2 weeks ago

High heat, minimal moisture hurt yields, bottom line

Zero. Zip. Zilch.

That’s how much rain Terry Wyatt’s 500-acre cotton crop received in September.

“Cotton likes hot weather, but you have to have some rain,” said Wyatt, whose non-irrigated cropland in Harpersville was in the heart of Alabama’s most persistent drought based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. “We got in a pattern early. The heat index got extremely high at the end of May and stayed that way. We got intermittent showers in the summer and a 2-inch rain at the end of August. We didn’t have a drop the whole month of September.”

Record-breaking heat and minimal moisture meant some cotton struggled to grow. In cotton that did take root, underdeveloped and knotty bolls became an issue. Wyatt said he expects to harvest around 600 pounds per acre, 400 pounds less than 2018.

The Oct. 3 Drought Monitor report showed 3.54% of Alabama in extreme drought, 11.99% severe drought and 35.36% moderate drought. The remainder was abnormally dry.

Wyatt’s story shares a common thread among Alabama growers, said the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Carla Hornady.

“September and October are usually our driest months,” said Hornady, the Federation’s Cotton, Soybean and Wheat & Feed Grain divisions director. “Last year, farmers had a great growing season, but a wet harvest lowered yields. This year, yields will vary greatly. Some crops benefited from sporadic showers, but overwhelmingly, drought will lower yields again.”

In the Wiregrass, problems persisted for producers like Ed White. The Henry County farmer and Alabama Peanut Producers Association board member planted 900 acres of peanuts. Once prolonged heat and drought caused peanuts to separate from the shells, the clock was ticking to dig the legumes — which are packed in hard, parched earth.

“I can add about $15 an acre to production costs because of the added expense of using so many plow points (long blades that cut dirt from beneath peanuts),” said White, who changed plow points nearly every 5 acres. “But we can’t wait on a rain. The peanuts are finished growing, and we need to get them out of the ground as quickly as possible.”

White said his cotton fared better than peanuts, but the plants are shorter than normal.

“That can make picking cotton a challenge since machinery has to get so low to the ground,” said White.

In northeast Alabama, Clay Hastings and his father, Billy Gullatt, harvested soybeans in early October. Drought dealt a blow to the late-planted beans, Hastings said.

“We’re probably harvesting 50-60% of what we normally gather,” said Hastings, a Jackson County farmer who serves on the State Soybean Committee. “Our soybean yields this year are anywhere from 30-40 bushels per acre.”

They had a “decent corn crop,” but yields were below average, he said.

“Our corn average is usually about 175 bushels an acre, and it’s down to 150 or lower,” he said.

Hastings’ Scottsboro operation measured no precipitation in September. He said they plan to plant wheat following rain this fall.

While drought caused some farmers to delay planting winter vegetables, conditions urged cattle producers to take action.

On Whit Lovelady’s Talladega County farm, ponds dried up, and prime hayfields produced just half a bale an acre — a steep decline from the usual 3-bale average.

“I fed our first roll of hay the second week in July,” said Lovelady, who has 350 acres of hayfields in Alpine. “We caught a little rain shower or two, which spruced things up, and quit feeding. We started back the end of September.”

Feeding hay this early could cause a shortage this winter and affect farmers’ bottom line. Lovelady, who has 175 head of cattle, usually sells 400-500 rolls of hay. He said he will most likely keep all the hay for his own herd.

“I usually sell enough hay to help with feed costs, but I won’t be able to this year,” said Lovelady. “It won’t affect us right now, but it will in January or February when hay gets scarce.”

Drought conditions parched timber across the state, causing the Alabama Forestry Commission to issue a Fire Alert, urging delays in outdoor burning. Over 470 wildfires burned nearly 6,000 acres in September alone. That’s greater than the last three Septembers combined, including drought-ridden 2016.

Despite the challenges, farmers like White remain optimistic.

“This has been a bad year for us; there’s no question about it,” he said. “But it’s not the end of the world. Bad years will happen if you stay in farming long enough.”

For tips on managing drought, visit AlabamaDrought.com.

(Courtesy of the Alabama Farmers Federation)

Marlee Moore is Multimedia Content Director for the Alabama Farmers Federation.

