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Neighbors A Publication of the Alabama Farmers Federation

VOLUME 37, NUMBER 2

FEBRUARY 2012

Innovative Thinking Ben Bowden doesn’t really look at how things are. From the start of his farming career, he chose to look at what they could be. • 16

Engaging Ways Alabama Farmers Federation members joined nearly 7,500 farmers from throughout the country at the 93rd annual American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. • 5

Bullish Cattle Prices Alabama farmers are enjoying record-high prices

ON THE COVER Ben and Mary Ann Bowden of Russell County enjoy life on the farm where they raised their children and crops. The Bowdens are legendary for utilizing research, technology and hard work to make their farm a success. Photo by Debra Davis

for the cattle they raise, but the prices are tempered by record-high input costs. • 12

Spreading Good News A new peanut butter plant in Pike County means more jobs for the area and more opportunities for

DEPARTMENTS 4

President’s Message

26

Alabama Gardener

28

Country Kitchen

30

Classifieds

peanut farmers. • 24

NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

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VOLUME 37, NUMBER 2

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Labor has not announced its plans or those of us who grew up on a regarding the rule change since the farm, the lessons learned workpublic comment period closed Dec. ing alongside our parents, sib1, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack lings and neighbors are invaluable. told Farm Bureau members at the The fields and pastures of our AFBF annual meeting last month youth are where we developed qualithat he has encouraged the Labor ties like resourcefulness, stewardDepartment to clarify the intent of ship, perseverance, teamwork and the proposed rule and reassure farmthe satisfaction in a job well done. ers that it would not interfere with But for many of us, it’s also where their ability to pass along farm skills we learned to drive both tractors and and values to their children. nails, mend fences and relationships Many of us in agriculture, howand build stronger barns and famiever, remain concerned. Despite the lies. Labor Department’s exemption for Today, however, the opportunity children who work for their for children to learn these parents, there are still many skills and values on the instances when children farm is under attack. Last would be prohibited from September, the U.S. Departworking on a farm. Summer ment of Labor proposed jobs like picking produce, changes to child labor reguscouting cotton, mowing grass lations for agriculture that or hauling hay could become would limit our children’s illegal activities. Children ability to operate machinJerry Newby would not be able to work for ery, work with livestock their uncles, cousins, grandparents, and perform other routine jobs on and neighbors or possibly even a the farm. corporation solely owned by their The Department of Labor claims parents. Furthermore, FFA memthe new rules were necessary to bers who are required to complete protect children from farm acciSupervised Agricultural Experiences dents. The proposal, however, goes (SAE) could see their youth leaderfar beyond reasonable safety precauship activities impeded because they tions and oversteps the department’s could not do farm work. authority. For instance, the proposal This kind of regulation flies in would prohibit youth under 16 from the face of individual liberty and working in any job that involves the could have devastating consequencuse of power tools — even a batteryes. powered screwdriver. Throughout America, some of our The American Farm Bureau best leaders and most productive citiFederation, of which the Alabama zens got their start on the farm. It is Farmers Federation is a member, where they learned about hard work, responded to this ill-advised plan by integrity and faith. As a nation, we filing comments on the behalf of 70 need to encourage children to work agricultural organizations challengand develop responsibility — not ing the application of the proposed criminalize these activities. rule, as well as the Department of We are proud to be part of the Labor’s authority to implement it. In American Farm Bureau as it leads addition, about 150 U.S. representathe charge to defeat this rule, and tives and 30 U.S. senators signed we appreciate our representatives letters to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and senators joining the fight. We expressing opposition to the rule. Among those were U.S. Reps. Robert urge our congressional delegation to remain vigilant against this type Aderholt, Spencer Bachus, Mike Rogers and Martha Roby of Alabama, of regulatory intrusion and to reject attempts that undermine the ability as well as U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of of families to pass along farm values Alabama. Although the Department of to their children. n w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

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Debra Davis, Editor Mike Moody, Graphic Designer ALABAMA FARMERS FEDERATION Paul Pinyan, Executive Director Jeff Helms, Director of Communications FEDERATION OFFICERS Jerry Newby, President, Athens Hal Lee, Vice President/North, Hartselle Dean Wysner, Vice President/Central, Woodland Ricky Wiggins, Vice President/Southeast, Andalusia Jake Harper, Vice President/Southwest, Camden Steve Dunn, Secretary-Treasurer, Evergreen DIRECTORS Joe Dickerson, Lexington Ted Grantland, Somerville Waymon Buttram, Geraldine Darrel Haynes, Cullman John E. Walker III, Berry Dell Hill, Alpine Richard Edgar, Deatsville Dickie Odom, Boligee Garry Henry, Hope Hull Carl Sanders, Brundidge David Bitto, Elberta S. Steve Dunn, Samson Rita Garrett, Centre John Bitto, Elberta Neighbors (ISSN 0162-3974) is published monthly by the Alabama Farmers Federation, 2108 East South Boulevard, Montgomery, Alabama 36116 or (334) 288-3900. For information about member benefits of the Alabama Farmers Federation, visit the Web site www.AlfaFarmers.org. Periodicals postage paid at Montgomery, Alabama, and additional mailing offices. Printed in the U.S.A. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Neighbors, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, Alabama 36191-0001. ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVE: Wendy McFarland, McFarland AdVantage, 133 Bridlewood Lane, Hope Hull, AL 36043. Phone: (334) 652-9080. Email: mcfarlandadvantage@gmail.com. Classified ad and editorial inquiries should be directed to the editor at (334) 613-4410. ADVERTISING DISCLAIMER: Ad­vertise­­­­­­­ ments contained in Neighbors do not represent an endorsement by the magazine or the Alabama Farmers Federation. EDITORIAL MATTER from sources outside of the Alabama Farmers Federation is sometimes presented for the information and interest of our members. Such material may, or may not, coincide with official Alabama Farmers Federation policies. Publication of material does not necessarily imply its endorsement by the Alabama Farmers Federation. ADDRESS editorial, advertising and change of address correspondence to Neighbors, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, Alabama 36191-0001. www.AlfaFarmers.org A member of American Farm Bureau Federation NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

Farmers Urged To Be Advocates For Agriculture At AFBF Convention By Jeff Helms

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espite setting records in 2011 for net farm income, American Farm Bureau Federation President (AFBF) Bob Stallman told 7,500 farm leaders gathered for the annual convention in Honolulu that agriculture will be challenged by increasing regulations, a tight federal budget and growing scrutiny of food production methods during 2012. “We no longer see our success primarily in Congress or the courtroom,” Stallman said during his opening address Sunday. “We must engage directly with the consumer as an industry in ways we haven’t before. And while we must fully engage in this ongoing national dialogue about food and the devoted care we take when we grow it, we must also never ever forget to listen.” Limestone County young farmer Stan Usery, who represented Alabama in the AFBF Discussion Meet competition, seemed ready to accept Stallman’s challenge to be an advocate for agriculture as he participated in a committee-style debate on the public’s view of animal agriculture. “It all starts with us,” Usery said. “We have to connect to our neighbors and consumers on a personal level. We have science on our side. The problem with that is science is not what they respond to.... I feel that it is our responsibility as producers and members of the ag community to be open and honest about how and why we produce the safest, most affordable meat products while also doing this in the most humane way possible.” Usery was one of three Alabama young farmers who earned the right to compete in a national contest in Hawaii. Jena Perry, an agriscience teacher at Southern Choctaw County High School, represented Alabama in the Excellence in Agriculture contest, and OutstandNEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

