Five Alabama Farmers Federation members were among nearly 500 American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) members from 43 states who visited policymakers on Capitol Hill in late February. Farmers participated in the annual AFBF Issues Advisory Committee Meeting, which helps shape organization policy and strategies.
Brian Glenn of Lawrence County attended technology sessions. Brandon Moore of Madison County attended irrigation discussions. Ricky Wiggins of Covington County attended farm policy meetings, and Dennis Maze of Blount County attended sessions on environmental regulations, and Bill Cook of Montgomery County attended ag labor discussions.
Glenn said the technology committee focused on big data, drones and biotechnology, including genetically modified organisms. Discussions about collection of farm data were especially interesting, he said.
“I learned that nearly every piece of farm equipment sold has some information that can be traced,” Glenn said. “The way data collected on farms is used affects us in ways I didn’t realize and has a much bigger impact than most farmers are aware.”
Moore said most irrigation committee members were from Southeastern and Western states. He said it was interesting to hear Western farmers discuss water availability and water rights in areas where water is in short supply.
“While Alabama doesn’t face the same challenges as other farmers, we found common ground in concerns about the federal government and environmental groups using regulatory over-reach to hinder irrigation for agriculture,” Moore said.
Wiggins, whose group primarily discussed the farm bill, said the law created uncertainty for farmers, particularly those who grow cotton and peanuts.
“Everyone is still unsure exactly how parts of the farm bill will be implemented,” he said. “The biggest thing is how the generic base is going to affect peanuts and peanut marketing — and more than that, is how the payment limits of marketing loan gains are going to affect marketing cotton and peanuts.”
Maze said issues varied among the Environmental Regulations Committee members, but all were concerned by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers attempts to control all the waters of the U.S., regardless of size.
“There was a general consensus with our committee and with our congressional visits that this ruling should be repealed,” Maze said.
Cook said Alabama’s immigration laws appear to be as tough as any state represented at the meeting. Since mandatory E-Verify policy took effect in Alabama, many potential immigrant laborers felt threatened and left for states where the laws were more favorable, Cook said.
“Every state has its fair share of labor problems,” Cook said. “Hopefully, with the help of our state organizations and AFBF, we will have enough influence to make things better for farmers. We hope to influence members of Congress to work hard to change current laws.”
In addition to committees Alabama farmers served on, other committees met to discuss the budget and economy; energy; federal lands; market structures; trade; animal care; food safety; pests and invasive species; and public infrastructure.
Immediately following the Issues Advisory Committee meetings, committee members were invited to attend the AFBF Advocacy Conference.
The conference included Farm Bureau presidents, administrators, key staff and grassroots leaders who received updates on AFBF priority issues and participated in advocacy activities on Capitol Hill.
Federation members met with elected representatives to discuss immigration, tax reform, international trade, the Endangered Species Act, water regulation and biotechnology.