Heavy rainfall thwarts planting, harvest seasons
Alabama farmers are busy regrouping from days of consecutive, heavy rainfall that foiled summer harvesting plans.
|Macon County Farmers Federation President Shep Morris said his cotton crop is experiencing the consequences of excessive rain. Farmers across the state, like Morris, aren’t sure what the long-term effects of mid-summer storms will be.|
Mobile County farmer Jeremy Sessions planted 500 acres of peanuts this year, along with cotton, corn, soybeans and a mix of fruits and vegetables. The wet weather, he said, wrecked acres of crops that were ready for harvest and left recently planted crops susceptible to damage.
“We’ve picked most of the tomatoes, melons and cantaloupe, thankfully, but most of what was left in the fields is ruined, including a fourth of our corn crop,” Sessions said. “My hope now is being able to get out and treat the peanuts to ward off any potential diseases.”
Row crop farmers also have reason to be concerned by excessive rain. However, Federation Cotton, Soybeans, and Wheat and Feed Grains Division Director Buddy Adamson said wet conditions might not prove as harmful to crops as past drought-ridden summers.
“Most farmers would rather have too much rain than too little,” Adamson said. “Still, continuous rain has kept some wheat growers from completing harvest and hinders their ability to plant soybeans as a second crop. If fields don’t dry out soon, unharvested wheat could begin to sprout, sacrificing quality and value.”
Adamson said cotton planting across the state is complete, but excessive rain could cause soil and nutrient deficiencies.
Macon County Farmers Federation President Shep Morris echoed Adamson’s concern, noting excessive moisture was beginning to cause problems with his cotton crop.
“We need to get some clear weather soon. Some areas [of cotton] are beginning to sour,” said Morris. “I hate to tell the rain to go away for a while, but my cotton and corn crops could use some sunshine. I’m sure other farmers would say the same.”
House passes split farm bill in close vote
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a farm bill excluding nutrition programs July 11 by a 216-208 vote. The nutrition title may be considered later as a separate bill.
House Republican leadership decided to split the farm bill after disagreement over nutrition spending led to the combined bill’s defeat last month. The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Farm Bill Committee unanimously recommended the organization support the “farm program only” bill.
“We believe this may be the only option left to get a five-year farm bill passed before the current, extended bill expires in September,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “Passage of the split bill will keep legislation moving forward to a conference committee, where differences possibly can be reconciled with the Senate version.”
The House bill includes titles related to commodity programs, crop insurance, conservation and rural development. It replaces permanent farm program law from 1938 and 1949 with the 2013 commodity title. The threat of programs reverting to permanent law provided motivation for passage of past farm bills.
Until last month, the marriage of commodity and nutrition programs under a single farm bill created a rural-urban coalition strong enough to pass legislation since the 1960s.
Alabama Republican U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt, Spencer Bachus, Jo Bonner, Mo Brooks, Martha Roby and Mike Rogers voted in favor of the split House bill. Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell voted against it.
A.L.F.A. Leaders program reaches halfway point
Young farmers from across the state honed leadership skills and toured farms and factories during the Agricultural Leaders for Alabama (A.L.F.A.) meeting in north Alabama June 25-27.
|Participants of the Agricultural Leaders for Alabama (A.L.F.A. Leaders) program visited farms, processing and equipment plants in north Alabama June 25-27. During the course of the two-year program, participants will gain tools to help them become better leaders in their communities and within the Alabama Farmers Federation. Above, participants listen as Cullman County farmer Jeremy Calvert discusses his fruit and vegetable farm.|
Cleburne County farmer and A.L.F.A. Leaders participant Eric Lovvorn said he enjoyed hearing from past program graduates Will Ainsworth and State Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill during the fourth meeting of the eight-session program.
“We can look up to people of that stature and see what we may want to do in the future,” Lovvorn said. “Being around positive people helps me see how a positive attitude can further my community and the people around me.”
