April 24, 2014
The national debt, expanding regulations, the new farm bill and international trade topped the agenda for 135 farmers who were in Washington, D.C., March 11-14.
Alabama’s congressional delegation met with Alabama Farmers Federation members attending the organization’s annual Washington Legislative Conference.
U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, both Alabama Republicans, shared concerns about escalating federal debt and expanding government regulation.
Sessions pointed out the interest on America’s debt last year was twice that of farm bill spending.
“Do not doubt that Washington his mismanaged your money, and we’ve run up too much debt,” he said. “We need growth, prosperity and better jobs, but we can’t do that by increasing debt.”
Sessions sponsored an amendment to the farm bill to expand on-farm irrigation under the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP). He praised the Federation’s role in bringing together elected officials, researchers and farm leaders several years ago, which led to creation of the AWEP program and other irrigation efforts.
Meanwhile, Shelby said overreach by federal agencies could undermine America’s economic recovery.
“Government can put regulations on you that defy logic,” Shelby said.
Elmore County young farmer Justin Barrett visited with Sessions and Shelby as part of the Agricultural Leaders For Alabama (A.L.F.A.) class, which participated in the annual conference. Barrett said he hopes to keep communication channels open with elected officials after returning to the farm.
“I want the members of Congress to know what they do impacts us every day on the farm,” Barrett said. “When something comes across (their desks) related to farming, I hope they can think about somebody they met the last few days who can help them understand the issues we are facing in Alabama.”
Alabama’s newest congressman, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., met with Federation members and praised passage of the farm bill. He said it was an example of bipartisan cooperation, resulting in savings of $23 billion over 10 years. He also spoke on the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy.
“It is so important we have a vibrant and strong agricultural community,” said Byrne. “It’s the number one economic sector in Alabama and one of the largest in the country. If you go around this country, you realize just how big agriculture is, so my message is that we are up here making sure we do everything we can to support the farmers out there who are feeding the rest of the people in America.”
Federation President Jimmy Parnell said conversations between farmers and elected officials at the conference set the foundation for future discussions.
“It’s important for our folks to build relationships with congressional staff members and these elected officials,” Parnell said. “These relationships give them real world, production agriculture people to call so they can ask questions about issues that arise on Capitol Hill.”
While in Washington, Alabama farmers visited the embassy of America’s largest agriculture trading partner, Canada. “Export markets have really been a shining star in the beef business,” said Montgomery County young farmer and A.L.F.A. class member Garrett Henry. “To be able to come here and meet with another country and learn...how we can help them and they can help us will only make a better relationship for everybody.” Attendees also had breakfast meetings with their respective U.S. representatives and a barbecue reception for congressional staffers.
For more photos, visit the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Facebook page, or watch a highlight video on the Federation’s YouTube channel.