News Federation’s 86th Annual Meeting Takes Stand For Tomorrow’s Leaders

Federation’s 86th Annual Meeting Takes Stand For Tomorrow’s Leaders

Federation’s 86th Annual Meeting Takes Stand For Tomorrow’s Leaders
December 29, 2007 |

Alabama’s young farmers, hailed as the future of Alabama’s farming industry, were honored during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 86th Annual Meeting Dec. 1-3 as about 1,500 members of the state’s largest general farm organization gathered in Mobile.In selecting “Today’s Promise, Tomorrow’s Strength” as the theme of this year’s meeting, the Federation — an affiliate of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) — marked the climax of a year-long tribute to the 50th anniversary of its Young Farmers program. The program, which got its start as the Farm Bureau Young People on Jan. 7, 1957, has helped develop scores of leaders for Alabama agriculture, including Federation President Jerry A. Newby, who chaired the program in 1977, as well as numerous other past and present members of the Federation’s Board of Directors.Marvin Kelley, an 18-year-old 4-H officer from Etowah County who read the resolution that birthed the program more than five decades ago, was honored at a special Young Farmers 50th Anniversary Reception and was recognized as a guest speaker during the closing general session.Another guest was Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who touched on the value of farmers — and the importance of the farm bill — during a brief appearance.”You know the soil. You know the earth of this state and out of that soil and out of the farm community of Alabama has come our character and our values,” Sessions told attendees at the Saturday night opening session. “I give my best effort every day to represent the highest and best of those values that I was raised with, and that’s the way I try to cast my vote, having grown up in the country and gone barefoot and swam in the creek and fed the chickens, I know a little bit about how this state was formed, and I really think that your influence — politically and morally and culturally — is greater than you think because your children are all over the state. They may be in the cities, but their background and hearts are still in rural Alabama.”Soon after his return to Washington, the Senate passed its version of the 2007 farm bill, 79-14 — more votes than any other farm bill since 1973. Differences between this bill and the House-passed farm bill will now be worked out in conference.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman hailed the measure as containing “important provisions for all sectors of agriculture.””We are going to have a farm bill,” said Sessions. “We have always had a farm bill. In fact, the Senate farm bill is pretty good. I think it’s a good bill.”Newby, who was re-elected without opposition in 2006 to his fifth two-year term as leader of Alabama’s largest farm organization, also presided over the Monday afternoon voting delegate business session in which almost 500 voting delegates elected new officers and board members.The election process saw Jake Harper, a Wilcox County cattle and timber farmer, and cattle producer Dean Wysner of Randolph County re-elected without opposition. Harper serves as vice president of the Federation’s southwest Alabama region, while Wysner is vice president of the central region.Row crop and cattle farmer Steve Dunn of Conecuh County was also re-elected as secretary-treasurer of the 433,700-member organization.Elections were held for four district board positions, which have three-year terms. Cotton, grain and pumpkin farmer Steve Tate, who serves as president of the Madison County Farmers Federation, was elected to represent District 2, which includes Limestone, Morgan and Madison counties. He succeeds board member Stanley Usery of Athens.Also newly elected to the board was Pat Buck, a soybean and cattle farmer who serves as president of the Sumter County Farmers Federation. Buck will represent District 8, which includes Choctaw, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Marengo, Perry, Pickens and Sumter counties. He succeeds board member Leo Allen, president of the Choctaw County Farmers Federation.Tuscaloosa row crop farmer John E. Walker III was re-elected to represent District 5, which includes Lamar, Fayette, Tuscaloosa, Bibb and Jefferson counties. Baldwin County Farmers Federation President and row crop farmer David Bitto was re-elected to the board’s District 11 seat, which includes Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe and Washington counties.
Elected to one-year, ex-officio terms on the state board were Women’s Committee Chairman Delle Bean of Calhoun County, and State Young Farmers Chairman Will Gilmer of Lamar County.Ron Sparks, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries, was presented the Federation’s highest award — the Service to Agriculture Award — for his efforts in raising public awareness of the role Alabama farmers play in helping feed, clothe and shelter America.”Commissioner Sparks showed early on that he has a proactive leadership style,” Newby said. “He doesn’t believe in waiting for a call to come and help. Usually by the time you figure out there’s a problem, he’s already on his way to help you solve it.
“As Commissioner, he’s proven to be a friend to consumers in Alabama. His demands for increased testing of imported seafood showed what many of us had suspected — that some foreign countries were shipping potentially dangerous, chemically tainted food to our grocery stores and restaurants. He led the nation in increasing awareness of this issue and, upon proving his suspicions, wasn’t afraid to point a finger at government bureaucrats who were falling down on their jobs. That’s one of the characteristics that he’s become known for — he calls it like he sees it.”Luke Slaton, longtime owner and publisher of The Moulton Advertiser, was presented the Federation’s Communications Award. Slaton, a past president of the Alabama Press Association, began his newspaper career at his family’s newspaper in 1971. The Advertiser, which was founded in 1828 and acquired in January 1946 by Luke Slaton’s parents, was sold to the owners of The Decatur Daily in October.County awards were also presented for various commodities, communications, Young Farmers, Women’s Committees, and leadership. Dr. F. Bailey Norwood of Oklahoma State University also addressed farmers in a seminar on animal welfare issues and how they can affect the future of agriculture.In other business, Jessie Hobbs of Limestone County was elected vice chairman of the state Young Farmers Committee and Jeff Maze of Blountsville was elected secretary. Webb Holmes of Perry County was re-elected to his District 5 post, and Colby Willoughby of Houston County was re-elected to represent South Alabama at large. Samuel Prim of Houston County was the only newly elected committee member and will represent District 7.Joy Noble of Macon County was elected vice-chairman of the state Women’s Committee and Gloria Jeffcoat of Houston County was elected secretary. Debra Bowen of Randolph County was re-elected to the committee, and Debbie Freeland of Mobile County was the only newly elected committee member.

View Related Articles