FARMERS FEDERATION OPPOSES JACKSON COUNTY BILL
MONTGOMERY A bill that would allow the Jackson County Commission to control hog operations in that county is likely to receive final approval in the Alabama Senate Monday has drawn sharp opposition from the Alabama Farmers Federation.
Sponsored by Rep. Jon Robinson of Jackson County, House Bill 51 passed the House earlier this week. It would give the Jackson County Commission broad authority to stop a hog farm from operating if a complaint is filed with the commission.
If the commission issues an order, and the hog operation is not stopped within 30 days, the bill allows the county commission to seek injunctive relief in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Sen. Lowell Barron, chairman of the Local Legislation Committee, and sponsor of the senate version of the bill, chaired a public hearing on the bill Friday. He said he favors the legislation, adding that "there is no agriculture in this bill." Barron also made the statement that he didn't want any hog farms in Jackson County.
But Mike Kilgore, assistant executive director of the Alabama Farmers Federation, said the bill isn't just a local issue and it is not a hog issue. Instead, the bill has statewide implications and could come to include all of animal agriculture, including the state's largest agriculture industry -- poultry, he said.
"This bill may have a ripple effect that eventually could include all animal agriculture in the state," Kilgore said. "It is regrettable that Sen. Barron and Rep. Robinson don't see the long range effects of this bill."
Kilgore pointed out that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management recently adopted regulations for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations to oversee animal
feeding operations in the state. The CAFO regulations, which provide remedies for individuals who believe a farmer isn't operating in an environmentally safe manner, allow scientists and state officials to make decisions when complaints are filed. Those decisions are based on science, not emotion or politics, Kilgore said.
"Right now, the supporters of this bill claim it is only about hogs," Kilgore said. "But we believe that it eventually will spread to other animal agriculture industries. If animal agriculture is driven out of our state, consumers will pay more. If animal agriculture moves to third World countries, then we will be eating meats that are grown with little or no health and environmental regulations. The immediate effects of this bill could deter any growth at all in the pork industry, removing the chance for some farmers to stay in business."
The Farmers Federation tried several ways to delay or stop the bill but because legislators historically support local legislation, those efforts were thwarted, Kilgore said.