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May 13, 2013   Email to Friend 

Students get hands-on lesson in ag education

Holtville Elementary first-grade students Juliet Hall, Sarah Bunch and Jenna Keller hold a baby chick during “Kids Day on the Farm,” an annual event organized by Holtville High School’s FFA Chapter. More than 700 students in grades K3 through fourth grade attended the event. From left are Hall, Bunch and Keller.
More than 700 Elmore County elementary students experienced a taste of farm life May 2 during the fourth-annual “Kids Day on the Farm” event.

The Alabama Farmers Federation sponsored a unique photography exhibit at the event, which was organized and managed by Holtville High School’s FFA chapter. The event featured livestock exhibits, a cotton ginning exercise, chainsaw carving, homemade ice cream and a close-up look at several pieces of farm equipment.

“We’re not trying to make farmers out of any of the students,” explained Holtville FFA advisor and agriscience teacher Scott Poague. “We’re really just trying to help them understand what is involved in producing their food and fiber. This is an ideal age group to share that message with.”

Set in a rural community, Holtville Elementary isn’t completely shut off to agriculture. What “Kids Day” achieves, Poague says, is offering area youth a chance to explore agriculture through an inviting, interactive experience.

“Most of these kids pass cotton fields and farm stands on the way to school, but this is one of the few opportunities they’ll have to get a close look at agriculture,” added Poague, a member of the Elmore County Farmers Federation.

Second-grade teacher Kim Wheeler said enthusiasm for the event has been building.

“My students have looked forward to the event for weeks,”  Wheeler said. “They couldn’t wait to see the animals and be around the equipment. Scott and his students have done a great job organizing the event and setting everything up, and the kids really enjoyed themselves.”

Click here to view a slideshow from the event.

Commodity leaders gather for 41st annual conference

Agricultural tours and educational seminars, along with two nights of entertainment, will draw farmers from throughout the state to Birmingham Aug. 1-3.

The 41st annual Alabama Farmers Federation Commodity Producers Conference begins Thursday evening with a banquet featuring Alabama’s winning FFA string band.

A full day of tours is planned for Friday, including stops at some of the top farms in central Alabama. Five separate tours will leave Birmingham headed for a variety of farm types, including fruits and vegetables, timber, row crops, horses, beef cattle, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and a behind-the-scenes tour of Bryant Denny Stadium at the University of Alabama. One tour includes a visit to Alabama’s 2013 Farm of Distinction, Dee River Ranch in Pickens County, where visitors will see a 115-acre irrigation reservoir and computerized pumping stations.

Saturday features educational seminars on current agricultural issues, as well as the Young Farmers Discussion Meet and Excellence in Agriculture preliminary contests.

The Federation’s Women’s Leadership Division luncheon is Saturday and coincides with the tablescapes, quilt and apron contests. Comedian James Gregory is the entertainment for the closing banquet that evening.

For information and registration, visit tinyurl.com/d4tjhdw. Registration is due by July 8.

Hardin to head Governmental Affairs Department

Brian Hardin has been named director of the Alabama Farmers Federation Department of Governmental Affairs. He previously served as assistant director of the Department of Governmental and Agricultural Programs.

Hardin will oversee state public policy issues and political activities for the Federation. Federation President Jimmy Parnell said Hardin’s farm background and experience as a commodity director and state lobbyist make him an effective advocate for the organization’s members.

“Brian has earned the respect and appreciation of Alabama’s elected officials,” Parnell said. “His reputation, integrity and work ethic will serve our organization well as we put together a team to ensure success in the 2014 elections.”

A native of Moulton, Hardin joined the Federation staff in 2000 as director of the organization’s Pork, Horticulture, and Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod divisions. He was later named director of agricultural legislation before being promoted to assistant department director.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve our members in this new role,” Hardin said. “The strength of the Federation is with its members. It is their relationships and contact with elected officials that have the greatest impact. I look forward to working with them as we prepare for the 2014 elections to elect and re-elect state legislators who stand up for agriculture and rural Alabama.”

Hardin is a graduate of Auburn University with a master’s degree in horticulture. Prior to working for the Federation, he was employed by Dow AgroSciences in Bradenton, Fla. He lives in Wetumpka with his wife, Kelli, daughter Emma (13) and sons Judd (11) and Jake (3).

State Farmers Market Authority merger nears completion

The Alabama Farmers Market Authority’s merger with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is almost official.

The Alabama House of Representatives unanimously voted to merge the two departments May 7. The bill now goes to the Senate for approval of a minor amendment.

Pending final approval and Gov. Robert Bentley’s signature, the merger will become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage. If approved this month, as expected, the transition will start in August.

FMA employees will temporarily remain in their current offices located in downtown Montgomery.  FMA Director Don Wambles will serve under the supervision of Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan. Wambles will retain his planning, development and administration duties of FMA programs.

The Alabama Farmers Federation supports the merger.

Jeffcoat Opens Farm To Roby Aide

Mike Albarez, agricultural legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, recently toured farms in Roby’s district to better understand Alabama’s agricultural issues. From left are Alabama Farmers Federation Southeast Area Vice President George Jeffcoat of Houston County, Houston County Farmers Federation Board Member Doug Sinquefield and Albarez.

New report shows honeybee decline not limited to single cause

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency issued a comprehensive report on honeybee health May 2.

“The report concludes what farmers and scientists have known for some time — there isn’t just one cause to the decline in honeybee numbers,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

Alabama Farmers Federation Bee & Honey Division Director Mac Higginbotham echoed Stallman’s comments, noting there is still much work to be done.

“This study is important for the beekeeping industry, as honeybees play an essential role in agriculture as pollinators,” Higginbotham said. “It’s important we continue to work toward a solution through collaborative efforts.”

