1 year ago

Survey endorses local branding for Alabama specialty crops

Would you be more willing to buy a bag of sweet potatoes, basket of peaches or a jar of honey if you knew from the label that it was grown in Alabama?

A recent survey conducted by researchers at Auburn University shows that the state’s specialty crop farmers and leaders of Alabama’s major agricultural organizations believe that establishing and promoting regional and farm-specific brands for specialty crops would benefit their production.

“This survey represents the first small step in a very long journey,” said Ruiqing Miao, assistant professor in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology.

Miao worked on the survey with Loka Ashwood, assistant professor, and Ali Dawood, graduate student, both in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology; Taylor Johnson, associate bank examiner with the Farm Credit Administration and former graduate student; Deacue Fields, former chair of the department and currently dean of the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas; and Joe Kemble, Alabama Extension specialist and professor in the Department of Horticulture.

“The idea behind the initial proposal for the project was to seek ways and define barriers for establishing and promoting original branding for Alabama products,” Miao said. “Unlike some of our neighboring states, Alabama doesn’t have many original brands for specialty crops, even though we have very good products like sweet potatoes and Chilton County peaches.”

There is a lot of potential, he said, for Alabama to strengthen its specialty crop branding. The state consistently ranks high nationally in the production of such crops as pecans, sweet potatoes, blueberries, watermelons and peaches.

“Significant variations in climatic and geographical conditions across Alabama enable the state to produce abundant varieties of specialty crops,” Miao said. “Foreign and domestic competition, though, is growing for the state’s specialty crop growers in traditional commodity markets.”

New markets increasingly cater to quality, diversity, locality and even social and cultural heritage associated with agricultural products, he said.

“Alabama specialty crop growers are at a critical juncture to diversify their marketing options,” Miao said. “These challenges require specialty crop growers in Alabama to adjust their usual practices of producing and marketing products. Establishing regional or farm-specific brands for specialty crops is considered a crucial step to address these challenges.”

The research team began the project by interviewing eight group leaders in Alabama agribusiness. These interviews were intended to solicit the leaders’ opinions about the importance of branding and to identify the top specialty crops that would have the largest potential for branding.

“The eight group leaders unanimously believed that establishing and promotion regional and farm-specific brands for specialty crops in Alabama would benefit specialty crop producers,” Miao said. “As for the top candidate specialty crops for branding, the leaders all believed that sweet potatoes should be one of the top candidates. Honey and watermelons were mentioned by four out of eight group leaders, and peaches and strawberries were mentioned by three.”

Next, researchers interviewed farmers who produce the top two crops named by the group leaders—10 sweet potato producers and 10 beekeepers.

“We asked the farmers a different set of questions, including their opinion of branding, their barriers to branding and what types of resources or support they needed to implement branding,” Miao said.

Although the majority of interviewed farmers believed that branding would help specialty crop growers in Alabama, some expressed concerns that successful branding needs financial support from the state government, information support from branding experts and coordination support from farmer or agribusiness organizations, he said.

“There’s obviously an economic drive for branding—previous research has shown that branding can bring farmers a price premium,” Miao said. “But farmers need various resources and support to carry out branding.

“They need financial support because it costs money to establish branding. Also, they need support from experts in how to establish and launch branding. In addition, they need coordinated support from agribusiness organizations. Branding can bring farmers price premiums and higher profits, but there is also a cost.”

These needs of specialty crop farmers will require further research and cooperation with ag-related groups, he said.

“There is also a risk to fail, so we need to look at how to spread the risks or distribute the benefits,” Miao said. “This is not an easy task, and these surveys represent the very beginning steps.”

There is much more work to do, both from a research level and from producers and agricultural organizations, before specialty crop branding is commonplace in Alabama, he said.

This research is partially supported by an Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Specialty Crop Block Grant and by the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station.

(Courtesy Auburn University)

57 mins ago

Alabama Power completes restoration following historic Hurricane Sally

Alabama Gulf Coast residents are a step closer to recovery following Hurricane Sally, which battered the Alabama and Florida coastline Wednesday.

Sally was the first hurricane to make landfall in Alabama since Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and brought severe flooding and high winds that knocked down poles and power lines in southern and central Alabama before the slow-moving storm exited the state Thursday. Power was disrupted for more than 680,000 Alabama Power customers.

As of Sunday, power had been restored to 99% of Alabama Power customers able to receive service.

Throughout the multiday restoration, teamwork was paramount as company crews worked diligently to address outages in affected communities, getting the lights back on before originally projected times.