Above, Rob and Angie McHugh and their sons, Cove and Ridge, meet convention participants at the AFBF annual meeting in Hawaii. McHugh and the St. Clair County Young Farmers won a national County Award of Excellence for the garden they planted at the Big Oak Boys and Girls Ranch. Left, Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby, right, is greeted by American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman during the AFBF Annual Meeting in Honolulu.

ing Young Farm Family Jeremy and Lindsey Brown of Montgomery County competed for the AFBF Achievement Award. Alabama Farmers Federation Board Member Garry Henry, also of Montgomery County, congratulated the Browns for winning Alabama’s contest and praised them for their interest in teaching others about agriculture. “We are extremely proud of Jeremy and Lindsey. They represented us well, and we hope we can continue to get other young farmers involved,” Henry said. As for Henry, he said the AFBF 5

annual convention is a great opportunity for Alabama farmers to share ideas with their peers across the country. “I think the most important thing about this convention is that we get to network with other folks from other states and get an idea of what’s going on in their world,” Henry said. “We tend to have some of the same issues, so we can seek out solutions for our problems if they’ve had that same issue and been successful.” Many of the challenges farmers like Henry are facing have to do with efforts by the Obama administration to increase regulations on everything from dust to the kinds of jobs a farm kid can do when helping his or her parents. “According to information released by the Small Business w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

Limestone County farmer Stan Usery, left, talks about the need to educate the public about animal agriculture during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Discussion Meet in Hawaii. Usery won the state discussion meet at the Federation’s annual meeting in December and represented Alabama in the contest.

Administration, one of every three dollars earned by Americans goes to pay for or comply with federal laws and regulations,” Stallman said. “Of course, the costs are not shared evenly. They fall hard on the backs of small businesses — like our family owned farms and ranches.” Stallman pledged that AFBF would continue to fight those regulations at the agency level as well as in the courts. He said farmers across the country should especially be concerned about efforts to regulate farms near the Chesapeake Bay because success there could set a precedent for increased regulation in watersheds across the country. Stallman asked voting delegates at the convention to give AFBF “clear direction” regarding the 2012 farm bill, which could see cuts of $30 to $50 billion as Congress looks to balance the budget. Voting delegates set the tone for their business session early when they approved a resolution calling on Congress to balance the budget and begin reducing the federal debt by 2019. Agricultural programs are intended to help farmers deal with big challenges they cannot handle w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

alone, as opposed to providing guarantees against small reductions in annual revenue, Stallman said. Meanwhile, Stallman praised farmers for their hard work and dedication to the values that made America strong. He received rousing applause when he contrasted farmers to groups protesting in major cities. “Across our land, Farm Bureau members are occupying the farm fields, the pastures, the livestock barns,” Stallman said. “We are occupying the orchards and the vineyards. We are occupying the combine, and, yes, even the saddle. Ours is an occupation of production.... Our success makes everything else in our great nation possible — including the pitching of tents and the shouting of protest slogans.”

Throughout his address, Stallman challenged the farmers to build on their success by — as Usery advocated — talking to their neighbors and friends. “It’s impossible to ignore a mobilized group of grassroots farm leaders,” he said. ”You see what needs to be done, you involve others around you, and together, we get the job done. From the environment...to the economy, trade and jobs, we have a great story to tell.” During the AFBF Annual Meeting, the Alabama Farmers Federation was recognized with five Awards of Excellence in the areas of Leadership Development, Member Services, Policy Implementation, Agricultural Education and Promotion and Public Relations. The St. Clair County Young Farmers received a County Award of Excellence for its work in establishing and caring for a vegetable garden at the Big Oak Boys and Girls Ranch. Rob and Angie McHugh of St. Clair County received a trip to Hawaii to man an exhibit booth, where they visited with convention attendees about the project. The 2013 AFBF Annual Meeting is slated for Nashville, Tenn. n

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke at the meeting. He announced 250 USDA offices will be closed, including one in Dothan. 6

NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

Tight Budgets, Immigration Law Changes Await Legislators By Jeff Helms

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hen the Alabama Legislature convenes Feb. 7, the Alabama Farmers Federation will be looking to preserve crucial funding for agriculture as lawmakers work to address a projected shortfall of at least $400 million in the general fund budget and about $100 million in the Education Trust Fund budget. “Last year the Department of Agriculture and Industries and other state agencies were forced to lay off workers due to proration and subsequent budget cuts,” said Federation Assistant Director of Governmental and Agricultural Programs Brian Hardin. “Although the economy is showing signs of improvement, the rising cost of Medicaid and state prisons will force legislators to make tough budget decisions. The Federation’s focus will be to make sure the agencies and programs that impact farmers do not receive more than their fair share of the cuts.” In the general fund budget, the Federation seeks to preserve funding for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to offset the cost of the EPA-mandated Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation program, and to provide state matching funds for the expansion of on-farm irrigation through the federal Agricultural Water Enhancement Program. The organization also is supportive of legislation proposed by State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and State Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, that would provide additional incentives for investment in irrigation. Alabama trails other Southeastern

NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

states in on-farm irrigation, which makes farmers more dependent on federal crop disaster programs. Meanwhile, the Federation is working with the Alabama State Department of Education, members of the state school board and others to develop long-range plans to improve and expand career technical education programs in public schools. In recent years, the Federation has been successful in securing funding for the Career Tech Initiative, which includes grant money for agriscience departments. In addition to these budget priorities, the Federation expects the Legislature to explore changes to Alabama’s tough immigration law. “We are encouraged that Gov. Bentley and the Republican leadership are listening to farmers’ concerns and suggestions,” Hardin said. “The Federation has identified several items in the law that could be changed to help farmers maintain access to a legal, reliable workforce. We look forward to working with legislators as they consider improvements to the law.” Federation leaders from throughout the state will have a chance to discuss immigration and other issues with lawmakers during the annual Taste of Alabama legislative reception Feb. 15 in Montgom-

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ery. Among the farmers’ priorities this year are: legislation to further discourage the theft of copper and other valuable metals by increasing accountability at the point of sale; a measure that would protect agritourism operations from liability lawsuits; and legislation requiring that transportation ordinances related to notification of timber harvest be uniform throughout the state. Alfa Insurance and the Federation also support a proposed statewide ban on texting and driving. Meanwhile, the Federation is closely monitoring the reapportionment of Alabama’s legislative districts, which could diminish rural representation due to population shifts from urban centers into surrounding areas. In addition, the Federation is following the work of Alabama’s Constitutional Revision Commission, which already has reviewed two articles of the constitution and recommended changes to the Legislature. “The Federation has long supported the article-by-article approach to constitution revision,” said Federation Director of Agricultural Legislation David Cole. “We expect the commission’s recommendations regarding the banking and railroad titles to receive strong support in the Legislature. However, there is pressure by some for the commission to take up the article dealing with home rule earlier than originally scheduled. We will be watching to see that limited home rule laws are preserved without allowing for the creation of a patchwork of different regulations throughout the state or taking away the right to vote on important issues like taxation and zoning. n

