Master tree farmer program

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 21, 2001

The Master Tree Farmer 2001 Program started in Butler County on Tuesday, February 6 at the Butler County Extension Office.

Broadcasts will air each Tuesday evening through March 20.

Topics being covered include:Introduction to Forest Management and Forestry Concepts; Pine and Hardwood Management; Wildlife Management; Selling and Harvesting Timber; Forestry Finance, Taxation, Estate Planning; and Forestry Services Available to the Landowner.

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Nineteen persons from Butler and surrounding counties are participating in the live satellite broadcast program originating from Clemson University in South Carolina.

The program is available to several states across the southeast via satellite broadcast.

A more advanced portion of the Master Tree Farmer Program is expected to be offered next year.

For more information, please contact the Butler County Extension Office.

Poultry producers battling high fuel costs rising propane costs, coupled with a much colder than normal winter, are causing the state's poultry growers significant problems.

The high fuel costs are cutting into potential profits and growers are looking for ways to handle the steep increases.

In Butler County some poultry growers reported propane costs as high as $15,000 for the extremely cold January.

And that was using propane gas locked in at 85 cents per gallon back in the fall.

Those having to buy gas now are paying up to $1.45

per gallon at commercial discount rates.

Should high gas prices continue, it could be devastating to poultry growers in the future!

Poultry houses can use up to 4000 gallons of propane a year.

It doesn't take much to figure that a large increase in fuel costs will drastically cut down profit margins for the poultry grower.

Dr. Gene Simpson, an Extension agricultural economist, hopes the high cost facing Alabama's poultry farmers is a short-term one.

"Poultry farmers grow their birds on contract with larger companies.

The companies supply the chicks and the feed while producers furnish houses, labor and the utilities.

The growers' biggest area of risk is in utilities – gas and electricity.

Gas amounts to about 40 percent of the growers' out-of-pocket expenses in normal years.

This year, it is 55 to 60 percent.

If utility prices jump, it impacts producers' profits.

Propane prices running this high could slash some growers' net returns between 20 and 35 percent."

Some poultry farmers who are still making mortgage payments on their houses do not have any money left from their flock payment after their fuel bill and other bills are paid.

Unlike many businesses who pass increased costs to consumers, poultry farmers cannot do this.

They raise birds under contract at a specific price.

Simpson says this crisis potentially could drive some farmers out of business.

While Simpson acknowledges that contracting for propane early is benefiting producers he says there are some potential difficulties.

The savings this year could become a drawback when it's time to negotiate the next year's contract.

"With prices running around $1.35 or more, most propane companies will be reluctant to book a price less than that.

That might be a good price if the price continues to rise, but if the price drops, farmers will be stuck paying a contract price higher than actual market price," says Simpson.

Hopefully growers can book propane at around 80 cents per gallon this summer.

Simpson adds that many poultry producers can reduce propane costs by improving the efficiency of their chicken houses, thus reducing the quantity of propane required to heat the house.

A one-eighth-inch un-caulked crack along both walls of a typical poultry house is equivalent to a 10 square foot opening.

Extension poultry scientists and agricultural engineers working with researchers at Auburn University are developing a variety of methods to improve the heating and cooling efficiency of chicken houses.