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Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686

MONTGOMERY Nearly 500 young farmers between 17 and 35 years old attended the annual Alabama Young Farmers Leadership Conference and Outstanding Young Farm Family Program Feb. 12-14 at the Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham. The Young Farmers Program is a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation and is designed to assist young farmers in their development of leadership skills and to address issues facing agriculture and those involved in farming.

Among the highlights of the conference was the selection of Outstanding Young Farm Families. County Farmers Federations from throughout the state nominated young farm families who competed in 11 different commodity divisions. The winners are: Beef Division, Jimmy and Robin Parnell of Chilton County; Catfish Division, Rafe and Cynthia Taylor of Greene County; Cotton Division, Jeff and Michele Tate of Madison County; Dairy Division, Richie and Michelle Traylor of Randolph County; Forestry Division, Wendell and Lisa Harmon of Chambers County; Horticulture Division, Mary and Jeffrey Hale of Cullman County; Peanut Division, Rodney and Susan Rhodes of Escambia County; Pork Division, Jon and Laura Petree of Franklin County; Poultry Division, Allen and Connie Jones of Blount County; Soybean Division, Kevin and Melissa Bolton of Franklin County; Wheat & Feed Grains Division, Mack Hughes of Jackson County.

The 1999 Outstanding Young Farm Family will be selected from these 11 commodity division winners and will be named at the Alabama Farmers Federation annual meeting in December.

During the weekend conference, young farmers discussed environmental issues, heard motivational and entertaining speakers and discussed plans for the future of their organization.

"Environmental regulations are among the many issues facing farmers today," said Billy Hixon of Pike County, chairman of the State Young Farmers Committee. "Each year at the conference, we strive to develop leadership skills and establish a support group for young farmers. An important part of that is to be well informed about the issues that affect our industry."

The Young Farmers also heard from former members of their group who have gone on to have successful careers in agriculture, despite many financial challenges and natural disasters. Federation President Jerry Newby, who is a former chairman of the State Young Farmers Committee, also spoke to the group.

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