By Maggie Edwards
Agricultural advocacy took center stage on Capitol Hill during the Washington Legislative Conference (WLC) March 7-10, as passion and patriotism sent 140 Alabama Farmers Federation members to Washington, D.C.
It was Chambers County farmer Jason McKay’s first WLC. He’s a partner in RL&M Cattle and RL&M Ag Services in Cusseta.
“It was a great experience to meet congressional leaders and share the items of interest that are important to farmers across the state,” said McKay, who serves as Chambers County Farmers Federation president. “It was eye-opening to see the full operation of Washington, D.C.”
McKay was joined by his daughter, Claire, a 15-year-old student at Lee Scott Academy.
“I was proud for Claire to be there and meet with congressional staff at her age,” McKay said. “She came back with a new perspective of Alfa and saw firsthand how important the Federation is in D.C.”
Alabama farmers welcomed U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., during the opening dinner March 7, where conversation centered on the farm bill.
“A farm bill is about creating a safety net so we can raise the food and fiber we need and meet our own needs,” said Lucas, the longest-serving member of the House Agriculture Committee. “There will be another farm bill because agriculture is fundamentally one of the most important things we do in this country.”
U.S. Sen. Katie Britt and Tommy Tuberville, both of Alabama, met with members addressing concerns and questions. Britt and Tuberville said they were eager to be with fellow Alabamians and received standing ovations from Federation members.
Britt began her remarks with an emotional “thank you” to Alabama farmers.
“I would not be standing up here as your U.S. Senator without each and every one of you,” Britt said. “Your willingness to give me a chance and listen made all of the difference.”
Tuberville reiterated his appreciation for Federation members and their work. He spoke about the 2023 Farm Bill and underscored its importance to farm profitability and potential to save family farms.
“At the start of my journey in the U.S. Senate, I told Federation President Jimmy Parnell we need a representative on the ag committee,” said Tuberville, who now serves on the Senate’s agricultural governing body. “We are going to fight, and we are going to fight to win because we must have farmers.”
Attendees also received farm bill briefings from American Farm Bureau Federation and National Republican Senatorial Committee staff. As farmers crisscrossed the capital, they met with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and U.S. Grain Council to talk about inputs and inflation.
During one small group meeting, McKay met with U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss.
“She is one that is for the farmers and behind the farm bill,” McKay said. “As a rancher, I am appreciative that our opinions and concerns of Waters of the United States and the 2023 Farm Bill were heard.”
Federation members also met with six Republican members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation during breakfast meetings — U.S. Reps. Jerry Carl, Barry Moore, Mike Rogers, Robert Aderholt, Dale Strong and Gary Palmer. West Alabama farmers met with U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., during small group sessions.
A perennial conference favorite, the Congressional Barbecue packed out American Legion Hall March 8. This time of fellowship and one-on-one conversation with members of Congress and their staffers featured Bishop’s Barbecue from Colbert County and Priester’s Pecans in Lowndes County. U.S. Rep. G.T. Thompson, R-Pa., who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, joined to hear the voices of Alabama farmers, including McKay.
“To know that we are being heard in Washington is important,” McKay said. “The results of that will allow us to continue to do what we love.”