Federation’s Farm Bill Committee concerned about future of Alabama agriculture
Members of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Farm Bill Committee met March 22 to discuss the 2012 Farm Bill. The committee’s primary function is to analyze farm bill policy proposals with respect to Alabama Farmers Federation and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) policy and make recommendations to the president based on those analyses.
|Members of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Farm Bill Committee met March 22 to discuss details of the 2012 farm bill paying special attention to how the bill will affect Alabama’s farmers. Seated from left are Federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan; State Soybean Committee member Annie Dee; Federation National Legislative Programs Director Mitt Walker; Federation Cotton, Soybean and Wheat & Feed Grains Division Director Buddy Adamson; Governmental and Agricultural Programs Director Jimmy Carlisle; District I Director Joe Dickerson; Baldwin County Farmers Federation President and District XI Director David Bitto; Macon County Farmers Federation President Shep Morris; Federation President Jerry Newby, who serves as chairman of the Farm Bill Committee; and Southeast Area Vice President Ricky Wiggins.|
Appointed by Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby, Farm Bill Committee members include Southeast Area Vice President Ricky Wiggins, Baldwin County Farmers Federation President and District XI Director David Bitto, District I Director Joe Dickerson, Macon County Farmers Federation President Shep Morris, State Dairy Committee Chairman Will Gilmer and State Soybean Committee member Annie Dee, who also serves on the United Soybean Board.
As farm organizations seek to secure the best outcome in the 2012 farm bill for their respective memberships, National Legislative Programs Director Mitt Walker said the Farm Bill Committee’s work will be critical to the state’s agricultural and rural communities.
“The farm bill is a broad piece of legislation that impacts farmers as well as other segments of the general population,” said Walker. “National commodity groups, general farm organizations, conservation and sporting interests, nutrition advocates and the like are all advocating their respective positions. The House and Senate Ag Committees have a difficult road in front of them, but we remain hopeful that Congress can deliver a program that works for all producers and maintains an effective safety net for farmers.”
Walker added that budget concerns will also result in a significant reduction in federal spending for this farm bill.
During the meeting, committee members addressed concerns and ideas with Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF’s senior director of Congressional Relations, via conference call. The committee also reviewed testimony from the Senate Agriculture Committee hearings and discussed the impact various farm bill proposals would have on the state and nation. Testimony reviewed was from the March 15 hearing hosted by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry regarding crop insurance and risk management in the farm bill.
A number of national commodity groups offered testimony at the March 15 hearing including AFBF President Bob Stallman, who discussed the importance of drafting a bill that benefits all commodity sectors in a balanced, coordinated manner.
“While we continue to believe deep loss principles provide the best farm policy approach, we do want to play a positive role in the farm bill discussions,” said Stallman. “We want to do that by communicating our willingness to evaluate middle-ground alternatives.”
Among the other groups testifying before the committee were the National Cotton Council, Western Peanut Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and several crop insurance provider organizations.
Once the Federation’s committee reviewed all testimony, members confirmed their support of a number of positions related to risk management in the 2012 farm bill. Some of these principles included basing the safety net on planted acres rather than base acres, delivering the program through private crop insurance companies and doing away with payment limitations. Members also discussed the potential for conservation compliance to be tied to crop insurance eligibility.
“Farmers view conservation as a key to their overall management of the farm, but it certainly should not be tied to crop insurance eligibility,” said Walker.
The 2008 farm bill’s authorizations expire Sept. 30, or with the 2012 crop year for the farm commodity programs.
Alabama Senate confirms boards of trustees for two Alabama land-grant institutions
Autauga County Farmers Federation board member and cotton farmer Jimmy Sanford is among the list of new Senate appointments to the board of trustees for two Alabama land-grant institutions.
Sanford said he is humbled by the honor and believes his farming background will bring a unique perspective of independence and entrepreneurship to the board.
“The fact that the Senate chose a farmer as its first approved nomination is a credit to agriculture and what it means to this state,” Sanford said. “When the land grant mission was established 150 years ago, the country was experiencing turbulent times, much like today. When faced with difficult times, the people often turn back to their roots. I’m sensing that occurrence now, a return to greater respect for agriculture and farming.”
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby said he is confident Sanford will serve Auburn well.
“The Alabama Farmers Federation is excited for Jimmy in his appointment as a trustee,” Newby said. “Auburn University will benefit greatly from his service. I know personally of Jimmy’s contributions to Alabama agriculture and the nation’s cotton industry, as well as his love for his alma mater. We congratulate Jimmy on this confirmation.”
A graduate of Auburn University and the chairperson of Home Place Farms Inc., Sanford currently serves as chairman of the Alabama Cotton Commission and is a former president of the National Cotton Council. He is also a member of the board of directors for Alabama Power. He has previously served in leadership roles with the Alabama Agribusiness Council, the Business Council of Alabama, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Other incumbents to the Auburn University Board of Trustees received final confirmation from the Senate for another term: Jimmy Rane, Great Southern Wood CEO; Charles McCrary, Alabama Power Co. president; and Sarah Newton, Fayette Elementary School principal.Awaiting approval by the Senate Confirmations Committee are James Pratt of Birmingham, Elizabeth Huntley of Clanton, Robert Dumas of Auburn, Clark Sahlie of Montgomery and Ben Thomas Roberts of Mobile.
Three appointments to the Alabama A&M University board of trustees have also been considered by the Senate. Two members, John Hudson of Birmingham and Velma Tribue of Cowarts, received final confirmation, while the appointment of Huntsville’s Bernice Richardson awaits approval in the Senate Confirmations Committee.
