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June 19, 2007   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4187
June 19, 2007

Along the waterfront of Mobile Bay...
MOBILE, Ala. -- Alabama's port city and the azalea capital of the world will play host to about 800 farmers Aug. 9-11 when the Alabama Farmers Federation holds its 35th annual Commodity Producers Conference at the Riverview Plaza Hotel.

Packed with tours, educational workshops and seminars, the three-day meeting promises to help farmers improve the profitability of their operations while highlighting the rich and diverse agricultural economy of the Mobile Bay region.

"As the state's port city, Mobile is the hub of Alabama's $500-million agricultural export business. The county also leads the state in greenhouse, nursery and sod production, and it boasts some of the state's most sophisticated row crop and livestock operations," said Federation Commodity Director Jimmy Carlisle. "We are excited about the opportunity for farmers from across the state to tour some of the area's ag-related sites, discuss important farming issues and enjoy some family entertainment."

The conference will get under way Thursday night, Aug. 9, with a welcome banquet at the Riverview Plaza in Mobile. Friday morning, participants will board buses for a series of tours that will visit farms and related businesses in Mobile and Baldwin counties as well as southeastern Mississippi.

The Green Tour will spotlight Alabama aquaculture ... coastal style ... with stops at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium, Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory and Alma-Bryant High School's Aquatic Teaching Facility. Tour participants will have a chance to visit the 10,000-square-foot exhibit hall at the estuarium and stroll along the Living Marsh Boardwalk, which showcases native plants, animals and other natural resources found in marine habitats.

At the shellfish laboratory, the farmers will learn how researchers produce oysters for stocking programs and privately owned oyster gardens. Finally, the tour will visit Alma-Bryant High School, where students supplement reading, writing and arithmetic with hands-on activities as they operate a commercial aquaculture facility that produces Australian crawfish.

The Orange Tour will focus on row crop production, alternative income sources for farmers and agritourism. Participants will visit Driskell Farms in Grand Bay, where they will see how the latest technology is being utilized in the production of corn, peanuts and cotton. Stops at a grain-drying facility and peanut-buying point also are planned, where farmers will learn how changes in the federal peanut program have affected production and profitability. The tour also will explore how some farmers are diversifying their operations to include agritourism enterprises like hunting and a corn maze.

Beef, hay and dairy operations will be spotlighted on the Blue Tour. Farmers who choose this option will visit a Mobile County dairy farm where they will see innovative feed storage facilities as well as a comprehensive nutrient management system that was implemented with the assistance of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Tour participants also will visit a commercial hay operation as well as a beef cattle farm, where well-planned, functional working facilities allow the farmer to buy and sell calves and replacement heifers with minimal labor cost.

The Red Tour will focus on Mobile County's top agricultural industry -- horticulture. Tour stops will include greenhouse and nursery operations in Mobile as well as southeastern Mississippi. Tour coordinators also are planning to visit a commercial vegetable farm in Lucedale, Miss. Participants will have a chance to see how hurricanes in recent years affected the horticulture industry along the coast and learn what farmers have done to recover. During the Red Tour, farmers will have an opportunity to discuss labor issues and find out how their Gulf Coast counterparts are dealing with those challenges.

Forestry and wildlife enthusiasts will want to be "on board" for the Yellow Tour, which will explore Alabama's Mobile-Tensaw Delta by boat. Recognized as the largest inland delta in the United States, the Mobile-Tensaw includes 200,000 acres of marshland and forested wetlands and is home to 250 species of birds and 300 species of fish and other wildlife -- including the American alligator and black bear. This tour is limited to 100 persons, so early registration is recommended. Participants will board the boat 50 at a time for the delta tour. While one group is on the boat, the other will have an opportunity to participate in a walking tour of historic Blakely State Park.

For those who prefer azaleas to alligators, the Pink Tour will travel to Mobile's famous Bellingrath Gardens for a tour of the grounds and home. Participants also will be treated to a ride along the Fowl River aboard the Southern Belle. The day will conclude with lunch at the Magnolia Restaurant and a visit to Fairhope, where participants can browse quaint shops and boutiques. The pink tour is limited to 90 people.

After a full day of touring, the third day of the Commodity Conference will be devoted to educational seminars and workshops designed to help farmers be more successful. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to attend three seminars Saturday morning.

Concurrent seminar topics will include continuing education training for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs); using FarmSuite software by USDA's Agricultural Research Service to improve management decisions; and "Cotton to Catfish," a historical perspective of Alabama agriculture by long-time Extension agronomist Charlie Mitchell.

Dr. Steve Taylor, head of Auburn University's new Center for Bioenergy, will also present a seminar on new "on the farm" bioenergy research projects that the university plans to begin this fall. Seminars also are being considered that would focus on contracting, forage management during drought conditions and animal welfare.

A highlight of the conference is expected to be Saturday afternoon's general session. The first part of that session will be a Congressional Farm Bill Panel Discussion during which Federation National Affairs Director Keith Gray and representatives from Alabama's congressional offices will discuss the 2007 Farm Bill now being drafted.

Following that discussion, Betty Wolanyk, director of education and research with the American Farm Bureau Foundation of Agriculture, will conduct a workshop on "Addressing the Misconceptions About Agriculture."

Wolanyk's workshop was among the most-attended in January at the AFBF Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. The workshop is based on the findings of a multi-year research study that dispels myths about agriculture including many used as propaganda by radical activists. All of Wolanyk's research is thoroughly vetted and supported by a bibliography tracing her findings back to original scientific papers.

Also on Saturday, the Federation's Women's Division will host its annual Cotton Sewing and Quilting Contest. Teens and adults who won their respective county contests will compete for cash prizes in the categories of hand-stitched cotton quilting, machine-stitched cotton quilting, cotton crocheted table runners, heirloom clothing, children?s clothing, garments sewn by young adults and adult clothing.

The Commodity Conference finale will be Saturday night's banquet featuring entertainment sponsored by Alfa Health. Dr. Holiday, known worldwide as "The Hilarious Hypnotist," will bring his unique audience-participation format to the conference. The Atlanta, Ga., native and U.S. Air Force veteran has been performing for 25 years. Holiday is an accredited, registered hypnotist who subscribes to the belief that laughter is the best medicine.

For more information about the 35th Annual Commodity Producers Conference, contact Ginger Mullins at 1-800-392-5705, ext. 4293 or gmullins@alfafarmers.org. Tickets are required for all meals and tours. A complete agenda, tour info and reminder is available for download below.

Click Here For Agenda, Tour Info, Etc.

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