When a delegation of more than 200 Alabama farmers makes its annual trek to Washington, D.C., this month, they’ll be voicing concerns shared by colleagues all across the nation.In fact, the issues identified as “priorities” by the American Farm Bureau Federation all will be on the minds of Alabama farmers when the Alabama Farmers Federation hosts its annual visit to the nation’s capital March 13-16.Chief among those concerns is the 2007 farm bill. On Jan. 31, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns unveiled the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2007 farm bill proposals, proposals which would reduce federal agriculture spending by $18 billion during the next five years as President George W. Bush seeks to balance the federal budget.Also jeopardized are millions of dollars in farm subsidies that are sent each year to farmers nationwide to offset losses caused by low market prices.Disaster relief programs for farmers hit by storms, drought or other unfavorable weather are also at stake.”The decisions that our lawmakers will be making in the coming months will have a profound effect on America’s farmers and their ability to feed, clothe and shelter our nation,” said Keith Gray, national affairs director for the Federation.Fortunately, said Gray, three Alabama Republicans — Reps. Terry Everett, Mike Rogers and Jo Bonner — have been reappointed to the House Agriculture Committee, making Alabama one of the few states to have three congressmen on the committee.”The Washington Legislative Trip gives us a chance to show lawmakers that Alabama, as the fourth-largest member of the 6 million-member AFBF, takes a very active role and interest in what happens in American agriculture,” said Gray. “It says a lot that so many of our members are willing to take time away from their farms in order to come to Washington and make their voices heard.”The kickoff for the Washington Legislative Trip will be a Wednesday morning breakfast session featuring American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, also has been invited to speak.U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, has accepted an invitation to speak to the Alabama delegation later that afternoon.A roundtable discussion on various agricultural issues and individual, commodity-specific meetings are being planned between small groups of farmers and key administration officials as well as congressional staff.Former Federation Board Member L.O. Bishop of Colbert County will provide barbecue for the Wednesday night congressional reception, an event typically attended by several members of Congress and dozens of congressional staffers.Both Alabama senators, Sen. Richard Shelby and Sen. Jeff Sessions, have agreed to speak to the Federation members during the Thursday luncheon meeting in the Dirksen Building, and all of Alabama’s congressmen have been invited to have breakfast earlier that day with their respective farmer constituents.
Annual Legislative Trip To Washington Brings Opportunity For State