More than 1,200 Alabama Farmers Federation members gathered in Montgomery Dec. 7-8 for the organization’s 93rd annual meeting. The event, held at the Montgomery Convention Center, included elections, awards presentations, an agriculture issues briefing, fundraisers and guest speakers.
“This meeting is valuable because of the information we can take back to our farms and our counties to make agriculture better as a whole,” said Blount County Farmers Federation board member Tim Whitley. “Visiting with producers from across the state always means we learn how to do something to better our own operations.”
Newly re-elected Gov. Robert Bentley headlined the opening general session Dec. 7. Bentley has perfect attendance at annual meetings since he was first elected in 2010.
“All that farmers do, you help our state, and I want to thank the Farmers Federation for supporting me to make this state better,” Bentley said. “Farmers are the greatest people in the world. You have to live by faith every day. But most importantly, you love the people you serve, and you feed us all.”
Following Bentley’s remarks, the Service to Agriculture Award was presented to Jim Bannon, the retired outlying units director for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. This award is the Federation’s highest honor. A concert from Grammy Award-winning artist Ronnie Milsap concluded the first day.
The next morning, outstanding leaders and county Federations were recognized.
Bill Easterling of Barbour County and Faye Williams of Dale County were honored with an Individual Leader Award for Outstanding Local and Community Service. Sarah Lazzari of Baldwin County received an Individual Award for outstanding work on the Women’s Leadership Committee.
Senior Leader Awards, honoring Federation members for long-time service, went to Joe Adams of Bullock County, Cloyce Hammonds of Calhoun County, Frankie Davis of Dale County, Frank Hughes of Jackson County, Tom Ingram of Lee County, John Dorrill of Pike County and Ronnie Mobley of Winston County.
Federations in Blount, Calhoun, Coffee, Jefferson, Lee, Mobile, Montgomery and Tallapoosa counties were honored with the organization’s Award for Excellence for overall achievement in organization, agricultural programs, governmental programs, and Young Farmers and Women’s Leadership programs.
Choctaw Sun-Advocate Publisher and Managing Editor Dee Ann Campbell accepted the Communications Award for the newspaper’s outstanding coverage of farming and agricultural issues. The Cultivator Award was presented to Steve Jenkins, retired chief of field operations division for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
Outstanding county Women’s Leadership Committees were honored at the Women’s Leadership Luncheon. Winners were Division 1, Butler County; Division 2, Elmore County; Division 3, Mobile County; and Most Improved, Lawrence County.
The State Women’s Leadership Committee collected 2,955 pounds of pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House, the most in the history of the collection. For the fourth year, the Elmore County Women’s Leadership Committee received the “Most Pop Tabs Collected” award. The group turned in 592 pounds.
Outstanding Young Farmer County Committees were recognized during the Young Farmer dinner. Winners were Division 1, Tallapoosa County; Division 2, Blount County; and Division 3, Calhoun County.
The agriculture issues briefing included a farm bill panel with agriculture experts and a discussion on tax legislation.
Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour provided the closing keynote address at the third general session. Now a lobbyist with a firm he cofounded in 1987, Barbour said the results of the 2014 election showed the American people are ready to give the Republican Party a chance.
“The people looked at Washington and didn’t like what they saw,” Barbour said. “Republicans understand how often needless regulation hurts business, the economy and agriculture. Congress needs to get the job done and stay focused.”
Young Farmers contest winners were recognized to conclude the meeting. For more about the Outstanding Young Farm Family, Excellence in Agriculture and Discussion Meet competitions, see page 9.
Other meeting highlights included fundraising events for the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation.
Former Auburn University head coach Pat Dye spoke at the Foundation breakfast and donated items for a live auction. Phil Slay of Chambers County placed the winning $425 bid on one of Dye’s Japanese maple trees, and Jim Cravey of Covington County bid $1,100 to win a quail hunt at Dye’s Crooked Oaks Hunting Preserve in Notasulga.
County organizations donated more than 100 items for the Foundation’s silent auction. The auctions and other donations raised almost $13,000 for the Foundation, which supports agriculture education through scholarship programs and sponsoring agriculture activities.