Farming Issues Key in 2015

Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 2, 2016

The year 2015 was an important year for Alabama agriculture. There were top stories for many of the state’s 67 counties, those with large agricural bases and those with mainly industrial/retail bases. But each county in the state was impacted in some way by agriculture.

The Alabama Farmers Federation reported the top four stories that impacted agriculture during the year 2015.

Topping the list the findings on an investigation that the Environmental Protection Agency broke the law in promoting the WOTUS Rule.

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Top Stories In Alabama Agriculture In 2015. The following agricultural News Leads are provided by the Alabama Farmers Federation.

According to information released by the Alabama Farmers Federation, farmers and landowners scored another victory against regulatory overreach Dec. 14 when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) engaged in “covert propaganda” to support its Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

The WOTUS rule expands EPA’s regulation of private lands by changing the interpretation of the Clean Water Act. As a result, common farming and forestry practices could require a permit or be subject to large penalties.

In October, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay barring EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from implementing the controversial WOTUS rule. Alabama was among 17 states to challenge the WOTUS rule in federal court.

Also topping farming news in 2015 was that farmers are still grounded with FFA registration.

Farmers interested in using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will have to wait a little longer despite the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) recent announcement of web-based aircraft registration for drone technology.

The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Carla Hornady said the rule only applies to hobbyists and for recreational drone use.

The new registration rule applies to UAS weighing over 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds, including payloads such as on-board cameras.

The registration process may clear the way for UAS to be used for agriculture in the future, Hornady said, noting the technology remains banned for most commercial uses.

In 2015 numerous industries with ties to agriculture announced plans for expansion and new projects in 2015. The largest poultry feed mill in American is under construction in Ozark. The $53 million feed mill, set to open in 2017, will employ about 88 workers in manufacturing, transportation and administrative positions. According to Wayne Farms, the completed mill is expected to churn out 25,000 tons of feed weekly to support the company’s 42,000-square-foot Dothan processing plant.

On October 21, Georgia-Pacific, a pulpand paper company, announced at $110 million expansion to its Alabama River Cellulose mill in Monroe County. Projects include replacing one of the mill’s two existing wood yards that process incoming logs, upgrading the other wood yard and a major upgrade to one of the mill’s machines that produces pulp.

In June, local and state officials helped announce an expansion of Southern Classic Foods and the creation of Magnolia Vegetable Processors in Pike County. Southern Classic produces a variety of products for retailers and food service and industrial markets including mayonnaise, salad dressings, cocktail and tartar sauces, ice cream toppings, flavored syrups, barbecue sauces and marinades. Its expansion will focus on the addition of juices and other beverages. The vegetable processing plant will specialize in pickling, including cucumbers, okra, peppers, green beans, pearl onions, baby corn and relish.

The Alabama Farmers Federation highlighted promise for the catfish industry.

A research study, partially funded by Alabama catfish farmers, could save tens of thousands of fish each year that die from common bacteria. Results of a six-month research project conducted by Auburn University (AU) on the Aeromonas bacteria were presented to catfish farmers Dec. 15 in Demopolis.

The survival rate for infected fish increased from 5 percent several years ago to 99.6 percent for fish given a new vaccine developed through the project. Survival also was higher for fish fed a probiotic feed, the AU report said.