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By Friday, outages in central and southeast Alabama had been resolved and all efforts were focused on the Mobile area, as the coastal communities sustained the most damage.

Prior to Sally making landfall, Alabama Power positioned extra crews from across its service territory in the Mobile area so that they were ready to move quickly once the weather improved. From the moment it was safe, company crews were in the field, working day and night.

“Hurricane Sally will be remembered as the most damaging storm to affect Mobile since Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” said Patrick Murphy, Alabama Power Mobile Division vice president. “We appreciate our customers’ patience as we worked to restore power, and we’re committed to working alongside community leaders on full recovery efforts for the area.”

More than 4,000 lineworkers and support personnel from 14 states joined forces working to get the lights back on along the coast. Crews worked through rainy conditions over the weekend as Tropical Storm Beta loomed offshore.

By noon Sunday, crews had replaced more than 400 poles, more than 500 transformers and more than 1,500 spans of power lines that were damaged or destroyed during the severe weather.

“Our crews and industry partners worked safely and quickly through difficult conditions,” said Scott Moore, Alabama Power senior vice president of Power Delivery. “I am proud of their hard work and steadfast commitment to our customers, especially during times of need.”

Sally is just the latest severe storm in what has been a very active hurricane season. With more storms possible before the season ends later this fall, Alabama Power customers should remain vigilant and have their storm-readiness plans in place. Learn more about how to prepare at AlabamaPower.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

VIDEO: Gov. Kay Ivey signals no end to mask order in sight, media trolling for Tuberville dirt, State Rep. Mike Ball appears to regret vote on Alabama Memorial Preservation Act and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Are we really looking at wearing masks in Alabama well into 2021?

— Did Sports Illustrated attempt to dig up dirt with Tommy Tuberville’s former players as part of an October surprise?

— Does State Representative Mike Ball’s shift on the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act signify a notable shift in the Alabama Republican Party?

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Jackson and Handback are joined by Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) to discuss Confederate monuments, prison reform, the Jones/Tuberville race and 2020.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” aimed at those who refuse to accept that President Donald Trump’s peace deals in the Middle East are a good thing.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

9 hours ago

Doug Jones fundraises off of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

Less than 24 hours after it was announced that Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday evening, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) was fundraising for his own reelection campaign off of her death.

In an email sent out at 5:46 p.m. CT on Saturday, Jones began by saying, “This is a time for us to reflect on the life and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – to honor the barriers she broke and those she helped break for others. She always fought for equality and civil rights, even and especially when she was outnumbered.”

Alabama’s junior senator then pivoted to politics in the second paragraph, selectively pointing fingers at Republicans.

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“I’m saddened – though not surprised – by how quickly this has turned into a political power play by Trump and McConnell,” Jones claimed. “It not only dishonors the legacy of an American icon, it distorts the Constitutional process – a deliberate process that the Senate has always used to uphold the independence of our judicial branch.”

Jones did not mention that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was the first to bring politics into this discussion on Friday evening. Before Schumer even tweeted condolences for, or honored Ginsburg, the senate minority leader wrote, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

In contrast, President Donald Trump did not mention anything about filling the seat on Friday night, and McConnell’s comments came as a rebuttal to Schumer.

Additionally, it is not clear what “process” issues Jones could already have — as a nominee has not even been named yet, nor has a confirmation process been outlined.

Nevertheless, Jones in his email continued to use Ginsburg to fit his political purposes:

She stood for what was right and for the constitutional principles of equality and democracy that she held dear, even if it meant she was in the minority on the Court. She knew we are on the verge of a crisis for our democracy:

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” she said this week.

The “Constitutional process” Jones touted earlier in the email, of course, does not allow justices to dictate to the president or the Senate regarding their successors. It is unclear how this would “uphold the independence of our judicial branch,” as Jones asserted he aims to do.

Jones’ email subsequently contained a clear falsehood.

“Mitch McConnell has other plans,” Jones continued. “He is systematically dismantling the rules of the Senate. He’s changing the rules to fit his own agenda.”

To be clear, the Senate rules are not being dismantled, changed or ignored if the Senate proceeds to consideration of a nominee made by Trump in the coming days. Presidents have nominated justices to the Supreme Court of the United States 29 times during an election year previously in history.

Jones’ email concluded as follows:

So much depends on this Senate seat. Our win in November will be a defeat of Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy and cynicism.

As Justice Ginsburg said in 2015: “Waste no time on anger, regret or resentment, just get the job done.”

