'Positive Changes' Mark Federation's 88th Annual Meeting
By Darryal Ray
The 88th Annual Meeting of the Alabama Farmers Federation will be noticeably different when its members gather in Mobile Dec. 6-7.
|All events of the 88th Annual Meeting of the Alabama Farmers Federation will take place at the modern Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center.|
For one thing, it's only two days instead of three. For another, events will no longer be held at the Mobile Civic Center -- everything will take place at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center.
"This year's meeting brings several positive changes, changes that our members have indicated they want," said David Smart, director of Destinations which organizes the Federation meeting that attracts about 1,000 members from all across the state.
The theme of this 88th gathering is "Agriculture Is The Answer."
Smart noted that this year's agenda returns to the popular two-day format preferred by attendees according to surveys from previous annual meetings.
To accommodate the shorter meeting, the opening General Session, which features the Federation's Annual Report, will start Sunday, Dec. 6, at 4:30 p.m. This change will allow attendees to enjoy Sunday evening free to have dinner on their own.
All three General Sessions, as well as Monday afternoon's voting delegate meeting, will be held in the Convention Center Grand Ballroom -- a far more convenient and comfortable venue than the aging civic center.
With Alfa's voting delegate business session now providing the Policy Book for computer-generated viewing on a big screen, there will no longer be a need for tables requiring delegates to be seated far toward the back walls. According to Smart, eliminating these tables will allow delegate seating nearer to the front for better sound and vision.
"After many years of running back and forth between two meeting facilities, this year's meeting offers the distinct advantage of providing all major meeting functions in one location," said Smart. "Mobile Convention Center is the newest and most modern of convention facilities with the supporting services that will make this an excellent event for all meeting delegates."
Additionally, Smart said, all convention attendees are housed in the immediate downtown area with ample parking available in the city garage adjacent to the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel ($12) or under the Convention Center ($5).
Smart also noted that attendees would be able to walk to meetings by way of the sky bridge over Water Street connecting the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel to the Convention Center. He also advises attendees not attempt to cross Water Street at street level due to the risk involved.
"This is not change just for the sake of change," said Smart. "This change provides convenience and improved quality for all attendees."
Dr. Richard Guthrie, retiring dean of Auburn University's College of Agriculture, will be presented the Federation's highest honor, the Service to Agriculture Award, at Sunday afternoon's opening session.
In 1962, after receiving a bachelor's degree in agronomy and soils, Guthrie began working with the Soil Conservation Service. He completed a master's in soil science from Auburn in 1965 and a doctorate in soil science from Cornell University in 1968.
After a number of years with the USDA and the SCS in Alabama, Texas and Washington, D.C., Guthrie returned to Auburn in 1983 as professor and head of the Department of Agronomy and Soils.
From 1985 to 1988, he served the College of Agriculture as acting dean before being appointed associate dean of international programs in 1988, a position he held until his first official retirement in 2003.
Guthrie came out of retirement in the fall of 2005 to become dean of the College of Agriculture and director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.
Mark Maslyn, executive director of the Public Policy Department of the American Farm Bureau Federation, will be the guest speaker at Monday morning's Ag Issues Briefing. Young specializes in the analysis of global agricultural policy and came to AFBF from the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute where he was recognized for his work on the 1990 farm bill.
Monday afternoon's voting delegates session will elect board seats for Districts 1, 4, 7 and 10, vice-presidents for the Central and Southwest Districts and the secretary-treasurer officer position.
The awards ceremony has also been streamlined with the Communication, Senior Leader, Individual Leader and County awards to be presented during Monday morning's second General Session.
Another change is that the state Miss Agriculture Pageant and Talent Find Contest have been discontinued, allowing time for the Young Farmers to recognize the first-ever graduating class of the Federation's A.L.F.A. (Agricultural Leaders for Alabama) program at Monday night's closing general session.
The program, first announced at the Federation's annual meeting in 2007, is a two-year intensive learning experience that focuses on personal development, political involvement, effective communication and other skills.
The first 16 participants, as nominated by their counties, are: John Bitto of Baldwin, Jeff Maze of Blount, Jeremy Goss of Calhoun, Mark Gaines of Cherokee , Ben Haynes of Cullman, Heather Wright of Dallas, Samuel Prim and Colby Willoughby of Houston, Richard Holladay of Lowndes, Blair Sistrunk of Macon, Jackie Tate of Madison, Robert Cruise of Morgan, Steve Stroud of Pike, Renee Fochtman of Shelby, and Walt Richardson and Mark Platt of Washington. Nominations for the next class will be accepted until Dec. 15.
Of course, the closing session will also feature the Outstanding Young Farm Family contest. The six finalists competing for the 2009 title are: Gaylan and Angie Shelly family of Escambia County, winner of the Cotton Division; Robert and Jennifer Cruise family of Morgan County, winner of the Equine Division; Robert and Angie McHugh family of St. Clair County, winner of the Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod Division; Brian and Paige Cash family of St. Clair County, winner of the Horticulture Division; Clay Kennamer of Jackson County, winner of the Beef Division; and Thomas and Farrah Adams family of Henry County, winner of the Peanut Division.
The OYFF winner, who will represent the state at the American Farm Bureau Federation's Annual Meeting in Seattle Jan. 10-13, 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 and several other prizes.
The Young Farmers will also hold competitions for Excellence in Agriculture and Discussion Meet as well as a silent auction (each county is asked to contribute at least two items of at least $50 value each).
The Women's Division will hold caucuses for Regions 1, 2 and 4, luncheon and business meetings as well. The State Women's Committee breakfast will be Monday at 7 a.m.
On-site registration will open at 1 p.m. Sunday and remain open until 6 p.m.