Alabama farmers face uncertain future following tabled farm bill
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to address the 2012 farm bill during the congressional lame duck session in November, but farmers’ ability to plan for the future remains at a stalemate until it reconvenes.
|Following the Sept. 30 expiration of the 2008 farm bill, farmers across Alabama are feeling the pressure as they plan for the future. While some programs are covered for a few more months, other commodities — like the state’s dairy farmers — will begin losing money this month. Alabama Farmers Federation’s State Dairy Committee Chairman Will Gilmer of Lamar County, above, said he’s concerned for the future of dairy farmers across the state now that Congress has pulled their safety net during one of the most uncertain economic periods in the country’s history.|
Alabama farmers anticipate significant cuts to agricultural support programs; however, much of the delay in passing the House version of the farm bill rests on disagreements with the Senate regarding cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Regardless of the reasons for the lingering uncertainty, farmers are feeling the pressure.
“We were disappointed the House decided to wait until after the Nov. 6 election to address the farm bill,” said Mitt Walker, National Legislative Programs director of the Alabama Farmers Federation. “While it’s true that many of the programs in the current law will continue to cover this year’s crop past the Sept. 30 farm bill expiration date, farmers still face an uncertain future beginning with the new planting seasons.”
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Public Policy Deputy Dale Moore echoed Walker’s remarks, noting that farmers and financial planners alike are in a difficult situation.
“Right now, the main issue is the uncertainty,” said Moore. “The biggest thing [for farmers] is not knowing what the new farm program is when they are sitting down planning for next year. They don’t know what they are going to be dealing with.”
Although funding for many farm programs under the now-expired farm bill temporarily remains, Walker points out the extended coverage doesn’t alleviate the ambiguity for farmers and bankers who need to make important planting decisions soon.
While row crop farmers comprise a bulk of the state’s rural sector, Walker says they aren’t the only ones encountering a troubling future.
“The livestock sector also continues to go without programs that expired a year ago because the last farm bill allowed them to expire a year early,” he added. “Planting decisions, securing operational loans, renting land and booking next year’s crop all become more difficult with each day that passes without a new farm bill. Farmers need the certainty of a five-year bill moving forward, and they deserve to see swift action on the bill when Congress returns in November.”
Among the programs most affected by the recent farm bill expiration is the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program. Commercial milking operations depend on subsidies in the legislation to help get them through tough times, and without a new farm bill, dairy farmers are left with inadequate assistance.
“The MILC program has provided assistance to dairy farmers during periods of extremely low farm-level milk prices, and it’s been particularly helpful for Alabama’s small and mid-sized producers,” said Will Gilmer, chairman of the Federation’s State Dairy Committee. “Congressional inaction on dairy policy threatens both the survival of Alabama’s family dairy farms and the consumer’s ability to purchase affordable dairy products.”
The stalled passage of a new farm bill isn’t due to a lack of insistence by farmers and other agricultural network supporters. In August, 39 of the nation’s leading agricultural organizations formed the Farm Bill Now Coalition and urged Congress to pass the 2012 farm bill before the current bill expired. AFBF is a member of the coalition.
Prior to the August recess, the House passed a one-year extension, but the Senate chose not to take up the bill. The Federation has not supported any extension plans and continues to push for a five-year bill.
Federation’s Oates named to Feral Hog Control Council
Alabama Farmers Federation Catfish, Forestry and Wildlife Divisions Director Rick Oates has accepted a position on the state’s newly-formed Feral Hog Control Council.
Oates said a remedy to the growing feral hog population is needed and hopes the council can develop sufficient solutions to protect the state.
“Feral hogs have become a significant problem for farmers and landowners in Alabama, causing an incredible amount of damage to crops and property each year,” said Oates. “This council represents a significant step forward in bringing together all of the necessary resources charged with attacking the problem and finding solutions.”
According to Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner N. Gunter Guy, the council is charged with providing an organized, long-term forum for maximizing collaborative expertise and impact on feral hog control in Alabama.
“Feral hog damage and issues continue to escalate in Alabama, and we have no reason to believe this will change anytime soon,” said Guy, who formed and co-chairs the council with Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan. “We believe a coalition of affected interest groups working together on feral hog issues in a coordinated fashion is needed for the long term.”
Representatives from the following agencies and organizations also serve as council members: Auburn University, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences; Auburn University, College of Veterinary Medicine; Auburn University, College of Agriculture; Alabama Cooperative Extension System; USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; USDA Wildlife Services; USDA Forest Service; USDA Fish and Wildlife Service; the Alabama Wildlife Federation; the Alabama Forestry Association; the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association; the Alabama Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts; the Wildlife Society, Alabama Chapter; the National Wild Turkey Federation, Alabama Chapter; and the Alabama Turfgrass Association.
The initial meeting, hosted by the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF), is Nov. 1 at the AWF headquarters in Millbrook.
