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June 23, 2010   Email to Friend 

By Darryal Ray

A tour bus travels through the nursery at Southern Homes & Gardens in Wetumpka during the 2009 Commodity Producers Conference.
The Alabama Farmers Federation's 38th annual Commodity Producers Conference will offer insights into a wide range of issues when an estimated 800 farmers from all across the state gather Aug. 5-7 at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center in Columbus, Ga.

The conference will cover a variety of topics, including feral hogs, on-farm storage of agricultural chemicals, animal welfare and farmland protection.

While the seminars are slated for Saturday, the conference kicks off Thursday afternoon with registration and judging for the Women's Leadership Committee's tablescapes, quilting and handbag/purse contests. A welcome banquet will follow with comedian Rik Roberts, whose performance is sponsored by Alfa Health, Alfa Dental and the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Ag Expo.

Friday will be marked by a day of touring area farms and related businesses, such as a horse and cattle farm in Gay, Ga., the beautiful gardens and grounds of Callaway Gardens and various tours at nearby Auburn University.

"Saturday's lineup of seminars will give our farmers the information they need to face many of the issues in agriculture today," said Jimmy Carlisle, director of the Federation's Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department. "No matter what kind of farming you do, there is something you'll be able to take back home and make your operation more successful."

The seminars, which begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, will include a session to update producers on environmental topics, such as possible changes to pesticide labels dealing with spray drift, an update on the 6th Circuit Court ruling on aquatic pesticides and a review of the recently updated Environmental Protection Agency spill contaminant rules that take effect in November.

John Pudner, director of the Federation's Department of External Affairs, will offer a two-hour morning session to update attendees on Alabama's political landscape in advance of the November general election.

Also on tap are Dr. Stephen Ditchkoff of Auburn University's School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and Drs. Nancy Cox and Tatiana Samoylova of AU's College of Veterinary Medicine, who will discuss research efforts to develop a species-specific contraceptive to aid in controlling the feral hog population.

Angela Hurst of the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries and Steve Musser of the Natural Resource Conservation Service will discuss the Farmland Protection Program in Alabama and how farmers who participate can preserve their farms for future generations through the sale of development rights.

Kay Johnson-Smith, executive vice president of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, will address the challenges and opportunities facing farmers and ranchers in response to the animal rights movement.

Kevin Smith, director of export services for the U.S. Meat Export Federation, will speak about the current state of meat exports and the importance of international trade. Smith joined the USMEF in 2002 as its resident meat scientist, addressing technical issues relating to foreign meat trade.

Dr. Stephen Enloe, assistant professor of agronomy and soils at Auburn University, will present an overview of invasive plants and weed control in hay and pastures. His presentation will help farmers identify invasive plants, manage their growth and restore pastureland.

Anne Adrian, an Extension specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, will help producers understand how and why they should utilize social media.

Bob Redding, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Charles Hatcher and U.S. Sen. Wyche Fowler Jr., will discuss the outlook for the 2012 farm bill as well as other important legislative issues at the Washington Update/Farm Bill seminar.

Producers will be able to attend two CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) sessions, and earn two Continuing Eduction Unit hours. One session will address how the EPA would like to model the entire country's water policies on the Chesapeake Bay Program. The other session, featuring Richard Hulcher of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), will address potential federal and state environmental regulations.

The Saturday afternoon general session will offer all attendees a Department of Transportation Briefing from Cpl. Jay Whitehead of the Alabama Department of Public Safety, Jay Starling of the Alabama Department of Revenue and a representative of the Alabama Department of Transportation. The session will address vehicle tags, weight restrictions, trailers, DOT regulations and other information regarding the operation of farm vehicles on Alabama roadways.

The Women's Leadership Committee will also host a luncheon at noon Saturday in the Columbus Convention and Trade Center's Ironworks Ballroom C.

A "Candidates' Reception" for Federation-endorsed candidates will be Saturday afternoon prior to the conference's closing banquet and surprise entertainment.

For more information, call Ginger Mullins at (334) 613-4293 or email gmullins@alfafarmers.org.

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