Immediately below Jones’ electronic signature on the email is a large, blue “Donate Now” button. This links to a donation page for Jones’ reelection campaign headlined in all caps, “PROTECT JUSTICE GINSBURG’S LEGACY.”

RELATED: Doug Jones has previously vowed to oppose Trump’s Supreme Court nominee — ‘I’ll do everything I can’

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

9 hours ago

Redistricting and Alabama’s room where it happens

No one really knows how the game is played
The art of the trade
How the sausage gets made
We just assume that it happens
But no one else is in
The room where it happens

This description of 1790s American politics in the well-known musical Hamilton echoes a still-relevant sentiment–that regular Americans really don’t know how all of this happens.

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But is that feeling accurate? Looking at our inability to pass a federal budget, the process of choosing Supreme Court nominees, and even our own recently-increased gas tax, it’s hard to say it’s not. Often it feels like we don’t know how any of this really gets decided (and that attempts to find out would be futile).

Soon enough Alabama will be dealing with another potential “room-where-it-happens” scenario, one that will have lasting impacts for residents across the state.

The scenario? Redistricting–the process of redrawing state and congressional legislative district lines.

Unfortunately, in some states the definition might more accurately be “the power of legislators to decide who they want to represent and who they want to get off their backs.”

One state where that definition has proven true is Illinois. And you need not look further than the story of President Barack Obama for confirmation.

In 2001, when the Illinois state legislature was drawing new district lines (a requirement after every census), then-State Senator Barack Obama made a decision. Set on higher office, Mr. Obama had already run and lost a congressional race in a heavily poor, heavily African-American district. He needed a stronger base. In a shrewd political move, Mr. Obama calculated that he would benefit from a district with more affluent and higher educated residents who might better identify with an academic from the University of Chicago.

As a member of the state legislature, Mr. Obama was able to draw the new lines to his exact needs. His revamped district was still majority African-American in makeup, but it now included many of the wealthiest neighborhoods of Chicago. It was this richer, more-connected demographic that Mr. Obama leveraged to launch and fund his successful campaign for U.S. Senate in 2004 and, from there, his bid for the presidency.

Now that’s Illinois. Is Alabama just as bad?

The short answer to that question is that – if residents don’t pay attention – it could be.

In 2020, the Census may strip a congressional seat from Alabama (seats are allocated based on a state’s total population as determined in the Census). That’s because, in addition to growing at a slower rate than other states, Alabama finds itself dead last in the country in responding to the Census as of mid-September. This should not be tenable to Alabamians. If more people don’t respond to the census, states like California will get both our congressional seats and the federal funding (your own tax dollars) that we otherwise would receive had more of us answered a simple form.

This means that, on top of the normal changing of district lines to account for population shifts, Alabama’s congressional delegation will be influencing hard to not end up in the district with two incumbent Members of Congress vying for one seat in the House (although that election will certainly be one of the more interesting ones of Alabama history).

As for the state legislature, the Census will also require those districts to be redrawn to account for an increasingly urban and suburban population (although there will remain 105 House and 35 State Senate districts). This promises to take up all the air in the State House, making large policy shifts in other areas even more difficult. This reality is another reason Governor Ivey should consider a special session this year to address coronavirus-related issues in which legislators won’t be distracted by redistricting.

Regardless, the redistricting process, which will occur during the 2021 regular session, is lengthy and detailed. Multiple public hearings will be held, maps will be drawn and redrawn, and the legislature will have to debate the fully redistricted Alabama in open session. Compared to other states which allow their legislatures to draw their district lines, this process is notably transparent.

As with any situation in which power is at stake, there is, however, the opportunity for corruption. Legislators looking to benefit themselves through the redistricting process, whether by following Mr. Obama’s lead and giving themselves a wealthier constituency or by ensuring their competition is in another district, will be given the chance.

Thankfully, there is a check on this power: the people. The system, in order for it to work correctly, requires residents of Alabama to understand that they have a role and a responsibility in government decisions, including the redistricting process. As transparent as the redistricting process is compared to other states, a window is worthless if it isn’t used.

When the Alabama Legislature holds its hearings across the state regarding newly-drawn district maps, the audience should be full of residents ready to look through the window and give a well-informed opinion. As the process continues, Alabamians ought to be calling their representatives with input. Believe it or not, these small efforts create real impact and reduce opportunities for smoky secret deals.

If, however, we sit back and ignore the entire process and the window into it we’ve been given, we best not be surprised when we later find out what’s gone on in the room where it happens.

To see a new report on the status of the 2020 Census in Alabama, click here or visit alabamapolicy.org.

Parker Snider is Director of Policy Analysis for the Alabama Policy Insitute.

