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August 08, 2013   Email to Friend  Download PDF of this Issue

Tours highlight commodity conference

Talladega County farmer and Extension Agent Henry Dorough talks about sheep and forages as he welcomes visitors to his HD Farm during the 41st annual Commodity Producers Conference.
The 41st annual Alabama Farmers Federation Commodity Producers Conference featured farm tours, educational seminars and general sessions on soil health and rural crime.

Nearly 800 Federation members attended the conference in Birmingham Aug. 1-3.

Farm tours were again a favorite event among attendees, who visited farms from Pickens to St. Clair counties. Greene County farmer Grady Wilson said he enjoyed how Friday’s farm tours displayed different aspects of agriculture.

“You get to pick other farmers’ brains about what works and doesn’t work and see more opportunities to try to make a living on a farm,” Wilson said.

Cindy Yeager of Dallas County said she enjoyed watching a haylage demonstration at Jamie Tate’s TNT Farms in Shelby County.

“Getting to be with other people and finding out what they’re doing is wonderful,” she said. “We always take back lots of little things. We may not do them immediately, but eventually we will.”

Farmers also received information pertinent to their farms from the weekend’s educational seminars. Speakers covered topics including vehicle and equipment operating laws, food safety, weather, disease prevention, technology and property and sales taxes.

A packed house of farmers attended two general sessions. The first, led by Dr. David Lamm of the NRCS National Soil Health and Sustainability Team, focused on maintaining soil health. The second, led by Agricultural and Rural Crime Unit (ARCU) Head Lt. Gene Wiggins, provided an overview of the recent formation and successes of ARCU.

For additional conference photos, view the Federation’s Facebook photo album online at http://on.fb.me/13EiuJv.

Wet weather causing problems for farmers

Some Alabama farmers and loggers are suffering from too much of a good thing — rain.

Lynn Johnson, owner of Johnson Brothers Logging in Brantley, said he has to park log trucks farther away from harvest areas to avoid getting stuck in the mud. That costs additional time and fuel, he said.

“We probably use 20-25 percent more fuel in a situation like this,” said Johnson, who typically uses 150-200 gallons of off-road diesel fuel each day.

Fruits and vegetables also have suffered from excessive rain. Horticulture farmers have reported losses in blueberry, tomato and other crops. However, the rainfall is welcomed by Alabama’s row crop farmers.

“It takes a combination of rain and sun to have corn plants as large as we do this year,” said Lowndes County farmer and State Wheat and Feed Grains Committee Member Dan Rhyne. “This is one of the best crops I’ve seen.”

Corn, cotton, soybeans and pastures are all in better condition than at the same time last year, according the Alabama Agricultural Statistics Service’s Crop Progress and Condition Report. Consequently, peanuts fared better in last year’s drought than current wet conditions.

July rainfall was above normal but did not break records, according to climate reports from the Birmingham National Weather Service. Areas of Alabama have received 10- to 20-inches of precipitation above average.

For more information, visit nass.usda.gov.

Durdin selected to lead Federation’s legislative efforts in state Senate

Matthew Durdin
Matthew Durdin, former area organization director for Farmers Federation, began work Aug. 5 as the Federation’s director of State Legislative Programs in the Senate.

Governmental Affairs Director Brian Hardin said Durdin’s experience working on policy issues for the Federation made him a great choice for the new position.

“Matthew brings valuable experience and understanding of the legislative and political process,” Hardin said. “He will do an outstanding job in his new capacity, as he has for the past 13 years.”

Durdin, 40, joined the Federation in 2000 as the Area 2 organization director. A native of Jacksonville, he earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Auburn University and formerly worked for AGCO Corp.

He said the new position will allow him to represent members’ concerns in the halls of government.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to continue to promote the policy of the Alabama Farmers Federation in the Alabama Senate,” Durdin said. “I have a lot of close friends in the Senate, and I look forward to building on those relationships on behalf of Alabama farmers.”

Durdin is married to Nicole Shippey Durdin of Montgomery. They have three children, Jackson, 11, and twins Will and Anne Marie, 9.

Gilmer Contributes To Agriculture Foundation

Lamar County dairy farmer Will Gilmer presented $1,000 to the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation at the Commodity Producers Conference in Birmingham Aug. 3 on behalf of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). The donation was made possible by Gilmer’s selection as one of USFRA’s Faces of Farming and Ranching. From left are Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan, Gilmer and Federation President Jimmy Parnell.

Women, Young Farmers announce contest winners

Women’s Leadership Division and Young Farmers Program members earned bragging rights during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Commodity Producers Conference in Birmingham Aug. 2-4.

The state’s best seamstresses received recognition in the Sewing, Quilting and Tablescapes contests. First-place awards went to Melanie Stokley of Washington County, Aprons; Victoria Balakitsis of Tuscaloosa County, Youth Aprons; Anne Barrett of DeKalb County, Hand-stitched Quilts; Mary Burroughs of Tuscaloosa County, Machine-Stitched Quilts; Gayle White of Crenshaw County, Mini Quilts and Laura Panneton of Talladega County, Tablescapes.

Burroughs said she has only quilted for the past four years, but it’s a relatively new pastime she plans to keep doing.

“I love it,” she said. “I’d quilt all the time if I could. I’m so glad the Federation sponsors this, and I hope it encourages more young people to learn to sew.”

Winners in each contest received cash awards of $150 for first place, $100 for second place and $75 for third place.

A record 31 young farmers participated in the Excellence in Ag and Discussion Meet competitions.

Twenty-nine year old Zachary Burns of Attalla was selected as the Excellence in Ag winner. Contestants must be involved in agriculture, but cannot earn more than half their income from production agriculture. Burns won a zero-turn John Deere mower courtesy of Dow AgroSciences and an expenses-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) national competition in San Antonio, Texas, courtesy of the Federation.

