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February 21, 2002   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
February 21, 2002

"MONTGOMERY, Ala." Passage of the farm bill will be high on the agenda of Alabama farmers when they travel to the nation's capital March 4-5 for the Alabama Farmers Federation's Washington Legislative Trip.

Federation President Jerry Newby has joined farmers from throughout the country in urging lawmakers to reach a compromise on federal farm policy in time for spring planting.

"The uncertainty in Washington over the farm bill already is affecting Alabama farmers," Newby said. "Agricultural lenders are reluctant to provide financing for crops. Landowners may be slow to sign lease agreements because they don't know how the farm bill will affect their rental payments. And farmers may have difficulty making planting decisions because they don't know what the price support and loan rates will be for their crops."

The House of Representatives passed its version of the farm bill last fall. Then, after months of delays, the Senate followed suit earlier this month. The two versions have been sent to a conference committee where House and Senate negotiators will work out the differences in the two bills.

Although the Senate version of the bill included some provisions not supported by Southeastern farmers, Newby is hopeful the conference committee will develop a plan that Alabama farmers can embrace.

"After another year of low commodity prices, farmers desperately need something to look forward to. A new farm bill with a guaranteed safety net to protect farmers when prices are low, could be just what the doctor ordered," Newby said.

More than 150 Alabama farmers will participate in the annual legislative trip. During their visit, the farmers will meet with Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions as well as House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest of Texas. A U.S. Department of Agriculture briefing on March 4 will include a question-and-answer session with high-ranking USDA officials including Marketing and Regulatory Undersecretary Bill Hawks.

Another highlight of the trip will be a series of breakfast meetings where farmers will have an opportunity to discuss important issues with their congressmen. Topics of discussion will likely include the farm bill, agricultural trade, environmental regulations and funding for research projects.

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