bill off the congressional agenda until the lame duck session.

Though the Senate passed its version of the farm bill June 21, and the House Agriculture Committee moved its bill out of committee July 11, House Republican leadership has not yet indicated when the farm bill will be considered by the full House.

Dale Moore, deputy executive director at the Washington, D.C.-based American Farm Bureau Federation, said other issues are stealing the spotlight from the farm bill, including appropriations, health care and regulatory reform.

“The farm bill just isn’t breaking through that priority list,” he said.

Moore said the odds are 50-50 that Congress completes work on the farm bill before the November election.

The focus now shifts to a one-year extension of the current bill and a separate disaster aid package for livestock and specialty crop producers.

The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Farm Bill Committee continues to monitor the status of the farm bill.

Judges Visit Outstanding Young Farm Families

A panel of three judges recently toured the farms of the six finalists in the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) contest. Above, the judges visit with finalist Jon Hegeman of Calhoun County at his greenhouse, nursery and sod farm. The overall OYFF winner will be announced in December at the Federation’s 2012 Annual Meeting in Montgomery. Standing from left are Alabama Ag Credit CEO Doug Thiessen; National Agricultural Statistics Service - Alabama Division Director Bill Weaver; Hegeman and Auburn University Extension Agronomist Dale Monks.

Poultry producers commend AFBF for challenging EPA

Poultry producers across the state received encouraging news July 19 — the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) joined in a West Virginia-based lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The suit seeks to end the agency’s regulatory overreach.

Alabama Farmers Federation Poultry Division Director Guy Hall said AFBF’s action exemplifies the organization’s continued support of American farmers. It also provides hope to producers in Alabama who could find themselves in similar situations, he said.

“Our poultry producers are very happy to see the American Farm Bureau join this suit to protect livestock farmers who are being forced to obtain discharge permits, even though they have no regulated discharges on their farms,” said Hall. “We support limiting the authority of the EPA to current regulations of the Clean Water Act.”

AFBF filed a motion to intervene on the side of Lois Alt, a West Virginia Farm Bureau member and poultry grower, who brought suit against EPA in June after the agency demanded she obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) discharge permit. EPA’s order threatens Alt with $37,500 in daily fines for storm water that may come into contact with dust, feathers or dander deposited on the ground outside of poultry house ventilation fans, or small amounts of manure that may be present in the farmyard as a result of normal poultry farming operations.

EPA also seeks separate fines if Alt fails to apply for an NPDES permit for the alleged “discharge” of storm water from her farmland.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said the EPA’s actions against Alt represents another attempt to regulate non-discharging farmers.

“Lois Alt runs an exemplary operation and has even won awards for the environmental stewardship she practices on her farm,” said Stallman. “Her efforts to defend herself and her family farm against an illegal EPA order are commendable. AFBF has asked to join this lawsuit on behalf of the thousands of other livestock and poultry farmers threatened by EPA’s extreme and unlawful restrictions.”

Alt’s case isn’t the first time AFBF has stepped up for farmers. In two prior court cases, AFBF defeated EPA regulations that illegally attempted to impose broad NPDES permit requirements for thousands of livestock and poultry farmers whose operations have no regulated discharge.

Limestone, Morgan County youth leaders tour state

At the Chilton Research and Extension Center outside Clanton, a group of students learned about the latest research with fruits and vegetables — from hoop houses to a blast peeler.

The research facility was just one stop in an action-filled week for 26 Limestone and Morgan County high school students who were selected to participate in the Youth Leadership and Career Development program.

The week-long tour included stops at the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Hyundai Manufacturing, Bush-Hog International Manufacturing, the Birmingham Farmers Market and the Alabama Catfish Farms and Research Unit.

Thomas Peek, a senior at West Limestone High School, grew up on a row-crop farm and said the program opened new doors for him.

“It’s given me a great opportunity to explore different fields of agriculture,” said Peek.

Students visited Isom’s Orchard and saw how technology is used in agriculture at Stan Usery’s Limestone County farm. Additional stops included Steve Carpenter’s Jack-O-Lantern hydroponic farm, the robotics center at Calhoun Community College, Curtis Livestock Farm, the Tennessee Valley Research Farm at Belle Mina and the University of North Alabama.

The leadership program is funded by the Alabama 4-H Foundation; the Limestone County Farmers Federation; the Morgan County Farmers Federation; the Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valleys Resource Conservation and Development Council; and the Limestone and Morgan County Extension systems.

Alabama Hosts AFBF Conference

Lobbyists from 15 states gathered in south Alabama July 22-26 to discuss policy issues at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2012 Southern Region Legislative Conference. During one of the tour stops, Baldwin County Farmers Federation Board Member Joel Sirmon (center) discusses details of his sweet potato farm with, from left, Stanley Hill of Arkansas, Andrew Walmesly of AFBF, Sirmon and Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan.

Economic injury disaster loans available in Alabama

Alabama agribusiness owners severely impacted by the drought may be eligible for economic injury disaster loans, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Loans up to $2 million are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private, non-profit organizations that suffered financial losses as a direct result of the drought.

Eligible counties include Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clarke, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Conecuh, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Dallas, Elmore, Escambia, Geneva, Hale, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pike, Randolph, Russell, St. Clair, Shelby, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Washington and Wilcox.

To apply, visit https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applications must be returned by March 12, 2013.

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