“Having grown up on a family farm, I have a deep appreciation and passion for farming,” he said. “I feel I have experience beyond my age in agriculture, but am still young enough to relate to young people who are considering agriculture as a career.”

Four semi-finalists were selected to advance to the Discussion Meet final round at the Federation’s annual meeting in December. They are John Bitto of Baldwin County, Adam Wilson of Calhoun County, Landon Lowery of Chilton County and Stewart McGill of Madison County. The overall winner will receive a 4-wheeler courtesy of First South Farm Credit and an expenses-paid trip to AFBF’s annual meeting in January courtesy of the Federation.

For information on the Women’s Leadership and Young Farmers divisions, visit AlfaFarmers.org.

Commodity Corner

The State Poultry Division hosted 10 meetings across Alabama to get input from poultry producers on a potential voluntary poultry checkoff that could help growers with research, education and promotion. Remaining meetings are Aug. 15 in Greenville and Aug. 20 in Oxford, held in conjunction with the Alabama Poultry & Egg Association. Additional meetings may be held by request. For more information, contact Guy Hall at ghall@alfafarmers.org or (334) 612-5181.
– Guy Hall, Division Director

Horticulture; Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod
Excessive rain is hurting Alabama’s horticulture and nursery production with  increased disease and pest problems and lower fruit yields. Low light also can delay ripening and reduce plant sizes in greenhouses. Alabama farmers learned how to cope with these issues at Jeremy Calvert’s Cullman County farm during the Commodity Producers Conference. The Calverts remain positive after a tough year. 
– Mac Higginbotham, Divisions Director

Cotton, Soybean, Wheat & Feed Grains
Leadership from the State Wheat & Feed Grains, Soybean, and Poultry committees are working with the Marengo Economic Development Authority and other agencies to assess the viability of a grain buying point and poultry facilities in Demopolis. These facilities could improve the basis in grain marketing. The groups toured a potential site in July.
The Alabama Cotton Commission and Auburn University are developing a cotton checkoff website with the Cooperative Extension System to include information on use of funds and links to major cotton-related organizations. 
–Buddy Adamson, Divisions Director

Summer marketing season is under way, and beef farmers are enjoying near all-time high prices for calves.  Even under improved forage conditions, the numbers of calves sold early, including heifers, remains high. Farmers said good prices and bad memories of last year’s market continue to motivate them to sell.                   
–Nate Jaeger, Division Director

Poultry Checkoff Meeting

DeKalb County poultry farmers discussed a potential voluntary checkoff program with Alabama Farmers Federation Poultry Division Director Guy Hall July 23 at the Sand Mountain Substation in Crossville. An 18-member poultry study committee developed the suggested checkoff framework in 2012. From left are Hall, David Bailey and Jonathan Buttram.

Century, Heritage Farm apps due Aug. 30

Applications for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) 2013 Century and Heritage Farm Program are due by Aug. 30.

The program honors family farms in operation for a long period of time.

A Century Farm must have been in the same family continuously for at least 100 years and currently have some agricultural activities. The farm must include at least 40 acres and be owned by the applicant or nominee.

A Heritage Farm must have been operated continuously as a family farm for at least 100 years. The farm must possess interesting and important historical and agricultural aspects, including one or more structures at least 40 years old. The farm must be at least 40 acres of land owned and operated by the applicant, who must reside in Alabama.

ADAI’s Century and Heritage Farm Program began in 1976. More than 550 Alabama farms have been recognized since its inception.

To download a registration form or view sample applications, visit agi.alabama.gov.

Auburn College of Ag announces department, personnel changes

Auburn University recently announced changes within the College of Agriculture.

The Department of Agronomy and Soils — now the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences — will be led by John Beasley Jr., a 1979 program alumnus. Effective Jan. 1, he will succeed retiring department head Joe Touchton.

Meanwhile, Deacue Fields, an agricultural economist, will chair the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, effective Aug. 16.

The Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures is now the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.

For additional information, visit ag.auburn.edu.

Young Farmers Host Farm Safety Day

Young Farmer committees from DeKalb and Jackson counties hosted a joint Farm Safety Day July 27 for volunteer firefighters and other emergency responders. More than 100 attendees participated in the event. Above, DeKalb County Young Farmers Committee Member Ben Johnson, right, explains safety procedures involving farm equipment.

Federation members could win new shotgun

One Alabama farmer rode off into the sunset with a new shotgun courtesy of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

Neal Bryant of Jackson County was right on target when his name was drawn Aug. 3 at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Commodity Producers Conference. Bryant won a shotgun from the organization, which sold 2,000 tickets and raised $8,120 for the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation.

The Federation is aiming to repeat its fundraising success with a second gun raffle. Members who purchase raffle tickets will be eligible to win a 20-ga. over-under Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon I shotgun, valued at $2,245. Tickets are $5 each or $20 for five and can be purchased from the field staff, county presidents or the Federation’s Accounting Department.

The rifle will be awarded at the Federation’s annual meeting in December.

The Foundation supports charitable, educational and scientific endeavors related to agriculture, including the Ag in the Classroom Summer Institute.

Rural Medical Scholars Visit Federation

Eight second-year medical students enrolled in Auburn University’s and UAB-Huntsville’s Rural Medicine Program attended special presentations on leadership, government and rural medicine at the Alabama Farmers Federation Aug. 6-7 in Montgomery. From left, front row are Joseph Waters, Valley Grande; Robyn Wilson, Clay; Kaci Larsen, Mt. Olive; and Mitchell Mock, Enterprise; from left, back row are Brian Parker, West Point; Jessica Willis, Selma; Matt Burden, Cullman; Mary Beth Littrell, Decatur; and Program Director Dr. Bill Coleman, Scottsboro.

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