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March 13, 2013   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
March 13, 2013

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell introduces U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., during the opening session of the Washington Legislative Conference.
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 13 -- The Obama administration is using scare tactics to magnify the impact of sequestration, according to U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., who spoke to Alabama farmers visiting Washington, D.C., this week.

Aderholt, a member of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, serves as chairman of its Subcommittee on Agriculture. He discussed the national debt and the importance of crafting a new farm bill with 128 Alabama Farmers Federation members during the opening session of the organization's annual Washington Legislative Conference.

"It's very frustrating that the administration would use USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) as one of its scare tactics and scape goats for these cuts," Aderholt said. "While some furlough days (for FSIS employees) are possible, I think the administration could tone down its rhetoric with this and try to manage the funding crisis so production hours (in food processing plants) are cut as a last resort."

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently announced FSIS employees would be furloughed as part of sequestration, which could cause significant delays at meat, poultry and egg processing plants. Law requires inspectors to be present at the plants.

"Cuts need to be made, but they need to look at the fat and waste first," Aderholt said.

Federation President Jimmy Parnell introduced Aderholt during the meeting, describing the congressman as a friend to Alabama farmers who recognizes and appreciates the importance of agriculture. Parnell echoed Aderholt's remarks about the need to pass a farm bill before 2014.

"Farmers need a farm bill so they can determine what and how much they intend to plant next year," Parnell said. “We need to know before 2014 gets here. Agriculture is a $70.4 billion industry in our state, and it's important that we keep it growing."

Farmers heard more about the national debt and government regulations from other speakers throughout the day, including Matt Erickson, an economist with American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF); Chuck Penry, a lobbyist with Tyson Foods, Inc., Bob Redding of the Georgia Peanut Commission and Kristi Boswell of AFBF, who spoke on immigration and farm labor reform.

In addition to hearing from speakers during the two-day conference, 18 small group meetings will be held with congressional staff members. Parnell said those meetings are especially important.

"These large group sessions are good, and we get a lot of information from our speakers," he said. "But when we are able to meet with staffers and other ag leaders in small groups, the stream of information is reversed. We're able to tell them what our issues and concerns are and hopefully impact the decisions that are going to be made."

Tonight, farmers will attend a barbecue at the Longworth House Office Building, where members of Alabama's congressional delegation and their staffs are expected to attend.

Thursday morning, Federation members will separate into seven groups and have breakfast with their respective congressmen. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby is expected to address the group at lunch that day.

For photos and updates from the Washington Legislative Conference follow the Alabama Farmers Federation on Twitter and Facebook using the links at the bottom of www.AlfaFarmers.org.

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