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January 09, 2014   Email to Friend  Download PDF of this Issue

Farmers Weather Freezing Temperatures

Montgomery County farmer Stacey Nestor, right, and her daughter, Melissa, feed extra pellets to cattle Jan. 6 as Nestor’s mother, Amy Boyd, drives the farm truck. Nestor said additional feed gives cattle energy to stay warm. Montgomery reported a record low of 13 degrees Jan. 7.
A severe cold snap Jan. 6 and 7 had farmers across the state working overtime to care for livestock and crops. The arctic air dropped temperatures in north Alabama into the single digits, and south Alabama reported lows in the teens.

While satsuma season is nearing its end, farmers sprayed water on fruit trees to prevent freezing.

“I think we are going to have some damage, but we were able to protect our trees,” said Mobile County farmer Art Sessions. “People who don’t have sprinklers could see more significant damage ­— especially to younger trees.”

Lowndes County poultry and beef cattle farmer Kirk Meadows said the extreme cold makes heating chicken houses a challenge.

“In this kind of weather, it’s probably costing me $500 per house, per day to maintain the temperatures we need to raise chickens,” said Meadows, who had six houses of week-old chicks when the cold air moved in. “Our heaters are computer controlled. The set point for our chickens right now is 83 degrees, and when it’s this cold, the heaters don’t shut off.”

Livestock farmers braved the cold and windy conditions to ensure their animals had enough food. Montgomery County cattle and goat farmer Stacey Nestor said extra rations provide animals the energy needed to stay warm.

“It’s calving season, and several of our goats are due to kid any day — but we hope that happens after the cold spell,” Nestor said. “In this kind of weather, we’re checking our animals more often. At least the goats have shelter from the wind.”

The National Weather Service (NWS) reported record lows across the state on Jan. 7, from 5 degrees in Huntsville to 14 degrees in Mobile.


Legislative Session Starts January 14

Alabama lawmakers will consider a bill exempting farm equipment purchases from state sales tax when they return to Montgomery Jan. 14 for the 2014 session.

Currently, farmers pay 1.5 percent sales tax on farm equipment in Alabama, while farmers in the nearby states of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee are exempt from such taxes.

“Farmers can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for new farm equipment,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department Director Brian Hardin. “Alabama’s sales tax rate amounts to thousands more our farmers must pay. Removing this tax will help our farmers stay competitive.”

Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan, is sponsoring the legislation and said he hopes it will decrease the loss of farm equipment sales, jobs and revenue to surrounding states.

Another Federation legislative priority is to allow farmers to register more than one farm tractor-trailer using the F-4 tag. By law, farmers must register additional trailers with a more expensive X license tag.

The Federation also supports legislation to amend the state cotton checkoff program and strengthen Alabama’s catfish labeling law.

Farmers can follow Federation legislative updates by registering for the Capitol Connection e-newsletter at alfafarmers.org/capitolconnection.

Federal government updates are available on the Alfa Farmers D.C. Report blog at alfafarmersdc.com.


Workshop Helps Fledgling Farmers

A series of eight seminars hosted in Pike Road will provide information on how to break into a new career in agriculture.

Hosted by the city’s Agriculture and Stewardship Club, the first class in the “Beginning Farmer” series is Jan. 14 at 6 p.m. at the town hall. Auburn University’s Dr. Deacue Fields will provide a “crash course” on beginning an agribusiness career.

“The Pike Road community began as an agricultural settlement nearly two centuries ago and, as a town, we have worked to honor and preserve that heritage,” said the city’s Mayor Gordon Stone.

The remaining courses will take place  February through September and cover topics like financial assistance, farming technology and land management. Find a full schedule online at pikeroad.us.

Contact Stone or Mary Catherine Gaston at (334) 272-9883 for more information.

The series is hosted in partnership with the National Young Farmers Educational Association and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.


