LEGISLATORS URGED TO PASS FAMILY FARM PRESERVATION ACT
The Alabama Farmers Federation is working to secure passage of the Family Farm Preservation Act during the legislative session that began Jan. 8.
Last year, a similar bill passed the House of Representatives by a large margin but failed to come up for a vote in the Senate after it stalled in committee.
Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, has initiated a committee to try to resolve differences among the parties with an interest in the bill. Committee members include legislators as well as representatives for farmers, environmentalists, agribusiness and trial lawyers.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Butler, D-Madison, has introduced the bill in the Senate again this year (SB 79).
Rep. W.F. "Frank" McDaniel, D-Albertville, has agreed to introduce the bill in the House of Representatives but the bill has not been assigned a number as yet. Rep. McDaniel introduced the Family Farm Preservation Act in the House last year and lead a heated debate that eventually resulted in overwhelming approval of the measure in the House.
The Family Farm Preservation Act is aimed at keeping farm operations that abide by current rules and regulations from being declared a public nuisance.
The bill also stipulates that any person or group who sues a farmer abiding by current rules and regulations for public nuisance and loses, must pay the farmer's attorney's fees and expenses associated with the case.
The proposed legislation more clearly defines what a farm is, allows an operation to remain classified as a farm if it is transferred to another farmer and allows a farmer to expand his or her operation within the current regulations while maintaining the farm's original established date.
The bill would prevent city or county regulations from being adopted that would classify a farm as a public or private nuisance so long as the farm is operating by all state and federal regulations.
Farmers also will be allowed to maintain the right to farm if there is a change in the use of property located adjacent to or in the vicinity of his or her farm.
A Land Use Planning Committee, appointed in 2000 by Alfa Farmers President Jerry Newby, studied the issue for almost a year before recommending portions of the legislation. The committee's recommendations included portions of legislation adopted in Florida and Texas that have worked well in those states.
"We are calling upon our members on the local level to contact their senators and representatives to encourage them to support the bill," said Freddie Patterson, director of the Federation's Governmental Affairs Department. "This legislation is a top priority for our members and for all farmers in Alabama."