More than 250 catfish farmers from across the Southeast met here March 5-7 for the 2009 Catfish Farmers of America Annual Convention and Research Symposium, which was held at the Natchez Convention Center and the adjacent Natchez Eola Hotel.
The Catfish Farmers of America (CFA) has represented the farmers, processors, feed mills, researchers and suppliers of the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry since 1968. This year’s convention was hosted by Catfish Farmers of Mississippi.
In addition to a full day of research presentations highlighted by aquaculture specialists from Auburn University, Louisiana State University, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Mississippi State University, the conference recognized distinguished farmers from the four major producing states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
“One of the highlights of the CFA Annual Awards luncheon is recognizing individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the catfish industry,” said Roger Barlow, executive vice president of Catfish Farmers of America and president of The Catfish Institute.
“Each year, the four state associations are asked to select from their membership a deserving producer to be named as their state’s Catfish Farmer of the Year. This honor is a great opportunity to give outstanding producers national recognition for their contributions to our industry.”
Townsend Kyser is a third generation catfish farmer from Greensboro, Ala., where he farms with his father Bill and brother Ashley. Their industry-pioneering farm was started in the mid 1960s by Townsend’s grandfather, Joey Kyser, who built the first commercial ponds in the state. The operation has grown to over 700 water acres.
Townsend is a graduate of Auburn University and a leading advocate of agriculture throughout Alabama. He is currently serving on the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Young Farmer Committee and has served in many other positions of leadership including Farm Bureau’s National Young Farmer Committee and Aquaculture Commodity Advisory Committee, as well as the Farm Bureau National Board of Directors.
Townsend and his wife, Kelly, are the parents of Laura and Will and are active members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greensboro, where Townsend serves as a member of the vestry.
Dennington Moss of Lake Village, Ark., began farming catfish in 1998 and now operates 860 water acres. Dennington is a graduate of Montrose Academy and the University of Arkansas. After graduating with a degree in Business Administration, he returned to the family farming operation raising cotton, rice and soybeans.
Dennington is a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity and is a Catfish Farmers of Arkansas board member. He and his wife, Allison, are the parents of three children, Landers, Ella and Hadley. They attend Lakeside Methodist Church in Lake Village.
Brandon Haring of Wisner, La., owns and operates Franklin Catfish Growers Deer Creek. He entered the catfish business in 1996 and currently farms 400 water acres. Brandon is married to Amanda, and they have two children, Braden and Austin.
Joe Oglesby of Indianola, Miss., owns and operates 320 water acres in Sunflower County. He entered the catfish business in 1987 and has been very involved in the industry since that time.
He was a founder of Fishbelt Feeds and has been its President since 1991. Joe currently serves as chairman of Catfish Farmers of Mississippi’s Board of Directors while also serving on the board of directors for Catfish Farmers of America and The Catfish Institute. He has served as chairman of the Delta Council Aquaculture Committee and as a member of the Delta Pride Board of Directors.
Joe and his wife, Tiny, have two grown children and three grandchildren.
John Dillard, a native of Osceola, Ark., moved to Leland, Miss. over 50 years ago. He and his family have farming interests in Washington and Sunflower counties that include corn, rice, soybeans and catfish.
In 1969, John built his first catfish ponds and was instrumental in the catfish industry’s growth and development. He has served on the CFA Board of Directors and as a member of the CFA Executive Committee, as well as President of Catfish Farmers of Mississippi. He was a founding member of Producers Feed Company, Delta Western Feed Mill, Delta Pride and also has interest in Country Select Catfish.
He was also a founder and served as president of The Catfish Bargaining Association and its predecessor, The Mississippi Catfish Farmers Marketing Association. In 1986, John was instrumental in organizing The Catfish Institute.
At the 1987 annual convention of Catfish Farmers of America, he was recognized as the Catfish Farmer of the Year. In 1996, he received the Distinguished Service Award from Catfish Farmers of Mississippi. John is also an active member of Delta Council, having served as its president in 1987, as well as vice-president and as chairman of the Aquaculture Committee.
“We congratulate Mr. Dillard on being named the third recipient of the Catfish Farmers of America Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Barlow. “This is the pinnacle of awards for our industry and is reserved for those individuals who are truly deserving.”
For the last five and one-half years, McCall has also served as secretary to the Board of Directors of The Catfish Institute. In 2004, he served as interim president of The Catfish Institute.
McCall has received numerous awards and service appreciation honors for his loyalty and dedication to the industry. Prior to joining The Catfish Journal, he was a business editor for the Clarion Ledger newspaper in Jackson, Miss., and a co-founder of the Mississippi Business Journal.
He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, a former member of the U.S. Army Reserve and an avid golfer.
“Aside from Mike’s prestigious career,” said Barlow, “it may be more impressive that he is truly well-liked and respected by all that know him. He is a loyal friend to all of us, and it is painfully difficult to imagine what this industry will be like without him.”
“He has been a constant for this industry, and we have all come to count on The Journal arriving every month in our mailbox,” Barlow continued. “It has been my privilege to work by his side for the past five and one-half years at The Catfish Institute, and for the last two years at CFA.”