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March 08, 2004   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
March 08, 2004

MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- Preserving funding for farm programs and agricultural research will top the agenda when more than 250 Alabama farmers converge on the nation's capital March 13-17 for the Alabama Farmers Federation's annual Washington legislative trip.

"This is an opportunity for our members to meet face-to-face with their congressman and discuss the issues that affect their livelihoods," said Federation President Jerry A. Newby, a cotton farmer from Limestone County. "Our congressional delegation has been very supportive of Alabama agriculture and this year, helped secure $5 million for agricultural research in Alabama. Now, we are asking them to join us in opposing proposed budget cuts that threaten to derail continuation of the 2002 Farm Bill."

Last month, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and ranking Democratic member Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, sent a letter to the Senate Budget Committee opposing cuts to agricultural programs in the FY2005 budget resolution. The letter emphasized the role agricultural funding plays in protecting the environment, guaranteeing food safety, improving nutrition for children and senior citizens and providing an economic safety net for farmers. The senators also pointed out that the average cost of the 2002 Farm Bill is now estimated at $14 billion over five years, well below the $19.7 billion that was spent in 1998-2001 when previous farm bills were supplemented by disaster and economic assistance.

On Monday, March 15, Bruce Knight of the Natural Resources Conservation Service will address the Alabama Farmers Federation delegation, and the farmers will have a chance to discuss current farm issues with a panel of lobbyists representing beef, cotton, dairy, greenhouse and nursery and peanuts. That evening, the group will mingle with their congressmen and their staff members at the annual congressional barbeque.

Farmers will have breakfast meetings on March 16 with their respective congressional leaders, and at noon that same day, they are scheduled to hear from Hunt Shipman, staff director for the Senate Agriculture Committee during a luncheon.

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