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December 16, 2010   Email to Friend 

Newby Named To Seventh Term; Bentley, Skaggs Applaud Farmers
Darryal Ray

Jerry Newby was elected to his seventh two-year term as president of the Alabama Farmers Federation during elections Monday at the organization's 89th annual meeting in Mobile. Newly elected and re-elected officers and directors are, from left: Front Row -- Dickie Odom Jr., District 8 director; Debbie Freeland, chairman of the State Women's Leadership Committee; Ben Haynes, chairman of the State Young Farmers Committee; and Ted Grantland, District 2 director; Back Row -- Hal Lee, vice president North Area; John Walker III, District 5 director; President Jerry Newby; David Bitto, District 11 director; and Ricky Wiggins, vice president of Southeast Area.
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby was elected to his seventh straight two-year term, and Governor-elect Dr. Robert Bentley and bluegrass musician Ricky Skaggs applauded farmers during the organization's 89th annual meeting in Mobile, Dec. 5-6.

The meeting climaxed with the naming of Josh and Jessica Turner of Sylvania in DeKalb County as Alabama's Outstanding Young Farm Family.

Newby, a Limestone County row crop and cattle farmer, who delivered the annual report to about 1,200 members on opening night, presided over the organization's business session in which almost 500 voting delegates elected new officers and board members. Officer positions are for two-year terms, while board members are elected for three-year terms.

Against a backdrop of "Agriculture: A Growing Story," opening night also saw Bentley tell the state's farm families "... you live by faith because you have so little control over so many things, but you still continue farming. I want you to know how much I appreciate that, and the people of this state ought to appreciate that. You're one of the largest industries in this state, and that's why we can continue to create jobs. The people of this country ought to appreciate what you do every day, and the hard work you do."

Bentley cited the New Testament Book of James in warning that Alabama is facing many "trials" in the coming days. "Trials can make you stronger," he said. "This is the time of trials. So we need to use it as that; we need to look at it as that, and we need to make a stronger state. We need to look at areas where we can make government more efficient, where we can consolidate, where we can do away with duplication. ... The thing we need to remember in the government is this: The taxpayer is the customer, and the customer is the one we need to be serving."

Just a few hours later, Skaggs -- a 14-time Grammy Award winner who just received three more nominations for next month's Grammy Awards -- also praised farmers. "God bless you farmers because we need you!" Skaggs told the Federation-packed audience during a rollicking concert at nearby Saenger Theatre. "We need farms and folks raising food. I know we've talked about doing that at my own house, growing a few little things for us and a few friends around there. My dad raised enough for everybody on the creek. He'd make enough potatoes for everybody. We could never eat that many of them. But farmers are important to all of us."

Dr. John Wheat, founder and director of the University of Alabama's Rural Health Leaders Pipeline Programs, was presented the Federation's highest honor, the Service to Agriculture Award.

Noting that only 9 percent of the doctors in the U.S. serve in rural areas where 20 percent of the population lives, Newby thanked Wheat "for believing in rural Alabama Wheat, in turn, thanked the Federation for its support. He also thanked the young students in his charge. "I want to thank the children of rural Alabama. They've taught me that you don't need to look elsewhere to find a doctor for rural Alabama. Just give them the bucket and they'll carry the water," said Wheat. "Even the children of the most impoverished part of the state, the Black Belt, have shown that with a nurturing and supportive context, they will get the job done. It's my opinion that it's a great opportunity before us today to help these children do just that, to help them bring home homegrown doctors to rural Alabama, to the Black Belt, to the farmers and the small towns where they have not had doctors in such a long time."

Farmers also attended an Ag Issues Briefing in which Steve Flick, board president of the Show Me Cooperative in Centerview, Mo., and Dennis Wiese, a consultant in growth energy, addressed the opportunities for growing sustainable bio-mass as an alternative energy source.

Outstanding county Farmers Federations and individual and senior farm leaders were recognized during an awards ceremony with Jim Cox of the East Lauderdale News receiving the Federation's Ag Communications Award for excellence in print journalism.

Kirk Smith of Blount County, winner of the Federation's Excellence in Agriculture contest, gave his winning presentation during the Young Farmers banquet and was recognized during the closing session, which also featured the Discussion Meet competition on stage.

Katie Hines of Madison County took first in that contest with Allie Corcoran of Barbour County named as first alternate and Mike Dole of St. Clair County and Josh Turner were third and fourth alternates. The Discussion Meet seeks to develop leadership, problemsolving and consensus-building skills among young farmers through competitive discussions in a committee meeting format. Hines will go on to represent Alabama at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 2011 Discussion Meet in Atlanta this month.

In addition to Newby's re-election during the voting delegates session, Morgan County poultry farmer Hal Lee retained his position as north area vice president. Ricky Wiggins, a Covington County cattle, cotton and peanut producer, was unopposed as vice president of the southeast area.

Elections were also held for four district board positions. Ted Grantland, a soybean and wheat and feed grain producer who serves as president of the Morgan County Farmers Federation, took the District 2 seat. Also new to the board of directors is Dickie Odom Jr., president of the Greene County Farmers Federation, who took the District 8 seat.

John E. Walker III, a row crop farmer who is president of the Tuscaloosa County Farmers Federation, was elected to his third term in District 5, and David Bitto, a peanut, soybean and beef producer who is president of the Baldwin County Farmers Federation, was also elected to his third term, retaining the District 11 seat.

Elected to one-year, ex-officio terms on the state board were Women's Leadership Committee Chairman Debbie Freeland of Mobile County and State Young Farmers Chairman Ben Haynes of Cullman County.

The Women's Leadership Committee was kept busy weighing aluminum pop tabs contributed by counties as part of its ongoing fundraising effort for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama. Morgan County brought in the most pop tabs -- 375 pounds' worth -- to raise the Women's total for the year to 1,816 pounds. The amount collected would permit one family to stay at the Ronald McDonald House for a month. The pop tabs also help pay for supplies, utilities and other operations at the house the families need during their stay.

The Young Farmers Committee held a silent auction to benefit Alabama Ag In The Classroom, raising $7,635. County Federations and sponsors -- First South Farm Credit, Alabama Pork Producers, Jackson & Thornton, Power South Energy, SunSouth and Data Supply -- contributed 100 items for the auction.

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