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Federation Welcomes New Staff Member, Commodity Realignment By Melissa Martin

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ick Oates has been named director of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Forestry, Wildlife and Catfish Divisions within the Department of Governmental and Agricultural Programs. Oates’ announcement joins the reassignment of duties for other department employees. “I have worked with the Federation staff for nearly 20 years while at the Alabama Forestry Association and the Department of Agriculture,” said Oates, who began his new job Jan. 17. “During this time, I have witnessed the great work done by the Federation staff to represent farmers and forest landowners, and I am thrilled to be joining this team. I look forward to continuing to represent landowners in Alabama as we strive to preserve jobs and the way of life that rural Alabama offers.” Prior to joining the Federation, Oates served as chief of staff for

Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan. He also held several positions with the Alabama Forestry Association including forest resource coordinator, regulatory affairs director and executive director of both the Alabama Loggers Council and Alabama Pulp and Oates Paper Council. A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, Oates received a bachelor’s degree in natural resources from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and a master’s degree in forestry from Auburn University. He and his wife, Kelly, live in Montgomery and have two children: Andrew (15) and Lauren (12). Governmental and Agricultural Programs Director Jimmy Carlisle said he is confident of Oates’ ability

in his new role, adding that he is a welcome addition to the Federation staff. “I am confident that with Rick’s leadership and past experience in the forestry industry, coupled with the relationships he has built with members of the state’s agricultural industry, he will serve our members well,” said Carlisle. Carlisle also announced a realignment of duties for three division directors within the department. Buddy Adamson now serves as director of Cotton, Soybeans and Wheat and Feed Grains Divisions; while Mac Higginbotham serves as director of Bee & Honey, Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod and Horticulture Divisions. Nate Jaeger will serve as director of Beef, Equine, Hay & Forage Crops, and Meat Goat & Sheep. Guy Hall will continue to serve as director of Poultry, Pork and Dairy Divisions. Randy Griggs will continue to serve as director of the Peanut Division. n

VISIT YOUR LOCAL TAG OFFICE TO GET YOUR NEW AG TAG. Support farmers and agricultural education in Alabama by purchasing your “Farming Feeds Alabama’’ license plate today at any license plate issuing office. Each tag may be personalized with up to six characters. Proceeds from the $50 tag fee will support Ag in the Classroom, “Farming Feeds Alabama’’ and agricultural education and information programs for students and consumers. w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

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NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

Reeling In The Facts: Cavanaugh Explores West Alabama Fish Farms By Melissa Martin

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ublic Service Commissioner Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh visited three west Alabama catfish and tilapia farms recently as part of her hands-on quest to learn how energy rates affect farmers’ profitability. Cavanaugh said she hoped the tours would help her understand how farms operate and what can be done to help make Alabama farmers compete on an equal platform with other states. After speaking with aquaculture specialists and catfish farmers, Cavanaugh said she had a great appreciation for what area farmers and experts are doing to benefit the state. “When the government or an elected official can provide resources to a businessman or a farmer who will, in turn, use those resources to provide jobs for others, it’s easy to measure if it’s a good system. And when we have a product that can be exported from the state of Alabama, it helps everybody,” she said. “The exports help our economy, and when you have a strong economy, it makes a better Alabama for everyone.” Federation Director of National Legislative Programs Mitt Walker said he was encouraged by Cavanaugh’s interest in west Alabama farmers. “The Alabama catfish industry continues to be one of the major economic engines of west Alabama,” said Walker. “We believe it is critically important to keep our elected officials abreast of the state of the industry. The tours of aquaculture farms highlighted the importance of reliable and affordable electricity and how vital it is to Alabama catfish farmers.” Providing a first-hand account of the importance of enhancing the state’s catfish industry, Aquaculture Extension Specialists Jesse Chappel and Terry Hanson also attended the farm tours. Cavanaugh

NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

Alongside Alabama Farmers Federation National Legislative Programs Director Mitt Walker (left) Extension Specialist Jesse Chappel (center), and Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh visited three west Alabama catfish and tilapia farms recently to learn how energy rates affect farmers’ profitability.

said she was pleased to discover how influential Auburn University and the College of Agriculture have been in helping Alabama farmers. “Seeing what Auburn is able to do on an active scale, and what they’ve done to improve catfish farmers’ productivity, is fascinating,” remarked Cavanaugh. Encouraged by the facts and figures gained from touring a few farms in the Black Belt, Cavanaugh said she feels more informed by the personal accounts she received in terms of electricity and energy usage on Alabama’s farms than she was by just looking at statistics and data sheets. The education didn’t come without a little jaw-dropping, though. “When one of the catfish farmers talked to me about the price he paid for electricity on the catfish farm and what a large number that 9

was, it was shocking,” said Cavanaugh. “When you look at costs and expenses and the only thing he pays more for than electricity is the food that he feeds his catfish, it’s mind-blowing. These expenses are a major part of the equation when determining if farmers can be profitable.” With energy rates on the rise, farmers continue to look for new and different ways to run their operations, reduce expenses and remain profitable. The top operating expenses for catfish farmers are feed, fingerlings and electricity, Walker said. Cavanaugh, who is running for president of the Alabama Public Service Commission in the upcoming election, has been endorsed by FarmPAC, the political action committee of the Alabama Farmers Federation. n w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

Federation Mourns Loss Of Longtime Leaders

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which helped the soybean business in the Black Belt by providing lime to farmers at a reasonable price. In 1970, Tolar and his family were chosen Alabama’s Outstanding Young Farm Family and in 1975, he was elected vice president of the Alabama Farm Bureau in a statewide election, even though he had never served on the state board. Tolar also was elected as the first State Soybean Committee chairman and continued to serve as vice president of the Federation. Survivors include five sons, James Michael Tolar (Debra) of Gainesville, Fla., Gregory Eugene Tolar (Lori) of Autaugaville, Andrew Frank Tolar (Lisa) of Montgomery, Henry Howard Tolar and Dean Robert Tolar, both of Marion; eight grandchildren; one great grandchild; and a sister, Jewell Tolar Cook (Howard) also of Marion. In lieu of flowers, memori-

als may be made to the American Diabetes Association, 1701 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311. Jones served as Jones president of the Walker County Farmers Federation for 25 years. He was a member of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, Alabama TREASURE Forest and past president of the Walker County Genealogical Society, Inc. He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Sara Ann Adkins Jones, daughters Lisa (James) German and Kathy Jones; a son, Mark Jones; a brother, Steven (Suzanne) Jones; and two grandchildren. The family requests that donations be made to Indian Creek Youth Camp in memory of James Larry Jones. n

IN TR O DU CI NG

wo longtime leaders of the Alabama Farmers Federation passed away in December. Former Federation Vice President Tolar James Albert Tolar Jr. of Marion died Dec. 25. He was 76. Walker County Farmers Federation President James Larry Jones of Oakman died Dec. 30. He was 73. Tolar was one of the longestserving vice presidents of the organization with 28 years to his credit. He was a graduate of Livingston University and a successful farmer. His career encompassed a dairy farm and 5,000 acres of row crops that included soybeans, hay and grain sorghum. He also operated a fertilizer and seed business along with a lime quarry. He founded Tolar Fertilizer and Lime Co.,

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Beef

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By Debra Davis

hen Barbour County cattleman Tom Corcoran walks through his herd of beef cattle, his smile is a little broader than it was just a few years ago. The reason? Record high prices for the cattle he raises. But it doesn’t take long for that smile to fade when he begins calculating how much more things cost him on his farm these days.

