ALABAMA LAWMAKERS TO ATTEND AG SYMPOSIUM
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Rural economic development, alternative energy and water resource management will be among the topics discussed when Alabama legislators gather at The Legends in Prattville Feb. 8-9 for the Alabama Agriculture Symposium.
Sponsored by Alabama Farmers Federation, Monsanto, Auburn University, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, the two-day event will give lawmakers a chance to learn about opportunities for agriculture and how that industry strengthens the state.
"Agriculture is Alabama's number-one industry," said Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Mike Kilgore. "If we are to revitalize our rural communities and bolster the state's economy, agriculture must lead the way. With the legislative session a month away, this is a great opportunity to show legislators what is on the horizon for agriculture and how our future crops can yield a bountiful harvest for the state as a whole."
Kilgore, along with Federation President Jerry A. Newby, a Limestone County farmer, will kick off the symposium on Thursday, Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. Kilgore's presentation, titled "The Changing Face of Agriculture," will show lawmakers how rural economies are losing up to $2.8 billion a year due to the loss of 3.7 million acres of harvested cropland since 1950.
These statistics underscore the importance of farm-related businesses to rural communities and why the state should strive to preserve its agricultural heritage.
To maximize the potential growth of agriculture - and consequently, rural economies - farmers of the future will need to take advantage of new technologies, emerging crops and better water management practices, Kilgore said. Those topics will be the focus of the symposium on Friday, Feb. 9, as lawmakers hear from a host of scientists, researchers, farmers and rural economic experts.
Specific topics will include New Technologies in Agriculture, Alternative Sources of Energy, Rural Development and the Alabama Irrigation Initiative.
Richard McNider, professor of science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, along with Jim Hairston, soil and water program coordinator for Auburn University, will introduce a bold initiative to help farmers take advantage of Alabama's vast water resources.
David Bransby of Auburn University, who earned national recognition for his work with switchgrass, will participate in the alternative energy discussion. The program also will include the new executive director of Auburn University's Institute of Natural Resources, Larry Filmer, as well as AU chemical engineering professor Chris Roberts and Steve Taylor, chairman of AU's Alternative Fuels Task Force.
The keynote speaker for Friday's luncheon will be James Hayes, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. He will emphasize the critical role agriculture must play in the revitalization of rural communities.
Federation Governmental Affairs Director Freddie Patterson will moderate a closing panel discussion with representatives from several agricultural commodity groups.