Alabama farmers set aside concerns about prices and weather to focus on learning and fellowship at the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 46th Commodity Producers Conference Aug. 2-4 in Montgomery.
Cullman County farmer Darrell Haynes said, even with trade and farm bill impacts looming, it’s important to take time to share ideas with other farmers.
“I’m an old man, and I hate to waste a day not learning something new — whether it’s learning a new source for breeding stock or just a different perspective for doing something,” Haynes said. “You learn things everywhere you go, but it’s the reconnection with friends that you see at these kinds of events that’s most special.”
The conference offered a bumper crop of educational and networking opportunities including the second Alabama Farm & Land Expo with about 100 agribusiness vendors and research presenters. A series of six farm and industry tours in central Alabama highlighted Friday’s agenda, while Saturday featured seminars and a general session with American Farm Bureau Federation Chief Economist John Newton.
“A lot of the sectors of the U.S. economy are doing very well,” Newton said. “Unemployment is at 17-year lows, but the farm economy is not doing very well. In some cases, commodity prices have fallen by more than 50 percent (since 2014), but the cost of production didn’t follow them down. So, the net effect is profit margins are getting squeezed.”
Despite the red ink on farm ledgers, Newton said there’s reason to be optimistic. Lower corn stocks, poor growing conditions for Russian and European wheat, and short supplies of cotton in China could mean higher prices for those commodities.
Meanwhile, Alabama farmers were looking to tour hosts, university researchers and Expo vendors for ways to increase production and reduce costs.
Marshall County farmer Corey Hill participated in an agricultural industry tour in Pike County, including stops at a peanut butter plant and pecan sheller.
“I love to see how things are made, and the technology they use in food production is amazing,” Hill said. “At Whaley Pecan Company, we found out they can trace a single pecan from the bag they sold it in all the way back to the original grower who brought it in. We’ve come such a long way with food safety.”
In addition to tours and seminars, the conference hosted contests for the Young Farmers and Women’s Leadership divisions as well as a new Hay and Forage Spokesperson Contest won by Limestone County’s Ben Maples. Graduates of the Agricultural Leaders for Alabama (A.L.F.A. Leaders) Program Class IV were recognized at the opening banquet Aug. 3.
Check out the Federation’s Facebook and Flickr channels for more photos from the conference and Expo.