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NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

Beef

Throughout the country, ranchers like Corcoran are riding a trend of record-high prices for cow-calf farmers. Prices for a typical 550-pound calf and feeder calves, usually about 750 pounds, have reached a point that if farmers have the land, grass and desire to grow their herds, they can, said Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Division Director Nate Jaeger. However, rather than expanding herd size, some farmers may choose to improve herd quality instead, he said. “From production sales I visited in the fall, there was clearly a sizeable jump in herd bull prices compared with last year, but

NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

Barbour County cattleman Tom Corcoran, left, and Federation Beef Division Director Nate Jaeger discuss strong beef prices that are tempered by high input costs for producers.

replacement female prices did not consistently follow the same trend,” Jaeger said. “This could be because it is taking farmers longer to recover from the drought we experienced a few years ago or because input prices have risen significantly, too, and they’re not as willing to increase fixed costs like they once were. Buying a better bull is a good way to improve a herd, especially if you’re retaining heifers.” Either way, Jaeger said he thinks cattle numbers will stay about the same or a little lower in 2012 compared to 2011, adding that any expansion will be dictated by the weather. “Barring any kind of radical change in our economy or export markets, increased demand coupled with tight supplies will mean cow-calf farmers have a good chance at being profitable again in 2012,” Jaeger said. America’s cattle herd, with an estimated 31 million animals, is the smallest it has been since the 1960s, with additional declines expected when the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases updated numbers.
The latest losses in cattle inventory are a continuation of a 30-year trend, according to USDA reports. In 1980, 37.1 million beef cattle were on farms around the country, USDA reports. Because of the drought in Texas and Kansas, cattle herds could con13

tinue to decline in numbers if dry weather hangs on into summer as most meteorologists predict. Weather affected Alabama cattlemen as well. “Our spotty rain last summer resulted in some areas being drier than they were even in 2008, especially in lower Alabama,” said Jaeger. “That subsequently fueled the liquidation of more cows. The next biggest factor that resulted in lower cattle numbers was increased demand for lean beef. In 2011, more food dollars were spent on ground beef and end cuts rather than steaks and middle meats. This drove cull cow prices to the highest prices farmers have seen in quite some time.” Increased exports of American beef also rose in 2011 with a record $5 billion in exports. But high prices are mitigated by record-high input costs, said Corcoran, who farms with his brother, Walt, and his nephew, Liston Clark. “We pay more for fuel, fertilizer, seed, equipment — everything,” Corcoran said. “We’re really a row crop operation that uses cattle to fill in the gaps. On land where we can’t plant a crop, we run cattle. In the winter, we plant a cover crop like rye or wheat to graze our cattle. That allows us to feed them from the field almost all year long and gives us an advantage over cattlemen in other areas of the country that have to buy grain. “In the past, we saw our cows as a sideline, but they’re a money maker now.” n w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

By Jillian Clair

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he Internet is helping connect consumers to down-home goodness produced by Alabama farmers. MarketMaker is an online marketplace and interactive mapping system that locates businesses and markets of agricultural products in 17 states, providing an important link between producers and consumers. “We encourage farmers to get their profile set up so they can start connecting with customers and others in the industry as soon as possible,” said Mac Higginbotham, the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Horticulture Division director. “This is an easy, free opportunity for farmers to reach consumers and suppliers directly.” MarketMaker was originally developed as an online marketing resource to give Illinois farmers greater access to regional markets by linking them w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

with processors, retailers, consumers and other food supply chain participants. Since its inception, MarketMaker has expanded to become one of the most extensive collections of searchable food industry data in the country, containing nearly 500,000 profiles of farmers and other food-related enterprises in 17 states. “People in other states are really happy with it,” said Bethany Walton, Alabama MarketMaker’s outreach

coordinator. “You’re getting a free marketing tool in addition to help from Extension agents and other 14

resources. It has created a lot of new partnerships for people, not only business-to-consumer, but also businessto-business.” Walton said she expects not only farmers and consumers, but also restaurants, grocery stores and chambers of commerce to register at the site. MarketMaker also provides helpful information to consumers, such as what foods are in season, upcoming agricultural events and other information about Alabama agriculture. Alabama MarketMaker is a free online service sponsored by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, Auburn University, MississippiAlabama Sea Grants and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. To register a business on the Alabama MarketMaker site, visit http:// register.marketmaker.uiuc.edu or find them on Facebook and Twitter. n NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

Congressional Bill Proposes Reduction In CRP Acreage By Melissa Martin

sitive land by providing payments to landowners who convert it into grass or timber. The legislation would not alter the government’s conservation incentives on these lands, which are unable to support sustained agriculture production. Roby’s legislation would phase out the most fertile acreage from the CRP program while also reducing the number of acres held in CRP nationwide by about 20 percent. Alabama Farmers Federation National Legislative Programs Director Mitt Walker noted that from a wider perspective, the agricultural sector is in the best position to help grow the nation’s economy through job creation and exports; however, changes have to be made to the current policy to lessen current economic woes. “The CRP program has been at least partially responsible for stymied local economies in the Southeast,” said Walker. “As more acres of high input farmland are converted to low-input pine plantations, fewer dollars are being circulated in the local economy. As our country’s farmers and ranchers continue to embrace the task of feeding the global population, we need to place emphasis on expanding the number of acres of working farmland.” n

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ore of Alabama’s cropland would be available for traditional farming activities under new legislation aimed at reforming one of USDA’s most popular programs. H.R. 3454, introduced by U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., and co-sponsored by all six of the Alabama delegation, would make changes to the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and limit the government’s practice of paying landowners to set aside fertile cropland in long-term conservation programs. “The goal is to strike the right balance between conservation and production,” said Roby. “As with most government programs, CRP has grown and expanded over time. Our ability to produce food and fiber is a national security concern, and we’re only hurting our ability to do this by encouraging the removal of productive land. This bill restores balance to the program.” According to estimates by the House Committee on Agriculture, Roby’s proposal would save taxpayers billions. Established by Congress in 1985, CRP promotes conservation on highly eroded or environmentally sen-

