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September 01, 2011   Email to Friend 

Tours Highlight 2011 Commodity Conference
Jeff Helms


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Farmers enjoyed tours, entertainment and educational seminars during the Federation's 39th Annual Commodity Producers Conference Aug. 4-6 in Huntsville.
More than 700 Alabama farmers took time away from their summer chores to share ideas and participate in educational programs at the Alabama Farmers Federation's 39th Commodity Producers Conference Aug. 4-6 in Huntsville.

Talladega County farmer Bob Luker said it's hard to leave the farm for three days, but he always learns something at the conference he can use back home.

"I get to interact with other people who do the same things I do and who enjoy the same things I do," Luker said. "To use a new term, I get to 'network' and see what works and what doesn't work. It keeps me sharp." The conference began Thursday night with a banquet featuring entertainment by the East Lawrence High School FFA Quartet and the Arab High School FFA String Band. Friday, farmers set out for tours across north Alabama and southern Tennessee. Stops included livestock and row crop farms, a commercial apple orchard and a manufacturing plant that produces wood pellets to fuel heaters.

This was the first commodity conference for Eugene Blair of Chambers County. He talked about his experience while touring a Tennessee farm that uses sour mash from the Jack Daniel's Distillery to feed beef and dairy cattle. "I am interested in seeing how things are done in other places and seeing if I can get anything to take back to the farm and help me," he said. "Even though there is a lot of difference in soil type and climate, there may be something I can use."

Shelby County farmer Pat Nelson shared Blair's interest in the livestock farms they toured.

"If you can pick up one idea you can use, that makes it worthwhile," Nelson said.

Saturday morning, farmers attended workshops on topics ranging from fertilizer prices and government regulations to farmers markets and forage varieties. A highlight of the conference was a seminar on Alabama's new immigration law (see story on page 14). In the afternoon, nationally recognized speaker Jolene Brown challenged farm families to communicate better and plan for the future so their businesses will survive.

"We need to become business-first families," Brown said during her three-hour workshop. "When we do, we become more productive."

Meanwhile, the Federation's Young Farmers and Women's Leadership divisions hosted competitive events Saturday aimed at recognizing excellence in agriculture and spotlighting farm commodities (stories on pages 7 and 8).

The conference finale was a banquet featuring U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville. In discussing the recent battle over raising America's debt ceiling, the congressman challenged Federation members to get involved in the legislative process.

"I urge you, whichever party you are a member of, please help America by studying these public policy issues, by learning about economics, by joining an organization such as this one, and by acting together in concert so that we can properly address this problem at the Washington level," Brooks said. "If you will do your part and if people around the country will do their part, in conjunction, we can meet this challenge."



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