Federation's New Executive Director Proud Of Farm Heritage
By Darryal Ray
He grew up in Cullman County where all his heroes were farmers, where poultry farms dot the landscape and where the Farm-City Banquet is still one of the social events of the year.
|The Pinyan family, from left, are: Kristie, Paul, Andrew and Will.|
"The people in Cullman County are proud to be farmers," Paul Pinyan says. "They're proud to be from an agricultural county. They are hard-working people who have a great appreciation for the land. They're proud to be farmers and I am proud of that heritage."
It's no wonder Pinyan, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation's Governmental Affairs Department since 2007, is likewise proud to serve as executive director of the state's largest farm organization. He succeeds Mike Kilgore, who retired Jan. 31.
For Pinyan, who first joined the Federation 12 years ago as an area organization director, this new position is one more way he can "give back" to an industry facing its greatest challenges ever.
"Agriculture is undergoing major changes," says Pinyan, 44. "From climate change legislation to pressure from environmentalists and animal rights activists, to being forced to produce more on less land with higher input costs, the problems our farmers are facing are very real."
"We don't really know what the climate change bill is going to do to the cost of production or even the way we produce things. We don't know what will happen to future generations of family farmers if we lose the battle to eliminate the 'death tax.' So it's really important that our people, our farmers and our organization, elect those who can see things from an agricultural perspective and understand farming," added Pinyan, who holds a juris doctorate from Faulkner University's Jones School of Law.
Federation President Jerry A. Newby understands. In announcing Pinyan's promotion to executive director, Newby said, "His understanding of the legislative process, as well as his communications skills, will be extremely valuable as the Federation works to promote agriculture, grow membership and represent farmers in Montgomery and Washington."
Growing up on the family's cattle and poultry farm in Holly Pond near the Cullman-Blount County line, he began showing 4-H calves at age 9, eventually boasting the reserve grand champion at the state steer show.
Later, he earned a bachelor's degree in animal and dairy science from Auburn University and a master's in agribusiness education from Alabama A&M University.
But it was during his time as an Extension agent working with adults and youth livestock programs in Madison County that he first realized the significant role the Alabama Farmers Federation played in state agriculture.
"That's where I got introduced to the Farmers Federation and learned what it means to the agricultural community," said Pinyan. "They were what made our educational programs at Extension a success, whether it was sponsoring a speaker, a youth event or allowing us to tour farms."
So when the Federation offered Pinyan a job as an area organization director in 1998, he jumped. Two years later, he moved to the Department of Governmental Affairs as director of agricultural and environmental legislation. He was named assistant director of that department in 2004 and department director in 2007.
Now residing in Auburn, Pinyan and his wife, Kristie, are instilling in their sons -- 16-year-old Andrew and 15-year-old Will -- the same values they learned on the farm back in Cullman County.
"They have a love for agriculture," Pinyan says. "They showed sheep when they were 3 and 4, and they both started showing cattle with the help of Randall Paramore, a board member on the Macon County Farmers Federation. They hunt, fish and have hauled square bales for their ag teacher and Lee County Farmers Federation board member Mahlon Richburg. They may not farm on a daily basis, but they get to see what farming is about. They, too, have a true love for our agricultural heritage."