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June 13, 2013   Email to Friend  Download PDF of this Issue

Rural crimes unit gets early start in solving cases

Alabama Rural Crimes Unit Head Gene Wiggins, center, shares details of the newly developed law enforcement agency during a recent visit to the Alabama Farmers Federation headquarters in Montgomery. From left are SunSouth John Deere LLC Chairman Lester Killebrew, Wiggins and Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan.

Alabama’s new Agriculture and Rural Crimes Unit (ARCU) wasn’t officially operational until June 1, but the team got an early start investigating a rash of cattle thefts last month.

“Thieves have struck farms in Lauderdale County at least four times since May 14,” said ARCU Head Gene Wiggins, who noted the cases were likely related.

Elsewhere, an ARCU special agent arrested two suspects attempting to steal cattle in Marengo County June 12. A farmer in the area reported the incident. Wiggins said these thefts demonstrate the need for agricultural investigators.

“With sheriff’s departments understaffed, it’s important to have trained investigators who understand these types of crimes and can focus on solving them,” he said.

ARCU was created as part of a law enforcement consolidation bill the Alabama Legislature passed this spring. Although the bill doesn’t require state agencies to consolidate until January 2015, Gov. Robert Bentley and Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier charged Wiggins with forming the unit immediately to curb rural crime.

Wiggins urges anyone who sees suspicious activity to call the rural crimes hotline at 1-855-75-CRIME.

The Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Cattlemen’s Association each offer a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of criminals stealing cattle or other property from a member’s farm posted with signs from the respective groups.

For Federation signs, contact Leanne Worthington at (334) 613-4272 or lworthington@alfafarmers.org. For information about the Cattlemen’s reward program, call (334) 265-1867.


Farmers Federation applauds Senate passage of farm bill

The U.S. Senate’s passage of a farm bill June 10 is encouraging news for farmers who planted this year’s crop not knowing the future of commodity and conservation programs.

“Farmers need the certainty of a five-year farm bill so they can make planting and financial decisions,” said Alabama Farmers Federation National Legislative Programs Director Mitt Walker. “Our focus now shifts to the U.S. House of Representatives, where we expect vigorous debate as members begin considering the House Agriculture Committee’s version of the bill.”

The Senate bill passed by a 66-27 vote and cuts spending by $24 billion while strengthening federal crop insurance and preserving programs that protect farmers from low prices and crop failures. Under the Senate bill, farmers could choose between a revenue protection plan known as Agricultural Risk Coverage and a price protection program known as the Adverse Market Program. Both the House and Senate versions eliminate the direct payment program.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., added an amendment expanding access to a federal irrigation program. It would allow farmers who’ve never irrigated crops to apply for assistance under the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program.

A late amendment to the Senate bill increases crop insurance premiums for farmers with annual adjusted gross incomes of $750,000 or more.

For more information, visit www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.


Lee County membership fair draws thousands to area

Loren and Elouise Sutton of Opelika celebrated their 57th anniversary at the Lee County Farmers Federation’s Membership Fair June 8. The Suttons, who joined the roster as one of the county Federation’s 17 newest members, said the event helped raise awareness of member benefits and the importance of supporting Alabama agriculture. From left are Elouise Sutton, Loren Sutton and Federation Area Organization Director David Farnsworth.

In an effort to boost county Federation membership, the Lee County Farmers Federation held a membership fair in at the Lee County Fair Grounds in Opelika June 8. The event drew around 4,000 people from across eastern Alabama and served as a reminder that farming is the backbone of Alabama.

“The membership fair served a two-fold purpose — promoting membership and displaying Alabama agriculture,” said Membership Fair Committee Chairman Charles Whatley, who serves on the county Federation’s board of directors. “We estimated around 1,500 people would show up, and we’ve seen much more than that. The time, effort and resources put into this event have truly paid off.”

Lee County Farmers Federation President Tom Ingram said he was humbled by the turnout.

“We didn’t know how successful this event would be because it’s the first of its kind for our county,” Ingram said. “I hope we’re able to get new members, but either way, I’m glad we could educate kids and their parents on the importance of agriculture and what it means to support the Federation.”

The county’s Women’s Leadership, Farm-City and Young Farmers committees each hosted special events during the fair to appeal to a broad range of attendees. Meanwhile, an area dedicated to Alfa Insurance’s popular product lines and Alabama Farmers Federation’s member benefits program doubled as a welcome area for new arrivals.

Other exhibits and booths included a cotton gin demonstration; petting zoo; equipment demonstrations; beekeeping demonstrations from the Saugahatchee Beekeepers Association; live music; a meet-and-greet with “Bionic Bullrider” Barry Brown; jewelry, produce, flowers and crafts sales; classic car and tractor shows; and pet adoptions. The Lazenbys, a local farm family, shared information about agritourism events offered on their farm in Auburn.

For additional photos, visit Facebook.com/alabamafarmers.


FFA members gather for 85th annual state convention

More than 1,700 students from across the state gathered in Montgomery June 3-7 for the 85th annual Alabama FFA State Convention at the Renaissance Hotel.

The convention holds special meaning for five-time attendee and FFA North District President Joshua Black. He said experiences in FFA are preparing him to pursue his dream of becoming an agricultural educator in his hometown of Joppa, Ala.

“My favorite thing about coming to the state convention is meeting people from different parts of the state,” Black said. “Learning to appreciate the different ways people learn and share experiences is making me a better communicator. I am creating networks that will stand the test of time.”

Students attended general sessions with inspirational speakers, perused exhibits at the Career Show and mingled with other Alabama FFA members and alumni. Nearly 600 members took in a minor league baseball game during “FFA Night at the Biscuits,” hosted by the Alabama Farmers Federation. The Federation also staffed a popular trade show exhibit where members had their pictures drawn by a cartoonist.