Barbour County Federation’s donation could save lives
The Barbour County Farmers Federation recently made a $3,200 donation to the Barbour County Sheriff’s Department, enabling officials to purchase much-needed equipment.
|Barbour County Farmers Federation President Larry Dykes recently presented a $3,200 donation to the Barbour County Sheriff’s Department. The money was used to purchase two Tasers and five pieces of night vision equipment. From left are Alfa Insurance Agent Rickey English, Dykes, Barbour County Sheriff LeRoy Upshaw and Barbour County Jail Administrator Ryan Conner.|
The donation funded the purchase of two Tasers and five pairs of Cats Eyes Night Vision equipment, which can protect area farmers from being victims of copper theft.
Barbour County Sheriff LeRoy Upshaw said the new night vision equipment would help protect farmers and others in the community who were easy targets for theft and property damage.
“We’re able to get out and do more a more thorough surveillance of properties now,” said Upshaw. “This equipment allows us to see people stealing copper, steel and other items. If they’re messing up irrigation systems, stealing farm equipment or participating in other unlawful activities, we can stop them. The devices help us patrol at night and see what’s going on in complete darkness. Before, we couldn’t.”
Upshaw said the Tasers have been invaluable to the department as well.
“The donation allowed us to equip each road deputy with a Taser,” he added. “That should cut down on inmates or criminals running from us and getting away. It can also help stop fights. Before, if someone pulled a knife on a deputy, the deputy could only respond by shooting. Now, we can just use the Taser if someone comes at a deputy with a less lethal weapon than a firearm.”
Larry Dykes, president of the Barbour County Farmers Federation, recognizes the local sheriff’s department is the only source of protection for farmers. For this reason, the county Federation saw the need to improve the department’s resources, he said.
“The sheriff’s department is the only type of security we have in the county,” Dykes said. “They are the only people we can call on when we have problems, so we decided to make the donation.”
Copper theft, especially from irrigation systems, remains a common problem for farmers and others in the rural ag sector.
To encourage proactive behavior, Alfa Insurance is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for the theft of copper and other metal from poultry houses, farm irrigation systems and other property in Alabama covered by an Alfa Insurance policy. Alabama Farmers Federation members already benefit from a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction for theft from their property.
Anyone with information related to the theft of copper is encouraged to contact local law enforcement officials. For more information, visit AlfaFarmers.org.
Pecan Management Workshop is Oct. 23
Proper planting procedures and weed control will be on the agenda Oct. 23, as pecan growers gather at the Autauga County Extension office in Autaugaville for a Pecan Management Workshop.
The workshop, which begins at 9 a.m. and continues until noon, will include presentations on site selection, varieties for low input planting, fertilization, irrigation, insects and disease.
Registration is $5 and must be received by Oct. 19. To download a registration form, visit http://www.aces.edu/counties/Autauga/documents/PecanWorkshopFlyerAutauga2012.pdf.
For more information, contact the Autauga County Extension office at (334) 361-7273.
The Autauga County Extension Office is located at 2226 Highway 14 West, Suite E, Autaugaville, AL 36003.
Alfa’s Auburn University scholarship deadline Dec. 1
The application deadline for Alfa and Alabama Farmers Federation scholarships is Dec. 1. Applicants must plan to pursue agriculture or forestry undergraduate degrees at Auburn University.
The scholarships, valued up to $1,750 per recipient per year, are available for new or current Auburn University students studying in the College of Agriculture or School of Forestry. Students majoring in agricultural engineering or ag education are also eligible.
“This scholarship program is an excellent resource not only for students, but for everyone involved in Alabama agriculture,” said Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan. “It ensures the highest caliber of young men and women will pursue agricultural careers. As the state’s largest farm organization, we’re proud to support this program. Our investment in Alabama’s students will pay dividends for many years to come.”
The scholarships are renewable yearly for students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average and exhibit good moral character and citizenship.
The application requires three letters of reference to include an evaluation of the applicant’s background and character. Students are encouraged to apply early for admission, as enrollment at Auburn University is limited.
Applications can be downloaded from the Programs section of AlfaFarmers.org. Students may also obtain an application at their county Farmers Federation office, local Alfa service centers or by writing to the dean of the College of Agriculture at 107 Comer Hall, Auburn University, AL 36849.
Gary Fortenberry, secretary-treasurer of the Choctaw County Farmers Federation, died Sept. 27. He was 76.
A retiree from James River Corp. in Pennington, Fortenberry was an active member of the Alabama Farmers Federation. During his years of service, he served in various capacities including State Forestry Committee chairman.
Survivors include his wife, Shirley; daughters Scarlet Johnston (James) and Stacy Johnson (Jamey); sister Dena Bowden; and four grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to the following organizations: Shorts Cemetery Fund c/o Janie Alford, 767 Shorts 15, Ward, AL 36922; Ebenezer Baptist Church, P.O. Box 197, Pennington, AL 36916; the Alabama TREASURE Forest Association, P.O. Box 189, Chunchula, AL 36521-0189; or the Alabama Sheriff’s Boys Ranch, P.O. Box 477, Summerdale, AL 36580.