Jimmy Parnell of Chilton County, a fifth-generation farmer who raises timber and beef cattle, was elected president of the Alabama Farmers Federation during the organization’s 91st annual meeting in Montgomery, Dec. 2-3.
Parnell, 48, served on the Federation’s state board of directors from 1999-2008, was chairman of the Federation’s State Young Farmers Committee in 1997 and has served as president of the Chilton County Farmers Federation since 2006.
He said it’s an honor to represent Alabama farm families as the Federation works to strengthen agriculture’s position as the state’s largest industry.
“I’m humbled by the support I received from farmers across Alabama,” Parnell said following his election. “I look forward to representing them as we work with elected officials, government agencies and other farm organizations to protect the families who grow our food and fiber. For 91 years, the Alabama Farmers Federation has worked to improve the way of life for all Alabamians. I’m excited about the opportunity to build on the foundation established by farmers who started this organization.”
Joining Parnell as new leaders of the state’s largest farm organization are Southeast Area Vice President George Jeffcoat of Houston County and North Area Vice President Rex Vaughn of Madison County. Parnell, Jeffcoat and Vaughn were elected during the Federation’s Dec. 3 business session, where 500 delegates from Alabama’s 67 counties cast their votes.
Other elections held during the session included board of director seats for Districts 1, 4, 7 and 10, and chairmen positions for the state Women’s Leadership and Young Farmers committees.
Brian Glenn of Lawrence County was elected to the District 1 board of directors seat, which includes Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Marion and Walker counties.
Don Allison of Winston County was elected to the District 4 seat, a rotating position in that district. District 4 includes Blount, Cullman, Marshall and Winston counties.
Meanwhile, Elmore County row crop farmer Richard Edgar retained the District 7 seat representing Chambers, Coosa, Elmore, Lee, Macon, Russell and Tallapoosa counties.
Coffee County peanut producer Carl Sanders of Brundidge was re-elected to the District 10 board seat. That district includes Barbour, Bullock, Coffee, Covington, Crenshaw and Pike counties.
In addition to election of leaders for the Young Farmers and Women’s Leadership committees, outstanding committees in both divisions were recognized.
During the Women’s Leadership Committee luncheon, Outstanding County Awards went to Division 1, Monroe County; Division 2, Talladega County; and Division 3, Calhoun County. The Most Improved County Award went to Marion County. Elmore County was recognized for collecting the most pop tabs (574 pounds) for the Ronald McDonald Houses in Birmingham and Mobile. Women’s Leadership Committees from Alabama collected 1,954 pounds of pop tabs this year. Money raised through the collections benefit families who stay at the houses when their children are ill.
During the Young Farmers dinner, three outstanding counties were recognized. Those counties were Division 1, Dallas County; Division 2, Blount County; and Division 3, Montgomery County.
Nearly 1,400 members welcomed Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley during the opening general session of the meeting. Bentley expressed gratitude to those at the conference for working to feed Alabama, America and the world.
“We cannot live without our farmers and the products you grow, and we want to help your industry prosper,” Bentley said. “We need our farmers to be successful. Understand you have my support, and I look forward to working with you in the future.”
Bentley thanked Federation members for success in last year’s legislative session, including passage of an irrigation incentives bill and a bill promoting the relationship between farmers and school food services.
Following Bentley’s remarks, winners were announced in two Young Farmers contests. Sarah Butterworth of Etowah County won the Excellence in Agriculture competition. Andrew Brock of Marshall County won the Discussion Meet, and Jon Hegeman of Calhoun County was named first alternate.
The opening day of the conference ended with a concert by Grammy award-winning artist Dwight Yoakam at the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre.
The second day of the session began with farmers attending a breakfast that benefitted the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation. The breakfast, along with a silent auction conducted by the Young Farmers Division, raised nearly $21,000 for the foundation.
The Geneva County Reaper was honored during the annual meeting with the Federation’s Communications Award for print journalism. Newspaper Editor Jay Felsberg accepted the award, which is given annually to a media outlet that does an outstanding job of covering farm and agricultural news.
Ozark watercolor artist Jack DeLoney received a standing ovation from Federation members when the famous painter of farm scenes received the Federation’s Image of Agriculture Award.
The session also included individual and county awards for Federation members for work in various program areas. Nine county Federation presidents from across the state accepted the Award for Excellence, which is the highest recognition a county Federation can receive and recognizes its achievement in organization, the Young Farmers and Women’s Leadership programs, commodity work and governmental affairs. Those awards were presented to David Bitto, Baldwin County; Russell Wiggins, Covington County; Phillip Garrison, Cullman County; Jerry Byrd, Dale County; Richard Edgar, Elmore County; George Jeffcoat, Houston County; W.D. Flowers, Montgomery County; Jimmy Fetner, Randolph County; and Rick Smith, St. Clair County.
Individual Leader awards were presented to Lamar Dewberry of Clay County, Sue Walters of Etowah County, Doug Sinquefield of Houston County and Karen Wyatt of Shelby County. Dewberry and Sinquefield received awards for local and community service, while Walters and Wyatt received awards for outstanding service to their county Women’s Leadership committees.
Political strategist Karl Rove addressed a room full of farmers during the closing session of the annual meeting. Rove focused on problems with the economy, including the short- and long-term effects of Congress and the administration not reaching an agreement on several tax issues before Jan. 1.
“I’m not an optimist about us solving the fiscal cliff problem before we go over it,” said Rove. “We’ll solve it, but it’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna hurt that we don’t get it done in the right way, and it’s gonna hurt that we don’t get it done at the right time. However, I’ll be honest... I’m concerned about the short term, I’m worried about the long term; but I’m fundamentally optimistic in the American people and their ability to deal with this. We’re people who came from nothing and made something grand and beautiful.”
The final business session of the annual meeting ended when Jon and Amy Hegeman of Calhoun County were named Alabama’s Outstanding Young Farm Family. The Hegemans manage eight acres of greenhouses and an equine farm near their home in Anniston.
Following the meeting, a reception was held to honor newly elected president Jimmy Parnell and his family.
The 92nd annual meeting will be Dec. 5-6, 2013 (Thursday and Friday) in Montgomery.
See pages 5-8 of this issue for additional photos from the 91st annual meeting.