On Tuesday, FFA members competed in career development events (CDE) and showcased skills in events like meat and livestock judging, equipment driving and string band. Winners received awards at Wednesday night’s general session.

In addition to learning and competing, FFA members packed nearly 7,000 bags of food for the Montgomery Area Food Bank during the Rally Against Hunger.

Federation Communications Director Jeff Helms and Federation Director of Dairy, Pork and Poultry Divisions Guy Hall received Honorary State FFA Degrees at Wednesday’s general session, the highest honor awarded to non-members.

Jennifer Himburg, Federation Young Farmers director, said her experiences with FFA were instrumental to her professional success.

“The participation of the Federation in FFA events is crucial to our future as farmers and agriculturalists,” Himburg said. “It is inspiring to see young people who are committed to our cause. It is also an honor to have staff members recognized for their dedication to the success of FFA programs.”

The convention ended Friday, June 7, with the election and installation of new officers. For more information, visit AlabamaFFA.org.


Sessions Meets With Area Farmers

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., met with farmers at Jimmie Harrison’s farm in Chilton County recently to discuss the farm bill, increasing government regulations, the federal budget deficit and other issues. From left are Sessions, Harrison and Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell.





Comments sought on biotech use in refuges

Farmers have until July 28 to comment on biotech crops planted in national refuges in the Southeast.

Alabama Farmers Federation Board Member Ted Grantland farms land in Decatur’s Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Cooperative agreements allow farmers to harvest part of the crop and leave the rest for wildlife habitat, feed and weed control.

“The U.S. has the most abundant, safest and cheapest food supply in the world,” Grantland said. “American farmers work hard to feed the world, and genetically modified crops contribute to that.”

Farmers have planted biotech crops in refuges since the mid-1990s. However, a 2012 settlement between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and environmental groups requires additional studies on the impact of biotech crops in the Southeast.

“Genetically modified crops increase efficiency and are approved by the USDA and other federal agencies,” said Federation Director of National Legislation Mitt Walker. “Unfortunately, several groups are using government red tape to challenge their use. Farmers need to let their voices be heard.”

To submit comments, visit http://bit.ly/12DQGXr, email fw4_gmcpea@fws.gov or write NEPA Coordinator, US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Center Drive, Suite 400, Atlanta, GA 30345.


Ag In The Classroom

Nearly 100 educators from across the state participated in the 2013 Alabama Ag in the Classroom Summer Institute June 4-6 in Birmingham. The three-day program featured workshops, speakers and a day of tours to area farms. Above, attendees explore plants grown in the Jones Valley Teaching Farm greenhouse in downtown Birmingham. Watch for July’s issue of Neighbors Magazine for additional photos and event information.





Jackson County hay farmers could win cash

Jackson County Farmers Federation members could win up to $300 in the county’s inaugural hay contest.

In addition to cash prizes, Jackson County Young Farmers Committee President Colin Wilson said the contest doubles as a free way for farmers to test the quality of hay they grow.

“Feed is one of the biggest expenses farmers have,” said Wilson, who represents District 2 on the Federation’s State Young Farmers Committee. “Not only can farmers who enter this contest win cash, they can have hay sampled at no cost thanks to a sponsorship by Anipro. Knowing exactly what animals are eating can help farmers raise the highest quality animals possible.”

Alabama Farmers Federation State Hay & Forage Division Director Nate Jaeger said he hopes the contest’s mission will expand statewide.

“The importance of knowing what you grow is paramount to a profitable enterprise,” Jaeger said. “By testing hay, farmers might just find out that they have better quality than they realized.”

Similar to the Southeastern Hay Contest, samples from this event are scored on relative forage quality (RFQ) values. Members who belong to both the county Federation and Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association are eligible to compete.

All samples entered must be grown in Jackson County and are due by Oct. 15. Submit samples to the Jackson County Extension Office, 27115 John T. Reid Pkwy., Scottsboro, AL 35768.

The first-place winner receives $300 courtesy of the Jackson County Farmers Federation Hay & Forage Committee; second place receives $200 courtesy of the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association; and third place receives $100 courtesy of the Jackson County Farmers Federation Equine Committee.

To download an application or view additional guidelines, visit AlfaFarmers.org/Jackson. For more information, contact Wilson at (256) 599-3533.


Federation Members Enjoy Silver State Beef Tour

Alabama Farmers Federation members from across the state explored cattle and hay farms in Nevada and California during the organization’s annual Beef Tour June 3-7. To view photos from each day, visit the albums section of facebook.com/alabamafarmers. For tour details, watch for July’s issue of Neighbors Magazine.





Young Farmers contest applications due July 1

Young farmers planning to participate in the Discussion Meet or Excellence in Agriculture contests have until July 1 to submit applications.

The Discussion Meet is designed to simulate communication and problem-solving skills in a committee setting. The overall winner receives a four-wheeler courtesy of First South Farm Credit.

Excellence in Agriculture is open to individuals or couples who do not earn more than half their income from production agriculture. Contestants are judged on presentations detailing their agricultural involvement. The winner receives a zero-turn mower courtesy of Dow AgroSciences.

Both contest winners receive an expenses-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting courtesy of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Resources and applications are available online at AlfaYoungFarmers.org.


OBITUARY

J. Trice Edgar, a member of the Choctaw County Farmers Federation board of directors, died June 7. He was 89.

Survivors include his wife, Margaret; grandchildren Ellen Sikes, Laura Floyd and Anna Hudson; and six great-grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the Joe Trice Edgar Scholarship Fund of Gilbertown Baptist Church, P.O. Box 125, Gilbertown, AL 36908 or the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home, 6512 Grelot Rd., Mobile, AL 36695.



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