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April 09, 2004   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
April 09, 2004

Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, right, sponsor of the Family Farm Preservation Act, testified in favor of the bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Federation State Poultry Committee Chairman Dennis Maze of Blount County, left, chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation State Poultry Committee testified about the need for a bill to protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits.
Farmers who testified during a Wednesday morning hearing urged members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of SB 261, the Family Farm Preservation Act.

Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, sponsored the bill and serves as vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He told fellow members passage of the bill would protect farmers from frivolous lawsuits so long as they are abiding by all state and federal regulations.

"Farmers are environmentalists," Little said. "They know if they don't take care of the land, air and water they will be out of business. They were the nation's first environmentalists."

Pickens County pork producer Harley Martin told committee members he spent over $200,000 defending himself in a nuisance lawsuit in which a jury ruled in his favor.

"The financial cost was nothing compared to the amount of stress it put on my family," Martin said. "The regulations we now operate under are as strong or stronger than any in the country. The Family Farm Preservation Act will give farmers the confidence that if we're following the rules set forth by law, then these sorts of lawsuits won't be a threat."

Montgomery County farmer Anne Payne said she's feeling the effects of urban encroachment on her farm. She said the Family Farm Preservation Act enjoys broad support from all segments of the agricultural community.

"Farmers in general are in great threat of a nuisance lawsuit," Payne said. "The main thing we don't want is for farmers to give up and quit under this stress. It's a great loss to the community and the state when land goes out of farming."

Others who testified in favor of the bill during the hearing included Federation State Poultry Committee Chairman Dennis Maze of Blount County, Alabama Cattlemen Vice President Eric Smith of Pickens County and Alabama Poultry and Egg Association Executive Director Johnny Adams. The committee took no action on the bill, but Federation leaders are optimistic it could be passed by the committee as early as next week.

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