ALABAMA SENATE PASSES FAMILY FARM PRESERVATION ACT
MONTGOMERY, Ala., Feb. 16 -- Alabama farmers cleared a major hurdle in securing legal protection for their farms today when the Alabama Senate passed the Family Farm Preservation Act by a vote of 30-0.
Sponsored by Sen. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland, SB 61 would protect law-abiding farmers from frivolous lawsuits. It does not change environmental rules or protect those who break the law, but does prevent farming operations that abide by current rules and regulations from being declared a public nuisance. The bill was amended in committee to exclude new and expanding concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) that raise pork. There has not been a new swine CAFO built in Alabama since strengthened CAFO rules were adopted in 1999.
Brian Hardin, assistant director of the Governmental and Agriculture Programs Department of the Alabama Farmers Federation, said the Senate's passage of the Family Farm Preservation Act is a major victory for the state's farmers.
"This is the culmination of the hard work of Federation members and staff over several years," Hardin said. "Without this bill, farmers run a greater risk of being sued by neighbors who do not understand production agriculture. This legislation gives law-abiding farmers some level of assurance that they will be able to stay in business and pass their operation on to the next generation."
The Family Farm Preservation Act was originally introduced 10 years ago. The bill made it to the Senate floor in 2008, but the Senate adjourned without voting.
Hardin praised Benefield for sponsoring the legislation and Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, for getting it on the Senate calendar. Benefield was unable to be at the State House today because her husband remains in a hospital trauma unit following an accident last week. When asked by her fellow senators what they could do for her, her colleagues reported that she said, "Pass the Family Farm bill."
In Benefield's absence, Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, and Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb, presented the bill to the full Senate for a favorable vote. The legislation will now be assigned to a House of Representatives committee for consideration.