Extension Updates Alabama Crops Website

The Alabama Crops website recently received a design overhaul. The new look follows the template used for other Alabama Cooperative Extension System Web pages and integrates social media.

Found online at alabamacrops.com, the site is a hub for the latest on-farm research findings, weather updates and Extension calendar of events. It supplies data on state corn, cotton, soybean, forage, hay & pasture and small grain crops.

More than 90,000 Internet users visited the page in 2013.

The Alabama Farmers Federation State Soybean and Wheat & Feed Grains committees and the Alabama Cotton Commission provide partial funding for the website.


Hegemans Pegged For National YF&R Committee

Jon and Amy Hegeman of Calhoun County have been appointed to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee. The Hegemans and their daughter, Ella Kate, 23 months, live in White Plains where Jon manages greenhouses and Amy raises horses.
Jon and Amy Hegeman of Calhoun County are taking their leadership skills to the national scene with a recent appointment to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Committee.

“This is an honor,”  said Jon, who manages greenhouses. “We’re looking forward to networking with others and hopefully bringing something back to Alabama to improve our programs.”
Amy, who raises horses, said the two-year committee appointment will be a great learning experience.

“We’re excited about this opportunity to get involved with the AFBF,” she said. “At the March orientation, we’ll learn more about our roles and meet families from other states who are doing the same things we are.”

The couple has a history of success in the Alabama Farmers Federation. Jon was the 2013 State Young Farmers Committee chairman, and the two were named the 2012 Outstanding Young Farm Family, along with their daughter, Ella Kate, 23 months.

As part of the 16-member YF&R committee, the Hegemans will help plan YF&R competitive events during AFBF’s annual convention and the annual YF&R Leadership Conference held in February.
Committee members are nominated by their respective Farm Bureaus. They study farm and food policy issues, participate in leadership training exercises and develop other professional skills while on the committee.

The Hegemans are the third Alabama Farmers Federation representatives to serve on the committee since the Federation reaffiliated with AFBF. Hale County farmer Townsend Kyser was selected for the 2007-2008 term. Lamar County farmer Will Gilmer served the 2009-2010 term.

The Young Farmers & Ranchers program includes men and women ages 18 to 35. Learn more online at fb.org.


Register For 2014 Young Farmers Conference

The 2014 Young Farmers Conference is Feb. 28 - March 2 in Birmingham, and registration is due Jan. 28.

Cost is $268 per adult and $53 for children ages 4-12. All children must be registered. Meals, seminars and entertainment are included.

For additional information, visit http://tiny.cc/YFConference14 or contact Young Farmers Director Jennifer Himburg at jhimburg@alfafarmers.org or (334) 612-5159.


Commodity Corner

The Alabama Farmers Federation State Poultry Committee toured the Auburn University’s Poultry and Animal Science Nutrition Center Dec. 10. The center expands Auburn’s teaching mission with hands-on training in feed manufacturing and contains a student research lab.
Peanuts
The Alabama-Florida Peanut Trade Show is Jan. 30 at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds in Dothan. The show includes lunch, seminars, prizes and more than 80 exhibitors. For more information, contact Teresa Mays at (334) 792-6482 or teresa2@alpeanuts.com.
-Jim Cravey, interim division director

Forestry
The Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) website provides information on tax code changes related to timber for Alabama landowners. Detailed information is available at forestry.alabama.gov.
A recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration ranks Alabama fifth in the U.S. for net electricity made from wood waste, landfill gas or biomass.  The ranking was earned because paper and wood production companies generate electricity with wood debris and waste.
-Rick Oates, division director

Wheat & Feed Grains
At its December meeting, the State Wheat and Feed Grains Committee voted to provide $184,410 for 31 research projects at Auburn University. The group will also donate to the Farm-City Luncheon and spring judging events at Auburn.
-Brian Hardin, department director

Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod; Horticulture
The state test for the Private Pesticide Applicator’s Permit is available online at aces.edu/anr/pesticidemgt. Many Alabama producers may prefer the electronic testing option. The exam is $60, which includes the permit fee. For more information, contact local Extension offices.
-Mac Higginbotham, division director

