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March 09, 2006   Email to Friend 

Dave Rickey
(334) 613-4034
March 09, 2006

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- International trade, the farm bill and agricultural appropriations will top the agenda when more than 200 Alabama farmers travel to Washington, D.C., March 14-17 for the Alabama Farmers Federation's annual legislative trip.

Keith Gray, national affairs director for the Federation, said the trip provides an opportunity for members to get updates on national issues and share their concerns and comments with those who influence farm policy.

"It gives us a chance to educate our farmers about issues of importance to them on a national level," Gray said. "More importantly, we put a face on the voice of agriculture."

The kickoff for the Washington Legislative Trip will be a breakfast session featuring U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. Richard Crowder, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agriculture Negotiator, also is expected to address Federation members during a general session. A panel of industry experts will provide updates on a variety of general and commodity-specific farm issues.

Gray said of utmost importance to Alabama farmers is the continuation of farm and conservation programs in the next farm bill. The current farm bill, which governs domestic farm policy, is set to expire next year.

Farmers will encourage lawmakers and administration officials to continue working to open international markets for U.S. farm products. Meanwhile, Federation members will lobby their congressmen for much-needed funding to support agricultural research aimed at increasing the profitability of production agriculture.

A legislative reception is planned for the night of March 15. Several members of Congress and dozens of congressional staffers typically attend the event, which will feature barbecue by Alabama's own L.O. Bishop of Colbert County and catfish from Southern Pride Catfish Co. LLC of Greensboro, Ala.

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby has agreed to speak to the Federation members during a luncheon on March 16, and all of Alabama's congressmen have been invited to have breakfast earlier that day with their respective farmer constituents.

In addition to the general sessions and organized meal functions, Gray said several commodity-specific meetings are planned between small groups of farmers and key administration officials as well as congressional staff.

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