Training sessions opened June 25 at Ainsworth’s Dream Ranch hunting lodge in Guntersville with talks from A.L.F.A. Leaders graduate and Marshall County farmer Corey Hill, who serves as mayor of Douglas; Guntersville City Councilman George Gillen; and Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau Interim Director Lindsey King.
The second day of the program featured tours of a poultry processing plant; Cargill; Mickey Childers’ dairy farm in Morgan County; laying houses operated by Cullman County farmer and current A.L.F.A. Leader Lee Haynes; and Jeremy Calvert’s Cullman County fruit and vegetable farm.
The two-year program develops young farmers personally and professionally so they can better lead their communities and the Alabama Farmers Federation. This year’s class, which graduates in 2014, includes 16 participants.
For more information, contact A.L.F.A. Leaders Program Director Rick Oates at (334) 613-4305 or email@example.com. Program details are available online at http://www.alfafarmers.org/programs/alfa_leaders.phtml.
Additional efforts to protect farmers’ privacy underway
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) filed a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) July 5 in an effort to protect farmers’ privacy and delay the agency’s public release of personal information.
Earlier this year, EPA released personal information about thousands of livestock and poultry farmers in 29 states, including Alabama, in response to FOIA request from three environmental organizations. EPA officials insist the group is under no legal obligation to keep most of the information private.
Names, home addresses, GPS coordinates and personal contact information for farmers across the country are at risk of exposure if the EPA concedes to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
“We support transparency and frequently advocate for increased government transparency,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman, who insists EPA’s actions endanger farmers and their families. “But publicly sharing tens of thousands of peoples’ names, addresses and other personal information is not transparency in the workings of government — it is an invasion of the personal privacy of citizens.”
Stallman said AFBF’s position does not necessarily object to the collection of aggregated data of farm and ranch business information for government use. Rather, it seeks to prevent information that could disrupt farm activity and lead to theft.
State’s winter wheat harvest nears completion
Alabama’s wheat harvest is almost complete, with farmers reporting nearly 90 percent of the state’s crop harvested, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
|Cullman County farmer Ben Haynes, above, said spring weather postponed his wheat harvest schedule by a few weeks. Alabama farmers planted 260,000 acres of wheat in 2013.|
Though last year’s wheat crop had been harvested by the end of June 2012, scattered showers kept some farmers out of their fields longer than expected and cool, wet spring conditions delayed growth.
Cullman County farmer Ben Haynes said spring weather postponed his harvest schedule by three weeks. Haynes farms with his father, Darrel, and brother, Bart.
“We’d like to be finished already, but we didn’t get to start [harvesting] until near the end of June,” Haynes said. “The yields are very good, probably some of the best we’ve ever cut. It’s been a surprise because I expected the cool spring to lower yields.”
Haynes said they’re averaging 90 bushels an acre with this year’s harvest. Soil conditions are good for planting soybeans behind the wheat, he said.
“It’s a double-edged sword — we don’t want it to rain while we’re cutting wheat, but we sure do need some moisture to get the beans in the ground,” Haynes said.
In the southern part of the state, Mobile County farmer Calvin Freeland is finished harvesting wheat and planting soybeans. Overall, he was disappointed with lower yields and reduced prices.
“Yields weren’t quite as good as I thought they would be,” Freeland said. “It looked like an outstanding crop, but ended up average. It did well up to a certain point, and I think cool weather got to it late in the season.”
Alabama farmers planted 260,000 acres of wheat in 2013, up from 220,00 acres in 2012, according to the USDA. For more information, visit nass.usda.gov.
Chapman joins Alabama Farmers Federation staff
Outgoing Secretary of State Beth Chapman will join the Alabama Farmers Federation staff as a political consultant Aug. 1.
Federation President Jimmy Parnell said Chapman’s knowledge, character and experience with the electoral process will serve the organization well.
“Beth is a friend of farmers and shares the values, goals and concerns of our members,” Parnell said. “She is respected for her integrity and citizenship. We look forward to working with Beth as the Federation supports candidates who will fight for Alabama families.”