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By Debra Davis

to work here in 1978, and he still is today,” said Jimmy Carlisle, director of the Federation’s Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department. “Several times over the years, we’ve taken congressmen, governors and other elected officials to Ben’s farm. His farm was used as an example of how to farm the right way.” Bowden’s recognition continues. Later this month, the Auburn University Agricultural Alumni Association will honor Bowden by inducting him into the Agricultural Hall of Honor. Bowden has a reputation for questioning almost everything. Sometimes because he doesn’t agree; sometimes because he doesn’t understand; and sometimes because he wants a debate before a decision is made. “But,” he said, “it’s always good to ask questions and make me and others think before they act.” He and his wife of 59 years, Mary Ann, have been active members of the Alabama Farmers Federation for decades. She served in various county and state leadership roles for the Women’s Leadership Division, including a term as state committee chairman. He worked with three state presidents; James D. “Jimmy” Hays, Goodwin Myrick and current president Jerry Newby, and served 17 years on the Federation’s state board of directors. He also served several years on the Russell County Federation Board, including more than a decade as president. Bowden served in leadership roles in numerous other agricultural organizations including the Soil and Water Conservation District. Bowden has retired from the farm, which is now operated by his son-in-law Charlie Speake and his grandson Marshall. But he still looks forward to spring planting, harvest season, watching new calves hit the ground and all the things that make farm life special to him. “Looking back on my life, I don’t know of anything I’d change,” Bowden said. “I’ve been more, seen more and gotten more than I ever deserved and dreamed. That’s a good feeling.” n

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hen Ben Bowden of Russell County took over the family farm in 1954, he looked around at the sandy loam soil and saw what it could be, not what it was. Back then, it was a mediocre farm, at best, with a big debt and small yields, he recalled. Ten years later, he had paid off the debt, acquired more land and had surrounding farmers scratching their heads at how this greenhorn had turned the farm around. “I remember looking at the farmers around me and seeing that they were just getting by,” said Bowden, 78. “I wanted to do better than just get by.” Using technology, research and just plain hard work, Bowden’s farm eventually grew to include nearly 15,000 cultivated acres in Russell, Barbour and Macon counties. Soil testing was the start of Bowden’s reputation as a successful farmer and conservationist. “I remember the first time I read about soil testing was in the Weekly Reader in high school,” he said. “I did the tests on our farmland, and it showed we needed five tons of lime to the acre in some areas. That’s a big investment, but I thought it was worth the risk. “I applied the lime, and yields went up on our crops. I also worked as hard as I’d ever worked. We didn’t go anywhere for a long time. All I did was work. I felt like I had to work twice as hard as everyone else did.” But the hard work paid off, and Bowden’s success got him noticed. Various agriculture groups reached out to

“I’ve been more, seen more and gotten more than I ever deserved and dreamed. That’s a good feeling.” - Ben Bowden him, including the Alabama Farm Bureau. “Someone talked me into joining the Farm Bureau and I liked it,” he said. “I feel like this organization has unlimited potential because it represents all the different segments of agriculture and has one voice. Not saying that we always agree on everything, but farmers do need to stick together to get things done.” Bowden’s farm produced cotton, peanuts, soybeans, cattle and hogs and over the years was used as an example to introduce politicians to farming. “Ben was a fixture in our organization when I started w ww ww w .. A A ll ff a aF Fa a rr m me e rr ss .. o o rr g g

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Cordova High School Builds Ag Department By Melissa Martin

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n an effort to build a solid foundation for agricultural education, the Walker County Farmers Federation contributed $50,000 to develop Cordova High School’s agriscience and career tech program. The money will help purchase equipment, textbooks and other supplies. Instructor Chad Tuggle, a former Spanish teacher, gained momentum for the new program with encouragement from Cordova Principal Kathy Vinston and Walker County Schools Superintendent Jason Adkins. Tuggle, Vinston and Adkins saw the need for an agriscience department and knew it would be a good way to encourage at-risk students to stay in school. “Some students need an outlet that doesn’t involve a ball or a musical instrument,” said Tuggle. “This program is great for students who love to put their hands and minds to work and have a tangible product once they’re done. It’s a great way for them to get a sense of accomplishment and develop a strong work ethic.” Tuggle, who has a background

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Cordova High School teacher Chad Tuggle, center, discusses the benefits of the school’s new agriscience and career tech program with Walker County Farmers Federation President Dorman Grace, left, and Alabama Farmers Federation Area 2 Organization Director Matthew Durdin. 1188

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in construction and is a certified retaining wall installer, instructs his students on trade techniques including sawing, framing and finishing. They’ve made toolboxes, birdhouses and other small projects, but to fully master construction skills, students are in the planning stages of building a three-tiered pergola for an outdoor lunchroom, complete with picnic tables and benches. To learn more about agriscience, Cordova students will also build a greenhouse and chicken coop.

“Poultry is an important commodity in our area,” said Tuggle. “What better way to get students interested in possibly pursuing farming than by exposing them to it first-hand?” Walker County Farmers Federation President Dorman Grace is optimistic about how the agriscience program will benefit Cordova students and the Walker County area. “There are a lot of kids who get left out because they’re not athletes,” said Grace. “Now, they can

go to shop class and learn skills they aren’t getting elsewhere that they can carry with them when they become part of the workforce.” Matthew Durdin, area 2 organization director for the Alabama Farmers Federation, said it is important to involve youth in agriscience education. “When you offer this type of program, it keeps 20- to -30 percent of students in school,” said Durdin. “They learn useful skills, but also develop a sense of responsibility.” To date, funding from Walker County Farmers Federation has allowed Tuggle to purchase equipment including a portable saw mill, a miter saw and hand tools. n

Thanks to a grant from the Walker County Farmers Federation, students in Cordova High School’s agriscience program can get handson experience in carpentry skills. Recognizing the importance of building interest in trades like sawing, framing and finishing, the county Federation gave the school $50,000 to help develop its agricultural education department.

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USDA Releases Final Antitrust Rules By Debra Davis

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he USDA has published the Final Rule implementing the 2008 farm bill provisions aimed at protecting livestock producers and poultry growers under the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). “As I travel throughout the countryside, I often hear from farmers and ranchers about their concerns with the marketplace becoming more concentrated, “U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “While concentration certainly comes with some efficiencies, Congress recognized in the 2008 farm bill that additional protections for producers are warranted.” Vilsack said the new rule will implement targeted protections for farmers and help provide more fairness and transparency in the marketplace. Guy Hall, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Pork, Poultry and Dairy Divisions, said the USDA rule that was finalized on Dec. 8, gives poultry and hog farmers more protection under the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Act as mandated by the 2008 farm bill. He said several Federation members attended the hearings that USDA officials and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder held in Normal, Ala., to support the positive aspects of the proposed rule. “We appreciate our livestock producer members for their grassroots comments and policy concerning this issue,” Hall said. “The Federation is hopeful that these

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new rules will benefit farmers and ranchers in Alabama by providing fair and equitable rules for livestock production and marketing contracts.” Hall said the four main areas of the final rule are: (1) Suspension of the Delivery of Birds – Includes criteria to determine whether a live poultry dealer has provided reasonable notice to poultry growers of any suspension of the delivery of birds under a poultry growing arrangement. These criteria include, but are not limited to: a written notice at least 90 days prior to suspension, written notice of the reason for the suspension of delivery, the length of the suspension and the anticipated date the delivery of birds will resume; (2) Additional Capital Investments – Includes criteria for determining whether a requirement of additional capital investments over the life of the poultry growing arrangement or swine production contract constitutes a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act; (3) Breach of Contract – Includes criteria that may be considered when determining if a packer, swine contractor or live poultry dealer has provided a reasonable period of time for a poultry/ swine grower to remedy a breach of contract that could lead to a termination of a production contract; and 21