23 mins ago

Sewell: Trump tweet comparing impeachment inquiry to ‘lynching’ is ‘despicable’

Along with Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), count Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) as an ardent critic of President Donald Trump’s Tuesday tweet comparing the ongoing House impeachment inquiry to a “lynching” of him.

Trump tweeted, “So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”

In a Facebook post sharing a screenshot of that tweet, Sewell outlined, “From Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement, 3,446 African Americans were murdered by lynching.”

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“The history of lynching in our nation is one of white supremacy, humiliation and dehumanization,” she continued.

Sewell, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, represents a district that includes Selma.

“For President Trump to liken the impeachment inquiry—a lawful investigation—to the racial terror millions of African Americans endured is despicable,” she concluded. “And for the people of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, who marched, bled and died to end this type of terrorism, the sting of the President’s words is especially sharp.”

RELATED: Rep. Sewell: ‘You don’t need a quid pro quo’ for an impeachment inquiry

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

41 mins ago

Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce launches initiative to support local startups

The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday launched a new  initiative to help boost the River Region’s entrepreneurial  ecosystem.

The new “Work Together” business studio and coworking space located at 600 S. Court Street in Montgomery will be more than just a physical space, according to a press release.

Starting in 2020, “it will also feature dynamic programming and events focused on creating a haven for makers, creatives, small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers and the community to connect, innovate, create and learn.”

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The Work Together location offers flexible space for working, training and community building that can accommodate up to 100 individuals and includes WIFI and audio-visual resources. Additional smaller spaces inside Work Together provide areas for small group or one-on-one meetings, and it also offers a conference room set-up that can accommodate up to 10 people.

The chamber announced the new initiative at InnovateMGM, a half-day event celebrating  those who are innovating within traditional and non-traditional businesses, start-ups and creative ventures.

The event served as a taste of the community building that Work Together aims to provide, which goes far beyond the limits of a physical gathering space and seeks to provide meaningful programming that empowers users to achieve their greatest potential.

In a statement, Montgomery Area Chamber Chairman Willie Durham said, “Supporting and strengthening our start up and entrepreneur community is one of our biggest priorities at the Chamber.”

“Our mission is to connect people to people and people to resources and this space allows us to do just that,” he continued. “By providing the training and the space for creatives and entrepreneurs to connect, we are enhancing our ability to build community, elevate the quality of life of the region and ensure the prosperity of our business community.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Clyde Chambliss named 2019’s ‘Outstanding Public Official’ by American Society of Civil Engineers

State Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) was recently named the 2019 Outstanding Public Official by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

ASCE’s Committee on Advancing the Profession selected Chambliss to receive the prestigious national honor for “impeccable service and dedication to the State of Alabama, as well as to the civil engineering profession and land surveying professionals.”

“Instituted in 1963, the award is made to those members of ASCE who have contributed substantially to the status of the engineering profession by meritorious public service in elective or appointive positions in civil government,” Lawren Pratt, the ASCE member who nominated Chambliss for the award, advised in a statement.

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During his tenure in the Alabama Senate, Chambliss has led the effort to reform and modernize government regulations on the engineering profession. He was first elected in 2014 and reelected in 2018.

In 2018, Chambliss helped write and pass Senate Bill 316, which required Qualification Based Selection (QBS) to be included in the State Administrative Code and added two public members to the Alabama Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors.

Brad Williams, P.E., president of the Alabama section of ASCE, praised Chambliss’ leadership.

“Senate Bill 316 led to one of the strongest QBS laws in the nation; it would not have passed without Senator Chambliss’s leadership,” Williams outlined.

Chambliss and his wife, Tara, also a civil engineer, own and operate a civil engineering firm that provides engineering services to small towns, water systems and developers in central Alabama.

“Senator Chambliss’ knowledge of our profession as a practicing Professional Engineer was instrumental in how he was able to lead meetings, mediate between parties of differing interests, and educate legislative members on the importance of QBS,” Williams added.

In accepting the award, Chambliss said that he appreciated the collaboration between legislators and professionals in the engineering field that led to the passage of SB316.

