February 23, 2017
From left, leaders Eli Howard of Cullman County and Wendy Yeager of Dallas County meet Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon.
Members of the Agricultural Leaders For Alabama (A.L.F.A.) class met with legislators Tuesday night as part of their weeklong session focused on Alabama Farmers Federation policy and governmental affairs.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon, R-Capshaw, spoke to the class of 17 leaders about balancing work as a police officer and row crop farmer in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Although drought, low prices and high interest rates eventually forced him to sell the farm, McCutcheon said his personal experience gives him a deep understanding and respect for those who produce the nation’s food and fiber.
“I appreciate agriculture and what it does for our state,” he said. “It’s an economic engine for our state as well as our communities. My dad always told me, ‘The American farmer is the most honest businessman you’ll find anywhere,’ and I still believe that today. You have my support in agriculture; that’s for sure.”
The A.L.F.A. leaders were challenged by the legislators to get involved in public service — a point that was driven home by Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill, who is a graduate of the Federation’s leadership program.
“I’m very fortunate to have come through this program,” Scofield said. “The things I learned in this class help me today. It was invaluable.”
Scofield said media training and developing good communication skills are essential for the next generation of agricultural leaders.
“Part of our challenge is our messaging,” he said. “We have to tell our story as farmers because, I assure you, there’s a tremendous amount of people out there who want to portray us as bad people — especially those of us in animal agriculture. It’s very important we ensure people that we are stewards of the land. We care about our land more than any (government) agency, because, at the end of the day, if we ruin our land, we’ve lost everything.”
Dallas County farmer Wendy Yeager said meeting elected officials was a highlight of the A.L.F.A. leaders session.
“I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with our representatives and other members of state government,” she said. “I continue to feel privileged to be a part of this group of elite individuals that could very well be a intricate part of leading our state and government one day in the future.”
Other legislators on hand for Tuesday’s meeting were Sens. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville; Jim McClendon, R-Springville; and Tom Whatley, R-Auburn; and Reps. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds; Ed Henry, R-Hartselle; Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga; Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville; Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn; Jimmy Martin, R-Clanton; Connie Rowe, R-Jasper; David Standridge, R-Hayden; and Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley.
While in Montgomery, the A.L.F.A. class visited the State House where the leaders were recognized in both the Senate and House of Representatives. They also met with constitutional officers and chairmen of the House and Senate agriculture committees; attended the Alabama Farmers Cooperative convention; toured historic sites in the Capitol City, and continued working on leadership skills and a capstone project.