Environmental awareness may be sweeping the country these days, but it isn’t something new for Ronny Neely and his efforts earned him a special award at the annual meeting of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.
Neely is the general manager of the DeKalb Farmers Co-op and, while he wasn’t able to attend the meeting due to illness, AFC President Tommy Paulk praised him and pointed to numerous environmental programs he has initiated from his Rainsville headquarters.
Paulk specifically mentioned a concrete pad Neely built for liquid nitrogen solution tanks two years ago.
"During the same period, he also laid gravel driveways and staging areas," Paulk said. "Last year, he also did what he could to minimize exposure and established a containment area for the area around the liquid nitrogen tank."
As Neely worked on those projects, he also built an additional containment facility in the warehouse where crop protection materials are stored, said Paulk.
"Presently, Ronny’s efforts are focused on construction of a covered loading area located at the bulk crop nutrient warehouse," said Paulk, who added, "His commitment to environmental stewardship continues to result in positive and effective benefits to his cooperative in DeKalb County."
Danny Murdock, manager of DeKalb Farmers Co-op in Rainsville, accepted the award for Neely, who was described by Paulk as "a man who has been ahead of the curve in environmental systems throughout his career."
The announcement of the Environmental Stewardship Award wasn’t the only time protection of the environment as it concerns agriculture was mentioned at the annual meeting at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa.
Paulk pointed out that farmers around the county haven’t received the praise they deserve in protecting the environment.
"We woke up a few years ago in this company and realized all these folks running around the country and claiming to be environmentalists were really nothing compared to what farmers are," said Paulk.
He described farmers as "true environmentalists who love the land, earn their living from the land and would not dare mistreat the land."
"I don’t think we’ve gotten enough credit, so this award takes a little step in recognizing those engaged in agriculture who have done well in protecting the environment," said Paulk before announcing Neely as the 2009 winner.
The AFC President said, "American farmers should be lauded from coast to coast for their environmental efforts, especially when they are compared with those who tilled the soil many years ago. We’ve used less chemicals and fertilizer, and burned less of the fuel they tell us is bad, yet we produce 250 percent over what we did in 1948."
As a result of rapid and responsible agricultural programs aimed at protecting the environment, Paulk tipped his cap one last time before moving onto another issue at the annual meeting.
"Hug a tree if you want to, but we’ve been real environmentalists for years," he said, referring to farmers’ efforts to protect the land. "Take pride in it."
Alvin Benn is a freelance writer from Selma.