Chapman is prohibited by law from seeking re-election to a third term as Secretary of State. She earlier announced plans to leave public office and pursue opportunities in the private sector.
Brian Hardin, director of the Federation’s Department of Governmental Affairs, said Chapman will serve as a contract employee in charge of research and campaign services.
“We are excited to have Beth on our team,” Hardin said. “As we prepare for the 2014 elections, Beth will help surface candidates, conduct research, organize grassroots activities and advise Federation-endorsed candidates on campaign strategies.”
Jim Bennett, former secretary of state, will fill the remainder of Chapman’s term.
County data on agriculture’s economic impact now available
Farmers interested in how their county contributes to the state’s $70.4 billion agricultural impact can now view the 2013 Economic Impacts of Agriculture and Forestry Study online.
The study, available online at AlabamaAgImpact.com, revealed Cullman, DeKalb and Mobile are the top counties in the state for economic impact and jobs in agriculture and forestry.
“Farming drives the economies of many Alabama communities,” said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “With a multi-billion-dollar economic impact, our industry creates one in every five jobs. The future is bright, but we must continue to invest in agriculture and give farmers the freedom to compete in the marketplace.”
The new website details county-level data from the 2013 Economic Impacts of Agriculture and Forestry Study, including dollar value of economic impact and job numbers related to agriculture and forestry industries. It also breaks down the top three commodities for each county, along with the county’s number of farms, acreage and population.
Auburn to host All-Star Beef Cattle Conference
Innovations and efficiency are the focus of Auburn University’s 2013 Animal Sciences Beef Cattle Conference, Aug. 16-17.
The conference, offered at the university’s Overton/Goodwin Student Center, is designed to provide members of the beef cattle community an update on current topics, as well as management skills for farms that can improve their bottom line. Friday’s events are from 1-9 p.m., and Saturday’s events are from 8 a.m.-noon.
Registration received by July 17 is $80 and increases to $160 afterward. To register or view more information, visit www.ag.auburn.edu/ansc.
Students Learn Leadership Skills
|Youth Leadership Conference participants discuss the event’s agenda with Alabama Farmers Federation Young Farmers Director Jennifer Himburg outside the Columbiana 4-H Center June 21. From left are Nilan Grimes of Cherokee County, Himburg, Shannon Merida of Clarke County and Ethan Rogers of Cherokee County.
Federation members could save money with Office Depot promotion
Alabama Farmers Federation members who have not yet placed an online order through OfficeDepot.com are eligible to save 15 percent on their first purchase.
“These savings are in addition to the already-discounted prices members receive through the benefits program, including free next-day shipping on all orders over $50,” said Federation Membership Director Marc Pearson. “Exclusions do apply, but most purchases qualify for the discount.”
To redeem, members must register online at AlfaFarmers.org/officedepot and click on the “Shop Online” link. Once all items are added to the cart, click “Add Coupon” and enter the following code: 50591873.
New State Statistician Visits Federation
|State Statistician Cynthia Price, second from left, recently visited the Alabama Farmers Federation headquarters to discuss her new role with USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Price replaces Bill Weaver and will begin official duties July 28. From left are NASS Regional Director Doug Kleweno; Price; Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan and Weaver.|
Edward Whaley, a member of the Alabama Farmers Federation board of directors, died July 1. He was 90. His wife of 71 years, Jeanette Beard Whaley, preceded him in death by three days.
The Whaleys owned and operated Whaley Pecan Co. and Whaley Farm Supply in Troy. They were active members of First Baptist Church in Troy.
Survivors include their son, Robert Whaley (Mary); daughter Janet Campbell (Gene); grandchildren Melissa Boatner (Ty), Marsha Meeks (Wesley) and Jason Campbell (Cate); four great-grandchildren; and a host of nieces and nephews.
Memorials may be made to the Pike County Relay For Life, 104 Kaye Lane, Troy, AL 36079 or Hospice Advantage, 199 U.S. Highway 231, Troy, AL 36081.