Sessions, Shelby sponsor bipartisan bill to protect farmers
U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., have cosponsored new bipartisan legislation to protect America’s farmers from federal regulatory overreach. Introduced by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., the Preserving America’s Family Farm Act prevents the Department of Labor (DOL) from unilaterally imposing controversial rules that would restrict the ability of family farmers to work together as a family.
Sessions said he was proud to cosponsor the bill, which is critical to the future of America’s farmers and ranchers.
“Americans are justly concerned about the increasing reach and scope of federal intrusion,” said Sessions. “Especially troubling is that so much of this intrusion is done without public debate or votes—but simply imposed by an unelected federal bureaucracy. These bureaucratic farm regulations are inconsistent with the idea of limited, representative government. This is an important issue in Alabama, and our state’s farmers have a right to be protected from federal overreach, which intrudes on both their pocketbooks and their way of life. If this kind of overreach is left unchecked, it is only a matter of time before every American family is impacted by federal rulemaking run amok.”
Alabama Farmers Federation National Legislative Programs Director Mitt Walker echoed Sessions’ sentiments of protecting the rights of Alabama’s farmers.
“The Alabama Farmers Federation supports Sens. Sessions and Shelby in their effort to block this overly intrusive rule that imposes more regulations on the farmer,” said Walker. “These regulations are simply not justified. Farming has always been a family business where kids learn the values of responsibility, animal care, leadership and honest work. This proposed rule, to some degree, would allow the federal government to decide how rural families should raise their kids and what type of chores would be permissible on their parents’, grandparents’ or neighbor’s farm.”
Walker added that the Federation is a strong advocate of on-farm safety for all age groups and conducts safety training workshops across the state.
“We view the safety of children with the highest of regard, but we also believe that parents know better than the federal government what chores are appropriate for their kids to undertake,” he said.
Last year, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis proposed 85 pages of new rules that would directly impede on the lives and livelihoods of America’s family farmers by prohibiting youth from engaging in a wide array of traditional farm activity. These DOL rules would impose new restrictions on the handling of farm animals; common livestock practices such as vaccinating and hoof trimming; operating farm machinery; completing tasks at elevations over six feet high; and working at stockyards and grain and feed facilities.
To follow the status of the bill, visit http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr4157.
Federation reminds farmers to abide by E-Verify guidelines
The Alabama Farmers Federation reminds farmers they should have began using the federal E-Verify program for new employees April 1, as required by Alabama’s new immigration law.
Since passage of immigration legislation last year, the Federation has worked to educate farmers about the law and what they must do to be in compliance. The Federation sponsored workshops throughout the state, as well as webinars featuring legal experts and companies that help farmers secure employees through the federal H-2A guest worker program.
Mac Higginbotham, director of the Federation’s Bee & Honey; Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod; and Horticulture divisions, said the organization continues to work with lawmakers at the state and national levels to address farmers’ need for a dependable workforce.
“Our top priority is to make sure our farmers understand the law and take the necessary steps to be in compliance,” Higginbotham said. “We also are talking with members of Congress about the unique labor needs of American farmers.
“Many agricultural jobs require manual labor — often in a hot, dusty environment. And, many of these jobs only last three or four months of the year,” he added. “As Congress considers federal immigration reform, including proposals that would mandate E-Verify nationwide, it is critical that we develop an agricultural guest worker program that is flexible enough that farmers can hire the legal workers they need.”
For more information on Alabama’s immigration law, visit http://immigration.alabama.gov. For information on E-Verify, visit https://verify.alabama.gov/Login/Index?ReturnUrl=%2f.
McMillan seeks solutions to budget problems
In an effort to avoid layoffs, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) is trying to stay one step ahead of budget cuts. Before Gov. Bentley announced a 10.6 percent proration March 16, the department introduced three bills — HB 542, HB 543 and HB 544 — sponsored by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, aimed at generating income, improving efficiency and repealing an outdated mandate.
Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan said the legislation shows the department is keeping all options on the table.
“We’re trying to look at what we can do to keep from having any layoffs in this fiscal year or the next fiscal year,” he said. “We’ve pretty much cut as far as we can, so we’ve got to deal with this in other ways than cutting employees.”
HB 542 would repeal a $1,000 bond requirement for weighmasters in Alabama. HB 543 would increase the share ADAI receives for collecting petroleum fees from businesses selling petroleum products from 5 percent to 10 percent, resulting in $3 million more in the Agricultural Fund. HB 544 would levy a seed inspection fee on the seed distributors or manufacturers, whichever entity is the first to introduce the product to the market. Each bill unanimously passed the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee March 21.
Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, praised the commissioner and others at the department for their dedication to finding innovative solutions for the budget crisis.
“It’s time we find some way to better reflect the economic impact agriculture has in our state by giving them a little bit of the tools they need going forward,” said Wren.
The Alabama Farmers Federation supports the seed tonnage fee but has no official policy regarding weighmasters or distribution of petroleum fees.
Gardening, Tractor Expo scheduled for April 21-22
The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is hosting a Gardening Expo and Antique Tractor Show April 21-22 from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. at the Montgomery State Farmers Market.
Attendees will have the opportunity to visit with master gardeners and Extension agents on a variety of garden types during the free event. There will also be a showcase of antique tractors, brief educational lessons on pesticides and a selection of new farm equipment to view.
For more information, contact Sheryl Jennings at SherylJennings@agi.alabama.gov, or call (334) 242-5350.
The Montgomery State Farmers Market is located at 1655 Federal Dr., Montgomery, AL 36107.