The Alabama Farmers Federation will closely monitor proposals for improving state government efficiency and budget proceedings, including funding for agricultural programs and ideas for repaying the $437 million borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund when the Alabama Legislature convenes Feb. 5. Voters authorized the transfer in September 2012.
In the general fund, the Federation will focus on budget items to offset the cost to farmers of the EPA-mandated Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) program and state-matching funds for the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) to expand irrigation acreage.
“Gov. Robert Bentley, House Speaker Mike Hubbard, and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh have demonstrated their commitment to addressing the concerns of farmers and funding important agriculture initiatives,” said Brian Hardin, assistant director of the Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department. “Moving into 2013, budget concerns remain. Our focus will be ensuring agriculture-related agencies and programs can continue delivering needed services for agriculture and forestry industries, the economic engines of our state.”
The Federation will continue its efforts with the governor, legislature, Alabama State Department of Education and members of the state school board to improve and secure funding for career technical education, including funding for agriscience programs during summer months, Hardin added.
The governor and legislative leadership have expressed a commitment to improving government efficiency. Bentley recently announced a projected annual savings of $750 million for state government through bond refinancing, contract renegotiations and “workforce right-sizing.”
“In these tough financial times, it’s important for our state to find innovative ways to do more with less, and we applaud state leaders for their efforts to make government more efficient,” Hardin said. “However, the state also has a responsibility to serve its citizens. Leaders are looking at ways to make law enforcement more efficient, and the Federation wants to be certain that rural areas are not unfairly affected by cuts or consolidation. Theft and vandalism of farm equipment, materials and livestock happen too often, and law enforcement needs resources and support to help prevent and investigate these crimes.”
Other priorities for the Federation include funding for rural road and bridge improvements, the National Poultry Technology Center at Auburn University, rural medical scholar programs and data collection of the state’s water resources. The Federation will also seek to extend the one-year time frame in the current irrigation incentive law, allowing farmers to fully utilize the $10,000 tax credit.
The Constitutional Revision Commission is expected to offer suggestions for revisions to three articles of the state’s constitution concerning distribution of powers, including the issues of home rule, the legislative department and representation.
“The commission has worked diligently proposing improvements to the state constitution,” said Federation Director of Agricultural Legislation David Cole. “Last year, the commission presented amendments to the banking and corporations sections of the constitution, which passed the Legislature and were approved by voters. We support the legislative leadership’s diligence in revising the constitution through an article-by-article approach. We’re monitoring this to ensure limited home rule is preserved so Alabama can avoid becoming a patchwork of counties with different regulations and various laws on zoning and taxation.”
Hardin said the Farmers Federation looks forward to working with Bentley and legislators for a successful session in 2013.
For legislative updates from the Federation, visit www.AlfaFarmers.org/capitolconnection and follow @AlfaFarmers on Twitter.