Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture Rick Pate is seeking additional funding from the Alabama Legislature this year to enhance markets for Alabama-grown products.
In the General Fund budget, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) is requesting an additional $250,000 to implement the state’s new agricultural brand, Sweet Grown Alabama. Introduced to producers last fall, the program aims to provide added value for members through advertising, promotion and consumer preference for locally grown products. A consumer-facing website is currently under development with launch planned for spring.
The Alabama Farmers Federation and ADAI are the founding members of Sweet Grown Alabama. Federation President Jimmy Parnell serves on its board of directors along with Pate and Horace Horn of PowerSouth.
Pate also is asking for $120,000 in the Education Trust Fund budget to encourage participation in Alabama’s Farm to School program. The program helps connect local schools to farmers who can supply fresh products for student lunches. The additional money would fund a pilot program to reimburse schools for purchasing Alabama agricultural products. Schools would receive 25 cents for each meal containing local foods. ADAI officials hope to increase Farm to School participation by 400,000 meals through the program. The budget request also includes funds to educate school nutrition directors and recruit farmers to provide foods needed by schools.
“We appreciate Commissioner Pate supporting both Sweet Grown Alabama and Farm to School,” said the Federation’s Hunter McBrayer, who serves as executive director of the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. “These programs help our farmers by exposing students and shoppers to the flavor, quality and variety of Alabama agriculture.”
Visit SweetGrownAlabama.org and AlabamaFarmtoSchool.org for more information.