Hay & Forage
The weather in 2013 reinforced the need for proper potassium fertility in Bermuda grass. Above normal summer rainfall and high humidity led to a high occurrence of leaf spot. Analysis from the Auburn University Soil Testing Laboratory can improve hay and forage fertility. Remember, forages can be best when you invest in an annual test!
-Nate Jaeger, division director

Poultry
The State Poultry Committee meeting Dec. 10 was hosted at Auburn University’s Poultry and Animal Science Nutrition Center. Dr. Joe Hess provided a tour of the center and research lab, where students can test feed. The new center provides hands-on training in feed manufacturing and science.
-Guy Hall, division director


On The Move In Ag

  • The Alabama Farmers Market Authority (FMA) and its director, Don Wambles, have officially moved to offices at the State Department of Agriculture and Industries.
  • Rivers Myres was named the new president and CEO of the Alabama Farmers Cooperative, effective Jan. 9. Since 2006, he has served as president of SouthFresh Aquaculture Inc. in Tuscaloosa.
  • Diane Guthrie will be the new state conservation engineer, effective Feb. 9. She succeeds the retiring Perry Oakes. Guthrie previously worked as an NRCS agricultural engineer in Athens, Ga.
  • Jason P’Pool started work as the Extension animal science 4-H specialist in Auburn. He will work with Alabama 4-H and FFA advisors for animal science programs and livestock events. P’Pool succeeds the retiring Bob Ebert.


Extension Offers Class On Precision Farming

An upcoming Extension event will focus on advancements in precision farming to help farmers improve efficiency and production.

“From Precision Farming to Decision Farming — How To Make Precision Farming Pay” is Feb. 27 at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in Headland and Feb. 28 at the E.V. Smith Research Center in Shorter.

Starting at 9 a.m., seminars cover precision irrigation, variable-rate nitrogen management, soil sampling and the economics of precision agriculture. Lunch will be followed by hands-on demonstrations and activities.

The workshops are free, but registration is required. Online registration is available at vellidis.org/tapac.

Attendees will earn continuing education units (CEUs) in nutrient management; soil and water; crop management; and professional development.

For more information, email Dr. Brenda Ortiz at bortiz@auburn.edu.


ChiLLy Fest Heats Up In Linden

Marengo County Farmers Federation President Meador Jones, left, and board member Scott Johnson, right, salivate at the site of chili stirred by Tyler Windham at the ChiLLy Fest in Linden Dec. 14. The city-wide event, sponsored in part by the county Federation, has earned numerous media honors as a top tourism event.




Multiple Arrests Made In Organized Theft Ring

Four people were recently arrested in Escambia County, Fla., following an extended theft ring investigation. Thousands of dollars of stolen property were located and seized by law enforcement.

Pete Jimenez, 39, of East Brewton; Joni Blair Diamond, 30, of East Brewton; Paul Daw, 19, of Brewton; and Bobby Thompson Jr., 47, of Brewton were charged with multiple counts of theft of property, receiving stolen property and burglary.

The theives are suspected of stealing utility trailers, golf carts, ranger type vehicles and zero-turn lawnmowers in south Alabama and the Florida panhandle. They targeted businesses including SunSouth John Deere in Covington County.

Authorities working the case included police departments in Opp and Andalusia; sheriff’s departments in Escambia and Covington counties; and the Agriculture and Rural Crimes Unit (ARCU).

Read the February issue of Neighbors for an in-depth update on ARCU.


Congressman Visits East Alabama Farmers

U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., addressed a group of east Alabama farmers and leaders in the agriculture industry during an advisory committee meeting at Dewberry Farms in Clay County. He discussed the farm bill and the importance of farming to the state. Rogers represents Alabama’s 3rd Congressional district and serves on the House Agriculture Committee.






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