(4) Arbitration – Requires production contracts that mandate the use of arbitration to include language on the signature page that allows a producer or grower to decline arbitration. According to Vilsack, USDA plans to seek additional public comment on several other revised provisions from the June 22, 2010 proposed rule. That includes changes to the tournament system of payment for poultry growers, requirements to collect and post sample contracts and to address the issue of need for producers to show harm to competition prior to asserting a violation of the Packer and Stockyards Act. However, the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill passed by Congress included language prohibiting USDA from moving forward on those provisions. n

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Alfa Named One Of America’s Top Life Insurance Companies

By Miranda Mattheis

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lfa Insurance was recently named one of the top small life insurance companies in America following a 2011 study conducted by Conning Research and Consulting. For more than 50 years, Conning has worked with insurers conducting industry analyses based on insurance industry knowledge and in-depth reviews performance data. “We are pleased to be recognized as one of the top 20 Successful Small Life Insurance companies,” said Rob Robison, senior vice president of Life and Loan Operations for Alfa. “Being included in this elite group is an honor, and Conning’s study exemplifies Alfa’s commitment to providing quality life insurance products to our customers.” Conning defines small life insurance companies as regional companies that serve an important role in the community and that had w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

premiums ranging from $10 to $500 million. Alfa Life’s premiums were $127 million in 2010. Of the 173 small life insurance companies operating in the United States, 68 are stand-alone companies, meaning they are not part of a larger life insurance group. From those 68, Conning recognized 20 stand-alone companies that distinguished themselves from their peers based on operating margin, return on average surplus and premium growth. “Alfa’s sound management philosophy has led to continued outstanding investment results and conservative profitable products,” said Robison. “We strive to be the best life insurance company in the states where we do business.” In addition to being named a successful small life insurance company, Alfa Life was also one of seven companies designated as a “Steady High Performer.” Companies that receive this honor met the reviewing agency’s criteria during 22

three reporting periods in 2004, 2007 and 2011, and had a primary focus on traditional life insurance rather than annuities; a strong and productive agency force marketing their products; an avoidance of capital losses and had operations in a customer, geographic or product niche. “Alfa’s focus on maintaining financial strength and providing excellent service to our customers are two elements that allow this company to stand apart from the rest,” said Robison. “Of course, we wouldn’t be where we are without our agents, who are the best in the industry; our home office staff, who take great pride in providing superior service; and our management team, which is dedicated to providing the best products for our policyholders. The extensive research and designations awarded prove that there has never been a better time for individuals to evaluate their financial plans for their families and to provide increased security for them by purchasing one of Alfa Life’s insurance products.” n NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

Longleaf Pine Restoration Grant Available To Landowners

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he Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) is accepting applications through its Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) to continue longleaf pine restoration efforts in Alabama. The grant was awarded through a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and will be made available to qualifying landowners for longleaf pine restoration on private lands. Landowners are encouraged to submit applications to receive assistance with site preparation, seedlings, planting, native grass restoration and/or exotic control costs. For landowners to be considered eligible to receive funding, the property must be within the historic range of longleaf pine in

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Alabama, or contain suitable soils to support longleaf pine. Program details include: cost share at 50 percent, no minimum acreage and cutover sites and agricultural sites are eligible. The LIP funds are administered to complement habitat restoration goals of the longleaf pine ecosystem. This program provides financial and/or technical assistance to private landowners to conserve, manage or enhance the habitats of species in greatest conservation need associated with Alabama’s longleaf pine ecosystem. The deadline for applications is March 1. For application information contact Traci Wood at (334) 353-0503 or Traci.Wood@dcnr.alabama.gov. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise steward-

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ship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit outdooralabama.com. n

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By Melissa Martin

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ne new addition to Alabama’s workforce is seeking to help American consumers answer that age-old question: creamy or crunchy? Golden Boy Nut Corp., a division of Canada-based Golden Boy Foods, recently opened a nut butter production plant in Pike County. Nestled on 17 acres in Troy’s Industrial Park, Golden Boy’s 70,000 square-foot facility currently operates with a 20-member staff. As demand increases, so will the size of the plant and its personnel, bringing even more jobs to the state. “We anticipate the plant will employ around 80 staff total, once all product lines are in motion,” said Golden Boy Plant Manager Mark Pyne. “We’re in a state of growth every day.” The first phase of peanut butter production was slated to begin by Feb. 1 and includes creamy and crunchy, natural and organic types.

All peanut butter produced during this phase will be sold through private labels including Great Value Brand for Walmart; Safeway Brand for Safeway Inc., North America’s second largest supermarket chain; and Otis Spunkmeyer. Pyne noted that the second phase of production is slated for June or July and will expand Golden Boy’s product line to include almond and cashew butters. “We’re excited about the expanded market opportunities for alternative nut butters,” said Pyne. “Chefs and culinary artists are modifying their recipes to include use of almond and cashew butters for flavor and health benefits, and this is an exciting step for our company. It allows us to show just how great our products are in a new way – still through food, but pleasing to an entirely different palate.” Troy’s Golden Boy plant will introduce a second peanut butter production line in the fall. With a 24/7 production schedule, Pyne said he estimates the plant will have Up to 60 million pounds of peanut butter could be processed in Golden Boy Nut Corp.’s processing facility by year end.

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Creamy or crunchy? Plant Manager Mark Pyne shows off two jars of Golden Boy peanut butter. Troy’s plant will sell its peanut butter through private labels including Otis Spunkmeyer and Walmart’s Great Value brand.

produced more than 60 million pounds of peanut butter by year-end. While this is good news for Golden Boy’s bottom line, it’s also welcome news for Alabama’s peanut farmers. “The new peanut butter plant will benefit Alabama growers because of its close proximity to our shelling plants,” said Carl Sanders, president of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association. “Production in Alabama has been stable for several years, but we expect it to increase in 2012 as prices increase.” According to Pyne, all peanuts that come through the Golden Boy plant will be from the Southeast, specifically Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. “Golden Boy chose to build the plant in Troy because it’s ‘peanut country,’” said Pyne. “What better place to build a peanut butter plant than in an area with such a deep saturation and understanding of peanuts?” Sanders noted that while the south Alabama plant is good for farmers, it’s also good news for consumers, adding that demand for peanut butter continues to increase because it has the lowest cost per serving of all protein sources. Pyne said he believes the reason for increased demand is simple. “Who doesn’t love peanut butter?” he asked. “It’s a grocery staple, and practically everyone has at least one jar in their pantries.

