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December 06, 2009   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
December 06, 2009

The Federation Women's Division was doing its part during Sunday's opening day. Here, Delle Bean of Calhoun County, left, weighs pull tabs as part of a fund-raising effort for Ronald McDonald Houses. She is shown with Debbie Freeland of Mobile County and Rita Garrett of Cherokee County.
MOBILE, Ala. -- The Alabama Farmers Federation kicked off its 88th Annual Meeting at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center here Sunday, sending a message that "Agriculture Is The Answer" for many of the issues facing America and the world today.

About 1,200 Federation members from throughout the state, along with several state dignitaries, gathered for the meeting, which also gave members an opportunity to sign a "Don't Cap Our Future" petition protesting the proposed climate change legislation.

The meeting concludes Monday night with the selection of Alabama's Outstanding Young Farm Family from a field of six finalists.

At Sunday's opening general session, Federation President Jerry A. Newby presented the organization's highest honor, the Service to Agriculture Award, to Dr. Richard Guthrie, retiring dean of Auburn University's College of Agriculture and director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.

In presenting the award, Newby noted the major changes that have taken place since Guthrie first attended Auburn on a football scholarship in 1958 and embarked on a career in soils and agronomy. "Farmers now use less fertilizer, they use less chemicals and they use precision agriculture and it is proving to be a better, smarter and cheaper way to do business. Soil scientists like Dr. Guthrie are one reason for that. By helping farmers better understand the soil beneath their feet, they have enabled our farmers to produce better and more abundant crops."

Newby also hailed Guthrie for recognizing the challenges ahead for agriculture, and the answers it can provide in energy from bio-mass, water resource management and plant and animal genetics. "He's always listening to our farmers and what they need," Newby said. "He's a true friend of the farmer."

Two retiring members of the Federation staff, Administrator J. Paul Till and Executive Director Mike Kilgore, were also presented with Special Service to Agriculture Awards in recognition of their service to the Federation's efforts in advancing agriculture.

Till, who retired Nov. 30, was recognized for a 34-year-career which included the creation of the Federation's Neighbors magazine and the Farming Feeds Alabama public relations campaign.

Kilgore, who will retire Jan. 31, was recognized for more than 35 years with the Federation. During that time, he helped bolster its Young Farmers program, worked to defeat a state lottery proposal and Amendment One, and helped win an exemption for agricultural vehicles from federal Department of Transportation registration.

Sunday night's opening session also recognized winners in the Young Farmers' Excellence in Agriculture and Discussion Meet competitions.

Amy Winstead of Limestone County, a regional Extension agent in precision agriculture, took top honors in the Excellence in Agriculture contest. She earned $1,000 from First South Farm Credit and Dodge and an expense-paid trip to Seattle, Wash., where she will represent Alabama at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting Jan. 10-13, 2010.

Jennifer Cruise of Morgan County, a member of the Federation's state equine committee, took first place in the Discussion Meet to earn $1,000 cash from Dodge Trucks and represent Alabama at the national competition in Seattle.

At Monday morning's second general session, outstanding county Federations, and senior and individual leaders will be recognized for their efforts, along with the presentation of the annual Communications Award.

Afterwards, Mark Maslyn, executive director of Public Policy Development for the AFBF, will hold an "ag issues briefing" to update Alabama farmers on the status of legislation and other efforts that could affect agriculture's future.

Also on tap Monday are elections for board seats in Districts 1, 4, 7 and 10, vice-presidents for the Central and Southwest Districts and the secretary-treasurer officer position.

Monday night's closing session will recognize the first graduates of the Alabama Leaders for Agriculture (A.L.F.A. Leaders) class. The 16 graduates have completed an intensive two-year learning experience focusing on personal development, political involvement, effective communication and other skills.

The session will conclude with the selection of the Outstanding Young Farm Family, who will also represent the state at the AFBF annual meeting. The winning family will receive the use of a 2010 Dodge Journey, $500 cash from Dodge, a John Deere Gator courtesy of the Federal Land Bank of Alabama, a new computer package from ValCom Wireless/CCS Technology Centers located in Abbeville and Dothan, Ala., and several other prizes.

The six finalists competing for the OYFF title are: Robert and Jennifer Cruise, Morgan County, Equine Division; Gaylan and Angie Shelly, Escambia County, Cotton Division; Brian and Paige Cash, St. Clair County, Horticulture Division; Rob and Angie McHugh, St. Clair County, Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod Division; Clay and Dana Kennamer, Jackson County, Beef Division; and Thomas and Farrah Adams, Henry County, Peanut Division.

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