“It is such an honor to be recognized by my peers and colleagues with this award. Passage of SB316 was truly a group effort, and I appreciate the work of my engineer and surveyor peers in the development of such a great piece of legislation. I also want to thank my legislative colleagues for their support in voting for the bill, and Governor Ivey for signing it into law,” Chambliss said.

Chambliss was recently named as a member of the 2019 Yellowhammer Power & Influence 40.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Byrne: How do you solve a problem like Syria?

Recent developments in Syria highlight the need for the United States to revisit its broader Middle Eastern policy.

Early last week, I joined a small meeting of House Republicans for an update on Syria from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper where he discussed a phone call from President Erdogan of Turkey to President Trump.

During that call, Erdogan notified President Trump that after years of waiting at the Syrian border, Turkish troops would finally cross over. He assured that Turkey was not coming after our troops but targeting certain Kurdish factions they consider terrorists. He gave President Trump 48 hours to relocate the two dozen or so American troops stationed on the border.

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President Trump was faced with a difficult decision. Ultimately, he decided to remove American servicemembers from harm’s way to prevent a full-blown conflict with Turkey.

Turkey’s incursion into Syria is wrong and very troubling. Erdogan should never treat our president and our country the way he did on the phone call. There will be serious consequences for his behavior.

I support seeking methods of leverage with Turkey that do not endanger our troops.

After President Trump proposed harsh economic sanctions, the administration negotiated a cease-fire with Turkey. The cease-fire has been shaky at best, but it probably prevented many more deaths in the region.

This is happening in the context of a greater strategic problem in the Middle East. For at least a decade, we’ve lacked a well-defined mission. What are our interests in the Middle East? What do we do to pursue and protect those interests?

Since coming to Congress and serving on the House Armed Services Committee, I have not seen a strategic, conventional interest for the U.S. in Syria, other than destroying the ISIS caliphate.

To be sure, Kurdish forces were the largest part of the successful campaign against the caliphate, and we need to stand by them as best we can under these challenging circumstances.

But Syria is a failed state. It is bewildering the number of groups in some form of combat. With so many factions, it is often difficult to know who the good guys are. Problems between the Turks and Kurds will persist for generations, but this dispute is one of many combustible problems in the Middle East today. Just weeks ago, Iran attacked our Saudi Arabian ally.

We need to work with our allies to determine our strategic goals and how to reach them. We should continue providing assistance to our allies, including the Kurds, but progress requires buy-in from all of our allies in the region.

Turkey, as a NATO member, does currently play a role in supporting our alliance goals. Turkey is the home of an important U.S. airbase and many other critical NATO assets including U.S. nuclear weapons.

However, Turkey’s actions cast serious doubts on whether they will honor their NATO commitments going forward, and frank discussions between Trump, Erdogan and other NATO leaders are needed.

We must be tough with Turkey. I still believe strong sanctions to weaken and punish Turkey are needed, and I signed on as an original cosponsor to Liz Cheney’s resolution to impose very tough sanctions.

After the Turkish incursion, I was disappointed that the House hastily put forward a resolution condemning President Trump’s actions without knowing the full facts. The very next day, I received a classified briefing shedding more light on his tough decision. I think everyone in Congress should have access to these classified briefings to gain a fuller understanding of what happened.

Instead of attacking the president, we need to have sincere bipartisan conversations and propose concrete solutions for Syria and the Middle East. On critical national security issues, we must put America first.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

4 hours ago

‘Shame on you’: Jones slams Trump for comparing impeachment probe to ‘lynching’

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) is urging President Donald Trump to visit the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI)’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery to see “what lynching actually looks like” after the president invoked the term when complaining about the ongoing House impeachment probe into him.

On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted, “So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”

In sharing the tweet directly, Jones commented, “No sir!”

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“No, @realdonaldtrump: this is NOT a lynching, and shame on you for invoking such a horrific act that was used as a weapon to terrorize and murder African Americans,” the senator continued.

“If you want to know what lynching actually looks like, go to [EJI] in Montgomery, Alabama,” Jones concluded.

RELATED: Jones on Trump: ‘Appears to be evidence of abuse of power’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn