As Alabama legislators prepare for the session to begin March 6, groups have been strategizing for weeks to get their bills passed or to defeat those they oppose. Alabama Farmers Federation Governmental Affairs Director Freddie Patterson said the session, which will end June 18, would be a challenging one for farmers and rural property owners.Among the legislative priorities set by the Federation, three are the direct result of earlier attempts by government agencies to place additional burdens on farmers, both financially and through cumbersome regulations.The Federation will support an exemption of agricultural and other vehicles up to 26,001 pounds from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation. The federal rule could force farmers to apply for an intrastate U.S. Department of Transportation number, which brings with it numerous other requirements normally associated with large commercial trucking companies.Last year, the Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR) announced plans to implement a new rule that targeted hunting lodges and preserves as a new source of tax revenue. Several Federation members received letters from the ADOR instructing them to register with the department for the purposes of paying lodging, sales and amusement taxes. The rule also would have removed agricultural tax exclusions for feed, seed and fertilizer for such operations.Attorney General Troy King thwarted the plan when he issued an opinion that said such hunting establishments were not subject to the tax.Patterson said the Federation would back legislation to specifically exclude such hunting operations from lodging and amusement taxes.The Federation also will support measures expanding the definition of “agriculture” and “agricultural” to cover recreational or educational activities directly involving or relating to the production of farm products, fishing and wildlife activities.Legislation to promote the use and production of alternative fuels also will be a priority for the Federation during the session, Patterson said.”Biofuel demand and production is rising at a rapid pace,” Patterson said. “It’s good for the environment; it’s good for national security; it’s good for farmers; it’s good for equipment and it’s good for the economy. Alabama farmers will benefit from the increase in demand for their products. We can improve this new market for farmers by providing state incentives for them to produce biofuel products and to use them on their farms.”The Federation plans to work with a coalition that includes the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to ensure a biofuel bill that benefits Alabama farmers. The Federation also will be pushing for language that allows a farmer who produces a product used in biofuel production to be eligible for an income tax credit on any biofuel they use on the farm.The Federation also supports a measure to establish a fund for promotion, education and research of biofuels that would encourage its use. It also could increase research for new sources of biofuels from agriculture and forest products.An effort to improve the business service of the Secretary of State’s office to enhance its lien-filing process also is backed by the Federation. The Federation favors using a technological approach to help streamline services and expedite filing services.Patterson said he expects some groups to propose a Constitutional Convention again this year in an attempt to raise taxes and give local governments home rule. “We oppose a convention as a method of changing Alabama’s current constitution,” he said. “We support only those changes that would improve Alabama by giving its citizens more of a role in their government, not less.”The Federation also will keep a close watch on state budgets and will seek funding for projects such as “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” Alabama’s career and technical programs, fire ant management and research at Alabama’s land grant colleges.
DOT Exemption, Hunting Lodge Tax Among Legislative Priorities