Budgets, Cotton Checkoff Highlight Legislative Session
Increased funding for the Career Tech Initiative and state climatologist office, along with a cotton checkoff constitutional amendment, were among highlights of the 2014 regular legislative session for the Alabama Farmers Federation.
The Education Trust Fund budget provides a $1 million increase over FY2014 funding for the Career Tech Initiative, a program that provides job skills training to high school students. It also adds $600,000 for the state climatologist office while funding rural health programs and Auburn University’s poultry technology center.
“This budget is proof our legislators understand the importance of investing in agricultural education and research,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department Director Brian Hardin. Funding for Federation priorities was preserved in the General Fund budget, including $90,674 for the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program; $380,000 to offset Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) registration fees; and $1 million for the State Water Assessment Program.
Meanwhile, Alabama legislators gave voters a chance to make the cotton checkoff program automatic by approving a constitutional amendment during the July 15 runoff election. “Alabama cotton farmers will have a more stable future if this amendment is adopted,” said Federation Cotton Division Director Carla Hornady. “The state’s cotton farmers provide an annual economic impact of more than $290 million. Voters should support this amendment and tell others to vote ‘yes’ to keep cotton growing strong.”
A bill to remove the limit of F4 farm tags a person can have for heavy trucks passed the House of Representatives early in the session but died in the Senate the final night.
The Legislature passed a bill to permanently establish the governor’s Drought Assessment Planning Team, but a measure to make the Queen Honeybee the state’s official agricultural insect failed to receive a final vote in the Senate. Bills aimed at eliminating the state sales tax on farm equipment and strengthening catfish labeling requirements for restaurants did not come up for a vote in either chamber. Hardin said education and research done on those bills this year could pay dividends in the 2015 session.
For more on the session, visit AlfaFarmers.org/capitolconnection/ or see the end-of-session video at youtube.com/AlabamaFarmersFed.