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Some consumers are brand loyalists, while others are satisfied so long as they have their jar of creamy or extra crunchy. Regardless of what brand or type they buy, one thing is true – people love it.” Producing great peanut butter at the lowest cost for consumers is key to Golden Boy’s mission, said Pyne, but a more innocent influence is the reason he really loves his job. “There’s something about the look on children’s faces when you make them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” he said. “And as adults, any time we indulge in this simple treat, it takes us back to our childhood – that era of nostalgia – when it’s hard not to smile with every single bite.” n

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if a bed is kept going as a source of new plants, gardeners can adapt to keep the freezer full of strawberries. Mulching with plastic takes time and requires a drip irrigation system or soaker hose under the plastic. Growers also like plastic mulch because it keeps down weeds. Plastic laid over a raised bed about five to six weeks before it’s time to plant kills the weeds underneath before the plastic is cut for planting. Because the black plastic absorbs heat, it will warm the ground and cause the plants to bloom and fruit earlier. If they are in bloom when a frost threatens, growers can protect the plants with a frost blanket. Some farmers suggest planting strawberries in October so the plants have a chance to develop well before spring. In the spring, plants can be protected with a row cover in case of a late freeze if they are in bloom. Regular watering and fertilizing is important to grow big, healthy plants so that the heavy foliage hides the berries from birds. That’s a simple approach certainly worth a try. Plugs or transplants are used by some growers to start strawberry beds because it’s harder to get the depth right with bare-root plants. The soil depth on plugs or transplants guides determine how deeply to plant it. If the crown of the plant is too deep, it will rot. Having a little soil on the roots helps transplants survive, too. Corn is used to control aphids on some strawberry farms. When berries are planted in the field next to strawberries, the aphids go to the corn and stay off the strawberries. Strawberry plants soon will be for sale in garden centers throughout Alabama. Remember to water them regularly for good growth. Fall is an ideal time to plant strawberries, too, so transplant or create a new patch from this year’s runners in September and October. n

By Lois Chaplin

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ince it’s just about strawberry planting time, here are a few tips from the pros on how to get the most from a strawberry patch. Many of the techniques used by larger farms are applicable at home, too. It’s important to note that strawberry plants are perennial and will spread to make a solid ground cover, or “mat.” These are sometimes called matted rows. Gardeners also may dig the new plants and rearrange everything to neat rows each spring or fall. Some farms set out strawberry plants in rows mulched with black plastic because yields are five times what they are if left alone to grow in matted rows. It’s labor intensive because the plastic has to be laid each year and the strawberries replanted. However,

_______________________________________ Lois Chaplin is an accomplished gardener and author. Her work appears here courtesy of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.

GET GROWING AT THE CO-OP.

WWW.ALAFARM.COM

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Federal Study Reveals Lightsquared Interferes With GPS Signals By Debra Davis

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joint report recently released by the Departments of Defense and Transportation says LightSquared, a proposed mobile Internet system, would interfere with most GPS signals. Preliminary analyses of the tests found no significant interference with cellular phones, however the testing did show LightSquared signals caused harmful interference to the majority of other generalpurpose GPS receivers that were tested. Separate analysis by the Federal Aviation Administration also found interference with a flight safety system designed to warn pilots of approaching terrain. LightSquared plans to build a nationwide 4G wireless network, but because the radio frequencies it will use for this network are close to the frequencies used by GPS devices, there has been concern that the company’s network will interfere with GPS devices already in use. Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby contacted U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions of Alabama in May 2011 requesting they join other senators who asked the Federal Communication Commission to reconsider

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the condition authority it granted to LightSquared that allowed the company to proceed with the construction of high-powered cellular base stations. The American Farm Bureau Federation submitted comments to the FCC in July urging the agency to ensure there is no interference with GPS receivers prior to granting LightSquared permission to operate its high-powered base stations. “Farmers use GPS to enhance their operations, for mapping field boundaries, roads, irrigation systems, precision planting, the application of chemicals and fertilizers and to address problem areas in crops such as weeds or diseases,” Newby told the senators in his letter. “It is the accuracy of the GPS that allows our members the ability to limit input cost — for example, the cost and application of fertilizer, and allows them to run an efficient, economical and environmentally friendly operation.” GPS also allows farmers to work in their fields despite low-visibility conditions such as rain, dust, fog and darkness. Newby said while high-speed broadband services have a great potential to bring opportunity to

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rural America, he is concerned about the interference and impact of LightSquared’s proposed operations on GPS services. In October, AFBF told Congress that the FCC and an independent technical company must complete comprehensive and rigorous testing on all proposed technical fixes to ensure there is no interference between broadband and GPS signals. “It is critical that costs for resolving this issue are not passed along to farmers and ranchers through higher GPS or equipment costs,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “LightSquared should cover the expense of all technical fixes related to the interference issue to ensure the cost is not passed along to farmers and ranchers.” n

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rowing up with three sisters on a farm, Annie Lou Harris of Cleburne County said she learned to cook and help out on the farm at a young age. “We didn’t have any brothers, just girls, so when Daddy needed help on the farm, we all had to pitch in just like we did inside,” she says. And her early days on the family’s farm in the Fruithurst community foreshadowed the lifestyle she continued as an adult. When she married her husband, Hobert, in 1953, the two settled on his family farm in the Hopewell area and for 58 years, the couple has called that farm their home. “We’ve had to give some things up, but we keep enough to do,” said Harris. The couple said time that once was dedicated to the care of cattle and the nurture of market produce is now spent traveling with friends or in Hobert’s case, woodworking. “We don’t really go to any far-off places, but we’ll go with some friends to the mountains and such from time to time, and Hobert had several orders for swings and things to build folks for Christmas gifts, so we find plenty to do,” she said, adding that they are grateful to be close to their son and daughter as well. “We’re a pretty close family. Our children don’t live far from us, and we’re very proud of both our granddaughters, one of which graduated from Auburn with a doctorate in pharmacy, and the other is studying at Jacksonville State University,” beams Harris. The recipes Harris shares with Neighbors this month are what she calls “main recipes,” those she reaches for time and again because they’re simple and popular with friends and family. “I’ve been making the same sweet potato casserole since 1973, and my family loves it. The chicken and rice casserole is one of Hobert’s favorites, too,” she explains.

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By Kellie Henderson

Coconut Cake 1 cup shortening 2 cups sugar 5 eggs 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder Dash of salt 2 ¾ cups cake flour 1 cup buttermilk 1 teaspoon vanilla

Grease and flour 3 large or 4 small round cake pans. Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Sift dry ingredients together. Add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk and vanilla. Pour batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake at 350 F until cake tests done. Filling: 1 cup water 1 teaspoon coconut extract 1 cup sugar 1 tablespoon flour Shredded coconut (approximately 1 cup)

Mix filling ingre-

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dients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add enough coconut to make thick, about 1 cup. Spread between layers and on top of warm cake layers. Frosting: 1 cup sugar ¼ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon cream of tartar 2 unbeaten egg whites 3 tablespoons water 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 ½ cups shredded coconut

Combine all frosting ingredients, except vanilla, in top of double boiler. Use mixer to beat briskly for 3 minutes or until frosting is fluffy and holds its shape. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Spread on sides and top of cake. Sprinkle coconut on top and sides of cake. (Note: Mrs. Harris says coconut may be stirred into frosting before spreading over cake if desired.) 