Honeybees pollinate nearly $20 billion of crops in the U.S. and $100 billion of crops globally. For more information, visit BeeInformed.org.

Sanders, Dee to represent state on national boards

Two Alabama Farmers Federation leaders were named to serve on boards within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Federation District 10 Director Carl Sanders, a peanut producer from Brundidge, was one of five representatives recently appointed to the Peanut Standards Board. Each member will serve through June 2015.

The Peanut Standards Board — comprised of 18 producer and industry specialist members from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia — helps establish or adjust quality and handing standards for domestically produced and imported peanuts.

Meanwhile, Pickens County farmer and 2013 Farm of Distinction winner Annie Dee was appointed to a special Project Advisory Board for USDA and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Dee will represent the Southeast on issues relating to climate variability and climate change.

Through 2016, the board will help devise methods for plant and animal producers to adapt to changing weather conditions through project workshops. Members will release educational materials to producers and implement resources through Extension systems.

USDA’s StrikeForce initiative set to boost Alabama economy

Twenty-three of Alabama’s poorest counties are the focus of an economic development and job promotion program awareness initiative.

StrikeForce, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program piloted in 2010, partners with community organizations and local and state government to increase awareness of the department’s economic growth programs.

Alabama Farmers Federation Governmental and Agricultural Programs Director Jimmy Carlisle said the initiative is a welcome addition to the state’s programs.

“Economic development in rural areas is key to the Federation’s mission,” Carlisle said. “We look forward to working with USDA agencies to educate our members of available programs and services.”

Counties selected for the state’s involvement in the program contain areas of persistent poverty based on Census information. They are Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Crenshaw, Dallas, Escambia, Greene, Hale, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Russell, Sumter and Wilcox counties.

Area food banks receive peanut butter donation

The Alabama Peanut Producers Association is helping feed the less fortunate by donating peanut butter to food banks across the state. Seven pallets — or 10,080 jars — of Peanut Proud peanut butter were donated to the Montgomery Area Food Bank (MAFB) May 6.

“This donation means a lot to the people it will serve,” said MAFB Deputy Director Bill Havron. “Peanut butter provides nutritious food to those in need, which is important because we have had a big push for nutrition over the last few years. Peanut butter is a fast-moving, highly-desired item.”

The MAFB distributes food and household products to member agencies in 35 counties. Jars of peanut butter delivered May 6 will be split among food banks in Birmingham, Dothan, Mobile, Montgomery, Opelika/Auburn, Selma and Tuscaloosa.

Alabama Peanut Producers Association President Carl Sanders said he and other peanut farmers are glad to play a role in feeding the state’s hungry.

“Alabama’s peanut farmers work hard to provide companies like Peanut Proud with safe, nutritious products they can use in their peanut butter,” said Sanders. “Approximately half the peanuts grown in the United States each year are used to make peanut butter, and a bulk of those are grown within a 100-mile radius of Dothan. We’re proud to do our part to give back to the people of this state.”

Ending Child Hunger In Alabama

Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan is a member of Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey’s “Ending Child Hunger in Alabama” task force, which seeks to move Alabama into the top 25 percent of states with the highest degree of food security by 2020. Ivey launched the campaign at Wares Ferry Elementary School in Montgomery, April 30. The campaign is the first initiative of the newly established Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University.

Scholarships available for college ag majors

Students majoring in agriculture at accredited universities could qualify for scholarship funds courtesy of the Alabama Feed & Grain Association.

There is no set amount to be awarded at this time, but a minimum of two students will receive scholarship awards. Award availabilities are based on auctions and other fundraising programs.

Applications are due May 31 and are available for download here.

For more information, email info@alabamafeedandgrain.com or contact AFGA Executive Director Edna Waller at (256) 775-0111.

Alfa, Federation Honor 2013 Teacher Of The Year

Alabama’s Teacher of the Year, Dr. Alison Grizzle, sits behind the wheel of a new car she will use promoting education. Alfa Insurance and Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell presented Grizzle the car keys during a ceremony at Alfa’s headquarters in Montgomery, May 9. From left are State Superintendent of Education Dr. Thomas Bice, Grizzle and Parnell.

Hay, cattle farmers could qualify for state Hay Barn Loan Program

Alabama hay and cattle farmers interested in building barns to store their hay may be eligible for a special loan program through the Alabama Agricultural Development Authority (AADA).

“Farmers who leave baled hay out in the elements without protective covering risk a substantial loss in hay quality,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Hay and Forage Division Director Nate Jaeger. “But often times, it’s a matter of financial circumstance that deters them from building barns to store hay. AADA’s special low-interest loan program helps remove that barrier.”

AADA requires collateralized insurance on barns built through this program.

To request a detailed loan package, contact AADA Executive Director John Gamble at (334) 240-7245 or email john.gamble@agi.alabama.gov.


Rose Kennamer, a member of the Jackson County Farmers Federation board of directors, died April 9. She was 90.

Survivors include her daughters, Barbara Putman (Ron) and Martha Jones; special nephew Phillip Thompson (Kathy); sister Rachel Sharry; and two grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to Scottsboro First United Methodist Church, 1105 S. Broad St., Scottsboro, AL 35768, or the Union Cemetery Fund, P.O. Box 26, Woodville, AL 35776.

Webb Thornhill, a member of the Jackson County Farmers Federation board of directors, died May 1. He was 76.

Survivors include his wife, Joy; daughters Merry Benson (James) and Cherie Ramage (Skyler); brother Horace Thornhill; sister Bettye Bass; and four grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the Jackson County Relay For Life, 1100 Ireland Way, Suite 201, Birmingham, AL 35205.

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