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January 18, 2011   Email to Friend 

LOOKING AHEAD: Ag Commissioner, AU Dean Among Speakers At Organization Conference
By Darryal Ray

Commissioner John McMillan
John McMillan, Alabama's newly elected Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries, and Dr. William Batchelor, dean of the College of Agriculture at Auburn University, will be among the speakers when the Alabama Farmers Federation hosts its annual Commodity Organization Conference, Feb. 1-3, at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center in Birmingham.

McMillan, who succeeds Ron Sparks as Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries, will address the attendees during lunch on the conference's opening day. Batchelor, new dean of the College of Agriculture at Auburn University, will be the luncheon speaker Wednesday.

McMillan, who campaigned on a platform of clean water, rural economic development, safe food and renewable energy, gained his first statewide election victory in 1974 with a run for the Alabama Legislature. He was later appointed by former Gov. Fob James as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. He has also served as chairman of the Alabama Forestry Council, the Alabama Forestry Planning Committee and the Alabama Wildlife Federation.

Batchelor, who succeeded Dr. Richard Guthrie upon his retirement, was named dean and director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station last May. Prior to assuming that post, he was head of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Mississippi State University.

The annual conference brings together leaders and producers in 16 commodities represented by the Federation to elect state commodity committee members, set goals and priorities for 2011 and share concerns and ideas about current issues facing the respective commodities.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., with commodity meetings beginning at 9:30 a.m. and concluding around 3:30 p.m. The scheduled commodity meetings are:

Feb. 1 -- Catfish, Bee & Honey, Beef, Horticulture, Pork and Wildlife Resources

Feb. 2 -- Cotton, Forestry, Hay & Forage, Poultry and Meat Goat & Sheep

Feb. 3 -- Dairy, Equine, Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod, Soybean and Wheat & Feed Grain

The Alabama Peanut Producers will meet in conjunction with the Alabama/Florida Peanut Trade Show on Feb. 10, 10 a.m., at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds in Dothan.

"The Commodity Organization Conference is an important first step in starting a new year," said Jimmy Carlisle, director of the Federation's Governmental and Agricultural Programs. "This is when we elect leaders who will work for their respective commodities. It's also when we begin focusing on our goals and priorities and when we set the tone for the upcoming year. It's a critical time for all of us in agriculture. That's why it's essential to stay abreast of research, stay informed about legislative activities and understand how certain regulatory issues can affect our commodities."

Catfish producers, for example, will hear from Roger Barlow, president of The Catfish Institute and executive vice president of Catfish Farmers of America.

In addition to Barlow, catfish farmers will also hear from aquaculture Extension specialists Dr. Terry Hanson and Dr. John Jensen of Auburn University. Hanson will be offering a review of the catfish industry's previous year and providing an economic outlook for the 2011 growing season for catfish producers. Jensen will discuss the latest developments related to the Pond to Plate research project involving a number of research and Extension personnel in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University.

Peter Giroux, co-founder and partner of American Solar & Alternative Energy Solutions, will also explore the feasibility of alternative energies for catfish farmers and other agricultural enterprises.

The state's meat goat and sheep producers will hear from Dr. Will Getz, a nationally recognized professor and Extension specialist in animal sciences at Fort Valley (Ga.,) State University, where he also serves as a member of the staff of the Georgia Small Ruminant Research and Extension Center.

Getz will be providing farmers with expert technical advice while wearing his researcher hat, but will also review the accomplishments of the American Sheep Industry Association and the American Goat Federation over the past year.

Dr. Tony Frazier, state veterinarian, will bring attendees up to speed on the latest news related to animal disease traceability and what sheep and goat producers should expect.

Dr. Deacue Fields, associate professor and Extension specialist in agricultural economics from Auburn University, will also discuss the Market Maker program and how it might benefit goat and sheep farmers in terms of marketing animal and finished products such as goat cheese and soap.

Fields will also discuss the Market Maker program with Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod producers. Another speaker for the GNS meeting will be Bill Weaver, director of the Alabama Field Office for the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Weaver will discuss the 2009 Census of Horticulture specialties. Plus, Dr. Joe Touchton and Dr. Gobi Hiluka of Auburn University will speak about the history of Auburn University's Soil Testing Laboratory and the Alfa Agricultural Services & Research Building and testing technologies.

The Horticulture meeting will be held jointly with Bee and Honey producers as Dr. Bryan Chin, professor and chair of Auburn University's Detection and Food Safety Center, discusses possible research opportunities in tracking queen bees. Dr. James Tew, apiculture advisor at Auburn University, will take a look at the beekeeping outlook for 2011, and State Apiarist Dennis Barclift will offer an update on Alabama's industry.

Other speakers for this combined session include: Dr. Bill Goff, Extension specialist and professor with Auburn University's Department of Horticulture, on pecan cultivar evaluations, grafting techniques and propagation; Matt Goff, a Lowndesboro pecan grower, on the value of exporting pecans to China; and Dr. Elina Coneva, Extension specialist and assistant horticulture professor, on an overview of her research projects on fruit crops.

Forestry producers will hear from Mac Phillippi of the American Chestnut Foundation on "Bringing Back the American Chestnut," forester Leh Bass on "The Pine Straw Industry in Alabama" and Jim Jeter of the Alabama Forestry Commission on "EPA Point Source Timber Harvest Regulations." The Wildlife Resources meeting will feature Allen Andress of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Chief Enforcement Section on "What Is A 'Legal' Dove Field?"

Other speakers include wildlife biologist Adam Pritchett of the Alabama DCNR on "Coyote Predation On Whitetail Deer" and Will Ainsworth, executive director of the Alabama Deer Association, on "Deer Breeding In Alabama."

Dairy producers will hear from Cheryl Hayn of the Southeast United Dairy Association, Dennis Pate of and Sue Mosley of the USDA Milk Market. They will also hear updates from the Natural Resources Conservation Service on Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding for Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans.

Pork producers will hear from Ernie Barnes of the
National Pork Board, Pate of Validus Environmental Services and Chris Goodman with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management on water quality. Pate and Goodman will also address the state's poultry producers as well as hear a poultry health update from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

Cotton growers will hear about marketing from Jeff Thompson of the Autauga Quality Cotton Association; Brad Meyer and George Huckaby of Agri-AFC will discuss new varieties for 2011; William Henderson of the Alabama Farm Service Agency will provide an FSA update and Tara Smith of the American Farm Bureau Federation will offer a national issues update. In addition, a panel of consultants and farmers will address herbicide resistance and weed management.

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