International trade, the farm bill and agricultural appropriations will top the agenda when more than 200 Alabama farmers travel to Washington, D.C., March 14-17 for the Alabama Farmers Federation’s annual legislative trip.Keith Gray, national affairs director for the Federation, said the trip provides an opportunity for members to get updates on national issues and share their concerns and comments with those who influence farm policy.”It gives us a chance to educate our farmers about issues of importance to them on a national level,” Gray said. “More importantly, we put a face on the voice of agriculture.”Our farmers are always well received because we are one of the largest groups of farmers that comes to Washington every year,” he added. “We have very good participation from members of Congress, staff and administration officials. That’s because our farmers show their commitment and interest in national issues by taking the time away from their farms to come to Washington.”The kickoff for the Washington Legislative Trip will be a breakfast session featuring American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. Ambassador Rob Portman, the U.S. Trade Representative, also is expected to address Federation members during a general session. Gray is assembling a panel of industry experts who will provide updates on a variety of general and commodity-specific farm issues.Gray said of utmost importance to Alabama farmers is the continuation of farm and conservation programs in the next farm bill. The current farm bill, which governs domestic farm policy, is set to expire next year. Farmers also will encourage lawmakers and administrative officials to continue working to open international markets for U.S. farm products. Meanwhile, Federation members will lobby their congressman for much-needed funding to support agricultural research aimed at increasing the profitability of production agriculture.A legislative reception is planned for the night of March 15. Several members of Congress and dozens of congressional staffers typically attend the event, which will feature barbecue by Alabama’s own L.O. Bishop of Colbert County and catfish from Southern Pride Catfish Co. LLC of Greensboro, Ala.Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby has agreed to speak to the Federation members during a luncheon on March 16, and all of Alabama’s congressmen have been invited to have breakfast earlier that day with their respective farmer constituents. Sen. Jeff Sessions also has been invited to address the Alabama farm group.In addition to the general sessions and organized meal functions, Gray said several commodity-specific meetings are being planned between small groups of farmers and key administration officials as well as congressional staff.
Annual Legislative Trip to Washington Puts ‘Face’ On The Voice of Agriculture