Federation Commodity Committees Set Priorities
More than 650 farmers gathered in Montgomery Feb. 2-4 for the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Commodity Organizational Conference. Producers representing 15 commodities met to chart the direction for their respective state committees and to elect committee members. Much of the focus turned to politics, however, as the Legislature began its regular session that same week.Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, who serves as chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, spoke to farmers at the Feb. 4 meeting and offered encouragement about the passage of the Family Farm Preservation Act. “We will pass the Family Farm Preservation Act,” Little said. “I’m going to sponsor it in the Senate, and I will do everything I can to see that it passes.” Little encouraged Federation members to personally contact their legislators regarding that bill and other proposed legislation, saying their voice carries the most weight. “That’s where your strength really lies as a grassroots organization,” Little said. “We pay attention to lobbyists when they talk, but your senator and representative really pay attention when they get a call from their voters back home.”Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, serves as chairman of the House Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Committee. He spoke to farmers during the Feb. 2 session where he promised to seek more trade opportunities for Alabama farmers.During breakout sessions, the farmers discussed topics at the forefront of their respective commodities. An overview of those discussions follows:Bee & Honey producers discussed pest management, the effects of the Federal Bioterrorism Act on honey producers, country-of-origin labeling, trade issues, the effect of bee pollination on cotton, and promotional ideas.Beef producers held lengthy discussions about BSE, electronic identification in cattle and the Alabama Beef Connection. The group also discussed the recent ban of poultry litter as cattle feed.Catfish producers talked about checkoff funded research by Auburn University, regulatory and trade issues, the future of the Alabama Fish Farming Center and new rules regarding management of predatory birds.Cotton producers discussed conservation, precision agriculture, the Boll Weevil Eradication Program, and the use of poultry litter in cotton production. They also viewed a Cotton Inc., research video and heard a report from the Alabama Cotton Commission.Dairy producers discussed the market outlook and economic opportunities of their commodity, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, electronic identification in cattle and the Mobile Dairy Classroom.Forestry members discussed legislative issues affecting forest owners and the budget needs of the Alabama Forestry Commission.Greenhouse Nursery & Sod producers discussed energy prices, invasive plants, an economic impact study of Alabama’s green industry, fee increases proposed by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and water resource issues.Hay & Forage producers discussed profitability and controlling input costs and the importance of nutrient testing.Horticulture growers reviewed marketing efforts by the Alabama Department of Agriculture, discussed risk management options, received an update on the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and discussed labor issues and research initiatives.Meat Goat & Sheep producers talked about plans for implementing the goat and sheep checkoff and parasite control, and they developed a comprehensive plan for their 2004 goals and initiatives.Pork producers discussed their checkoff program, niche marketing, producer education and the Swine Welfare Assurance Program.Poultry growers discussed energy costs and poultry health issues such as the recent LT outbreak in north Alabama. They also heard an overview of the outbreak of Exotic New Castle disease in California, and discussed regulatory and conservation issues and poultry research.Soybean commodity leaders discussed a new biodiesel project in Madison County as well as research projects and variety field tests.Wheat & Feed Grains leaders discussed research and plant variety protection issues, heard a report about the checkoff program, discussed involvement in the National Association of Wheat Growers, and discussed Home Grown–an agricultural awareness program.Wildlife producers heard news about Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources programs, reviewed the Outdoor Alabama television show, sponsored in part by Alfa, and discussed wildlife issues from throughout the state.Alabama Peanut Producers held its annual meeting Feb. 13 in Andalusia where producers discussed state and national legislative issues, research activities, farm economics and promotional efforts.