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Sweet Potato Casserole 4 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes 1 cup white sugar 1 cup coconut, shredded ½ cup (1 stick) margarine ½ cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased casserole dish. Spread topping mix over potato mixture and bake for 15 minutes at 400 F. Topping Mix 1 cup brown sugar 1 cup nuts, chopped 1/2 cup flour ½ stick margarine

Combine all ingredients until mixture is crumbly. Chicken and Rice Casserole 1 (10-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup ¾ cup uncooked long grain rice ¼ teaspoon pepper 1 cup water ¼ teaspoon paprika 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts Salt to taste

In a 2-quart shallow baking dish, mix soup, water, rice, paprika and pepper. Sprinkle chicken with salt and additional paprika and pepper; place over rice mixture. Cover. Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes or until done.   Cheese and Garlic Flavored Pecans 2 tablespoons margarine 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon garlic salt 2 cups pecan halves 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

In a 2-quart casserole dish, microwave margarine on high for 45 seconds to 1 minute until melted. Add Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt. Mix well. Add pecans, stirring to coat. Microwave on high 6-to-9 minutes or until margarine is absorbed, stirring 3 times. Add Parmesan cheese. Toss to coat pecans. Spread on baking sheet lined with paper towels to cool.

Mandarin Orange Cake 1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix 1 (15-ounce) can mandarin oranges with juice 4 eggs ¾ cup oil

Mix all ingredients well. Pour into 3 greased and floured 9” cake pans. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly in pans before turning cake layers out onto racks to cool completely. Frosting: 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple 1 (8-ounce) container COOL WHIP topping 1 (3-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding

Mix all ingredients. Spread between and on top of cooled cake layers. Hummingbird Cake 3 cups all-purpose flour 2 cups sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 3 eggs beaten 1-1/2 cups salad oil 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla 1 (8-ounce) can of crushed pineapple, drained 2 cups pecans or walnuts, chopped 2 cups bananas, chopped

Combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, soda, cinnamon) in a large bowl and mix by hand. Add eggs and salad oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened (do not beat). Stir in vanilla, pineapple, nuts and bananas. Spoon batter into 3 well-greased and floured 9” pans. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool. Frosting: ½ cup butter 1 (8-ounce) cream cheese 1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar, beating until fluffy. Stir in vanilla. Makes enough frosting for a 3-layer cake.

Easy Potato Soup 8 to 10 medium potatoes, cubed ½ cup (1 stick) butter 2 cups cold milk 1 large onion, diced ¼ cup all-purpose flour 1 (10-ounce) can cream of chicken soup 1 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon salt Parsley flakes

In a large boiler, cover potatoes with water. Cook cubed potatoes, 1 cup milk and diced onions in boiler for 30 minutes. Mix 1 cup cold milk with flour in a separate container until smooth. Add to potatoes while cooking; add condensed soup. Add parsley and season to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with crackers. Easy Pecan Pie 3 eggs ½ cup brown sugar 1 cup corn syrup 2 tablespoons melted butter 1 teaspoon vanilla Pinch of salt 1-1/2 cups pecans

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add other ingredients, folding in pecans last. Pour into unbaked pastry shell. Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Crisco Pound Cake 1 ½ cups CRISCO shortening 3 cups sugar 5 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla ½ teaspoon baking powder 3 cups cake flour 1 cup milk

Cream shortening and sugar well. Add 1 egg at a time and cream well after each. Add vanilla. In separate bowl, add baking powder to flour, then add alternately with the milk to shortening mixture (beginning and ending with flour). Pour into greased tube pan. Bake for 1 ½ hours at 350 F. n  

Editor’s Note: Recipes published in the “Country Kitchen” are not kitchen-tested prior to publication. Visit www.AlfaFarmers.org for more recipes. NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

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VA C AT I O N R E N TA L S

Classifieds Facts For just $2 per word, your classified ad in Neighbors reaches nearly 95,000 subscribers. Ads must be received by the first day of the month prior to publication. NO changes after closing. PRE-PAYMENT REQUIRED FOR ALL ADS. Minimum 10 words per ad. No fax, phone orders or credit cards accepted. For questions, call Paula Culver at (334) 613-4410. Send your ad with payment, payable to Alabama Farmers Federation, to: Neighbors Classifieds, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 361910001.

Public Notice By Alabama Pork Producers And National Pork Board

The election of pork producer delegate candidates for the 2013 National Pork Producers (Pork Act) Delegate Body will take place at Feb. 7, 2012, 1 p.m., in conjunction with a meeting of the Alabama Pork Producers during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Commodity Organization Meeting on the second floor in the Cahaba Grand Conference Center, 3660 Grandview Parkway, Birmingham, Alabama 35243. All Alabama pork producers are invited to attend. Any producer who is a resident of the state and has paid all assessments due may be considered as a delegate candidate and/ or participate in the election. All eligible producers are encouraged to bring with them a sales receipt proving that hogs were sold in their name and the checkoff deducted. For more information, contact: Alabama Pork Producers, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191-0001, telephone (334) 612-5181, email ghall@alfafarmers.org. w w w. A l f a F a r m e r s . o r g

Grower Direct

Muscadines

Pigeon Forge, TN — Cabins, peaceful, convenient setting, (251) 649-3344 or (251) 649-4049 www.hideawayprop. com. GREAT LAKE LIVING — affordable rate, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, deep water - www. vacationsmithlake.com — $75 night. Call (256) 352-5721 - annawisener@yahoo.

Grow half-dollar size and Blackberries. We also offer over 200 varieties of Fruit and Nut Trees plus Vine and Berry Plants.

Ison’s Nursery

Since 1934

Free Catalog

PO Box 190 Brooks, GA 30205 1-800-733-0324 • isons.com

com. m iscellaneous MAKE MONEY turning your trees into lumber with a portable saw-mill. Easy and affordable, call (800) 473-4804 or visit www.cookssaw.com for more information. FOR SALE HOUSE — 3 bedroom, 2 bath on 10 acres, hardwood and a shop, lots of trees, near lake. Call (256) 878-0909. ALL KINDS OF MUSIC FOR SALE — approximately 80,000 LPs, 25,000 45’s, 2,500 78 records. Make an offer – (334) 366-2793, Sidney Ratliff, 41734 Highway 183, Lawley, AL 36793.

SEED FOR SALE

Open Pollinated Corn-Clovers-Bermudagrass WILDLIFE-Conventional Soybeans-Lespedeza

Clemmons & Hamner Seed Inc. Killen, AL

256-757-9996

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NEIGHBORS • FEBRUARY 2012

Financing Your Way Financing Your Way of Rural Life of Rural Life

• Land Loans • Equipment/Livestock Loans Operational Loans Loans ••Land ••Equipment/Livestock Recreational LoansLoans Loans Loans ••Operational Country Homesite • Recreational Loans • Country Homesite Loans

Alabama Ag Credit

Alabama Ag Credit 1-800-579-5471

1-800-579-5471 www.AlabamaAgCredit.com www.AlabamaAgCredit.com Part of the Farm Credit System

Part of the Farm Credit System

Alabama Farm Credit

Alabama Farm Credit 1-877-681-6087

1-877-681-6087 www.AlabamaFarmCredit.com

www.AlabamaFarmCredit.com

(Translation: Thanks for your soy.) Millions of chickens, ducks, geese and other poultry are raised in China each year, and they’re demanding more and more of your U.S. soy. They, along with cows, swine and fish, are your #1 customers, and they’re driving demand in countries, towns and villages all around the world. Learn more at www.BeyondTheElevator.com.

www.BeyondTheElevator.com ©2011 United Soybean Board


February 2012 Neighbors