, and 10 hours ago

College football power rankings: Bama stands ready at No. 1; Ohio State welcomed back

The big kids come back to play on Saturday. Until that happens, there is one more week of the Yellowhammer college football power rankings without the SEC having been on the field.

Yellowhammer’s rankings are determined by the combined votes of our experts. Their individual votes can be seen with an explanation of their rankings.

Here is where we are after week 3.

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Zack Shaw

1. Clemson: Clemson has badly beaten two overmatched opponents in the first two weeks. That is exactly what you expect great teams to do.

2. Alabama: Nick Saban and company deserve the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

3. Ohio State: Welcome to the party! Simply by announcing their intention to play this season, Ryan Day, Justin Fields and the Buckeyes deserve heavy consideration.

4. Oklahoma: The explosive Sooner offense and consistent success, recently, give Oklahoma the nod over the remaining teams at this point.

5. Texas: The Longhorns have one win under their belt already and are poised to add many more in 2020 led by QB Sam Ehlinger and coach Tom Herman.

6. Georgia: Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs will get their opportunity to move up on this list as the SEC kicks off this week.

7. Miami: The Hurricanes have the best resume in the country, so far. Led by explosive playmaker D’Eriq King, and a talented offense, Miami could move up this list even further if the defense improves.

8. Auburn: Gus Malzahn’s Tigers get their first chance to prove they belong in this list against Kentucky in week 1. Auburn has enough good players, will the Tigers have enough consistency?

Tim Howe

1. Alabama: Without even playing, it has become more obvious that the Alabama Crimson Tide is the best team in the country.

2. Ohio State: Complaining, threats and chest thumping was Ohio State’s reaction to ____. (Possible answers: 1) last year’s playoff loss, 2) the Big Ten cancelling its season, or 3) pretty much anything.)

3. Georgia: The D’Wan Mathis hype train picked up considerable speed this week. We are buying stock in that version of the Georgia offense.

4. Clemson: Dabo Swinney’s second team never scored against The Citadel, a team playing a four-game schedule this season.

5. Florida: Kyle Trask’s journey to become a starting quarterback on a top-5 team is not highlighted enough.

6. Texas A&M: The Aggies lost another key player to an opt-out this week. We want to believe this is the year for the Jimbo Fisher-Kellen Mond combo to break through, but we’re getting awfully anxious.

7. Texas: Same scenario in Austin as with their in-state rival…”we want to believe this is the year.” The Longhorns enjoyed a solid win against a bad team last week. Not too much else was learned.

8. Auburn: Gus Malzahn’s Tigers occupy the spot previously held by a North Carolina team which will not face an opponent between September 12 and October 3. We cannot wait to see what Chad Morris does to the Auburn offense.

Paul Shashy

1. Alabama: Game week is here! RTR. Last year was unusual because the playoff did not include Alabama. This year will be different. Alabama is reloaded and ready to roll. Linebacker Dylan Moses returning is huge, and Alabama’s defense will be back to their standard. Mac Jones, Najee Harris, Brian Robinson, and Jalen Waddle will lead the offense.

2. Clemson: Clemson will have college football’s most explosive duo in running back Travis Etienne and quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Clemson has the two best players in the ACC and one of the country’s easiest schedules; they’ll be in the playoff.

3. Ohio State: The BIG 10s sudden return has jolted projections and rankings. Look for Ohio State to be playoff contenders, especially with Justin Fields at QB.

4. Texas A&M: Texas A&M brings back nearly everyone from last year. I believe this is the year Jimbo Fisher gets his shot. They go to Auburn and Alabama, which is rough, but I think they’ll win one of the two.

5. Notre Dame: 2-0 is a good start, but they didn’t look all that strong vs. Duke. Notre Dame is one of the more experienced teams in college football this year; that’s why they hold the five spot. As usual, they have a much easier schedule than most other teams in my top 8. Notre Dame vs. Clemson in November will be one of the great games of the year.

6. Texas: They looked fine in their first game against UTEP. Texas brings back much of their talent, and I think it’s time for Tom Herman to finally get Texas back to what they once were as a powerhouse in CFB.

7. Auburn: Bo Nix is returning and should be much improved, especially considering the depth and speed at wide receiver. They should be a popular dark horse choice for the college football playoff.

8. Oklahoma: Easy cupcake game to start out, but they looked strong. Since they were stomped in the playoff last year, Oklahoma’s defense is returning eight starters. Because of this, they’ll be much improved. Oklahoma vs. Texas in October will be one of the biggest games of the year.