BALLINGER - The 2018 AgriPlex Ag Day drew hundreds of producers from the farming and ranching industry as well as businesses and government officials at the 29th annual event. While much needed rains fell, agricultural producers poured into the bi-annual event held Tuesday, March 27 at St. Mary's Catholic Church Parish Center in Ballinger.

BALLINGER - The 2018 AgriPlex Ag Day drew hundreds of producers from the farming and ranching industry as well as businesses and government officials at the 29th annual event. While much needed rains fell, agricultural producers poured into the bi-annual event held Tuesday, March 27 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Parish Center in Ballinger.

AgriPlex Ag Day, which included a variety of programs for producers and homeowners throughout the day, was organized by the Runnels County Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Runnels County and included many sponsors and exhibitors.

Welcome rains brought in the crowd which was estimated to have reached over 300.

“It has been a big success,” said Dale Duggan, chairman of the RCANRC. “Rain is always a blessing to us, plus the programs have been very informative for producers.”

Runnels County Extension Agent Marty Vahlenkamp, who has been in Runnels County since January, said the event went very well.

“The 2018 AgriPlex Ag Day was a great event,” Vahlenkamp said. “The program had a ton of good information that producers and homeowners can benefit from, we had a great turnout from both vendors and participants, and we received a good rain. That is a really good day.”

Cotton was the primary topic of discussion as Ag Day kicked off with the first program offered on cotton technology followed by the Southern Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association meeting, headed up by Robert Englert president of the SRPCGA.

Reports were given on the record 2017-18 season, in which a record 327,000 bales have been ginned so far.

Congressman Mike Conaway, was the keynote speaker during the lunch program. Conaway who was first elected to 2004 to Texas' 11th Congressional District, won the Republican March primary and will be seeking an eighth term in office in November.

Conaway, who chairs the House Committee on Agriculture, reassured producers and industry professionals that the Farm Bill is his top priority.

“We are working on a bipartisan basis to get this Farm Bill passed,” Conaway said.

He added that the week before, House Democrats had sent a letter saying they no longer supported the part of the bill that involved the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which calls for retraining and other requirements to get people who can work off public assistance. Conaway said that the Farm Bill does not take any funds from SNAP, but rather requires recipients to “get back on the ladder” to work.

“It is disappointing to turn your back on SNAP recipients,” Conaway said vowing to move forward to get the 218 votes he needs to pass the bill.

“I’m going to go forward and get this thing done,” Conaway said. “We want to invest in the people to get them off the public doll.”

Conaway has been heralded for getting the Title 1 reinstated for cotton producers.

“Having the cotton in there (Title 1) is a big deal,” Conaway said.

Conaway, who represents 29 counties in Texas’ 11th congressional district, including the Runnels, Tom Green, Concho, Coke and Brown, congratulated the producers on a great year especially for cotton production and urged them to take advantage of the gin share program.

“Congratulations on a record year in terms of volume,” Conaway said. “Way to go.”

Also during the event awards for Farm Family of the Year and AgriBusiness of the Year were presented. Susan Jacob, with her husband Mark 2016 Farm Family of the Year presented the award this year to Bill and Megan Belew of B & M Belew Farms. Bill Belew farms cotton, wheat and hay and also has cattle. He serves on the Runnels and Tom Green County Cotton Boards and has been a director of the Runnels County Junior Livestock Show including the upcoming year. He is also a member of the Runnels County ASCS committee. Megan Belew teaches kindergarten at Winters Elementary. All of the Belew children, Charles, Corley and Minnie help year round with

Bill and Megan Belew along with their children Charles, Corley and Minnie work very hard all year getting steers ready for stock show season. They are the Valley Creek Show team and it is definitely a family effort.

The 2018 Agribusiness of the Year award was presented by the 2016 recipient Scott Matschek to Toliver Brothers Chevrolet of Ballinger. Joseph Toliver and his family took over the dealership formerly known as Ben Alexander Chevrolet in 1988. The business has been a strong supporter of the agriculture community in Runnels County. Toliver Brothers also supports the Runnels County Junior Livestock Show, as well as 4-H and FFA. Joseph Toliver and his wife Caroline have four children, Chelsea, Marcus, Eric and Emma who are all active in school sports and youth livestock shows. The Tolivers are members of St. Mary’s Catholic Parish where Joseph is a Fourth Degree Member of the Knights of Columbus and Caroline is the CCD Director.

Shane Flanagan, of Ballinger and Macey Gerhart of Winters, were the recipients of the $1,000 Pat Lee Scholarship this year. Each year, the Runnels County Ag and Natural Resources Committee awards two scholarships to graduating seniors. This scholarship was created to honor the memory of Pat Lee, long-time Extension secretary, who loved Extension and her work.

Flanagan, is the son of Scott and Mylea Flanagan and is a member of Ballinger 4-H and helps with his family’s Southdown sheep operation. He raises and shows sheep and has been a Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador, a District 7 4-H Officer, and a state finalist in the Farm Bureau Free Enterprise Speech Contest. He plans to attend Texas A&M University and Major in Animal Science.

Gerhart, is the daughter of Scott and Melissa Gerhart and has been a member of Winters 4-H for 10 years where she excelled in the Foods and Nutrition Project placing fifth at the Texas 4-H Roundup. She has excelled in food and nutrition projects and in livestock judging competing at the state level for two years. She has competed in the photography project and has also served as president, vice president, and secretary for her 4-H Club. She plans to attend Texas Tech University and eventually pursue a Master’s Degree with an emphasis on Genetics and Biotechnology.