More than 1,300 members of the Alabama Farmers Federation took time to reflect on their heritage and discuss the future during the organization’s 92nd annual meeting Dec. 5-6 in Montgomery.
The convention theme, “Our Heritage, Our Future,” was the backdrop for farmers who considered policy changes, discussed agricultural issues, held elections and honored outstanding leaders and young farmers at the Montgomery Convention Center.
“I guess that’s the main thing we come for – is to know we’re voting for the leadership of the Farmers Federation,” said Cleburne County Farmers Federation First Vice President Jimmy Jimmerson. “We have good leadership now; we just want to keep good leadership — those people who help the Farmers Federation.”
Caroline Batcheldor of Russell County attended her 65th annual meeting.
“I always enjoy this meeting because I see people I’ve known since we started the Women’s Committee years ago,” she said. “This is a beautiful place to come, and it’s so convenient.”
The first meeting day included a general session where L.O. Bishop of Colbert County received the 2013 Service to Agriculture Award, the Federation’s highest honor. That night, attendees enjoyed the Roots and Boots Concert by Joe Diffie, Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin.
Following comments by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, the Federation honored outstanding leaders at its morning general session Dec. 6.
The Cherokee County Herald and its editor, Terry Dean, received the Federation’s Agricultural Communications Award for the newspaper’s outstanding farm coverage.
Guy Goodson of the Houston County Farmers Federation received an Individual Leader Award for Outstanding Local and Community Service. Jewel Griffin of Pike County, Jo Anne C. Laney of Russell County and Sharon Wilson of Talladega County received Individual Leader Awards for outstanding work on their Women’s Leadership Committees.
Senior Leader Awards, honoring Federation members for long-time service, went to James Powell of Autauga County, Gerald Willis of Calhoun County, Jimmie Harrison Jr. of Chilton County and James Brady of Perry County.
Federations in Baldwin, Blount, Dale, Lee and Mobile 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.
During the Women’s Leadership Luncheon, outstanding county committees were honored. Winners were: Division 1, Russell County; Division 2, Lee County; and Division 3, Calhoun County. Butler County was recognized as the Most Improved Women’s Leadership Committee.
Members of the Elmore County Women’s Leadership Committee were recognized for collecting the most aluminum pop tabs (437 pounds) for the Ronald McDonald House. Collectively, county committees turned in 2,317 pounds of pop tabs for the charity.
In addition to the awards program, farmers discussed the nation’s political landscape.
“To tell you things in Washington are difficult is an understatement,” said Don Parrish, American Farm Bureau Federation senior director of regulatory relations. “Only about 35 congressional districts face significant opposition in 2014. We are seeing agricultural districts evaporate before our eyes, which makes it difficult to reach consensus.”
Parrish said this political environment makes it important to preserve the “iron triangle” of conservation, nutrition and farm programs in the farm bill, rather than splitting the individual components of the bill. Ag leaders hope to have a new farm bill later this month.
At the closing general session, former U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, received the Federation’s inaugural Cultivator Award recognizing him for nearly 30 years of service as a congressional staffer and congressman.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., addressed attendees at the closing session and thanked farmers for their work. The selection of Alabama’s Outstanding Young Farm Family (OYFF) concluded the meeting. For more about the OYFF see page 8 of this issue.
Other highlights of the meeting included a silent auction and shotgun raffle for the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation that raised more than $18,000. The foundation supports charitable educational and scientific endeavors related to agriculture including Alabama Ag in the Classroom and Federation scholarships.
The 2014 annual meeting will be in Montgomery, Dec. 7-9.