Member engagement and relationships with lawmakers yielded success for the Alabama Farmers Federation during the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 Regular Session.
Federation President Jimmy Parnell said passing the 2022 Farm Package was challenging due to debate on unrelated issues, but victory was achieved thanks to the persistence of county leaders, staff and friends in the Legislature.
“The Federation had a very good session,” Parnell said. “Efforts to legalize gambling were thwarted. Farm package bills written in direct response to farmers’ needs became law, and we secured additional funding for agriculture and youth programs. The challenge of passing simple, common-sense legislation was, at times, frustrating. Ultimately, our members made the difference. Their contacts with our friends in the Legislature pushed these priorities across the finish line.”
A key component of the 2022 Farm Package was the Sweet Grown Alabama Act, which exempts farmers from collecting and remitting sales tax on value-added products they grow, process and sell. It was sponsored by Rep. Van Smith, R-Billingsley, and Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro.
Another bill by Rep. Wes Kitchens, R-Arab, and Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, clarifies the ad valorem sales tax exemption for grain bins. A third by Rep. Gil Isbell, R-Gadsden, and Sen. Tom Butler, R-Madison, prohibits counties from charging farms fees for business licenses.
Legislation made the peanut Alabama’s official legume and honored George Washington Carver, while another bill passed allowing the forest products license tag to be used on trucks hauling harvesting equipment. Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, sponsored both.
“Passing bills that improve farmers’ lives is what the Federation is all about,” said Federation External Affairs Department Director Brian Hardin. “Each is the result of members expressing needs at the grassroots level. Our members, leaders and staff educated legislators about the importance of these bills and stayed engaged with them throughout the process. This is the kind of work the Federation has been doing for over 100 years and demonstrates what we can accomplish when our members are united and motivated.
“We can’t thank the leadership and sponsors enough for their support and commitment,” Hardin added. “Many come from farming and rural backgrounds, so they understand the needs and challenges of our members. Their willingness to listen and lead shows the importance of the Federation’s work to identify, develop and elect public servants who appreciate agriculture and forestry’s impact in our communities and state.”
Hardin said House and Senate leaders were critical to passing Federation priorities in the closing days of the session. He thanked Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper; Senate Rules Chairman Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills; Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville; and Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, as well as House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Capshaw; Rules Chairman Mike Jones, R-Andalusia; and House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville.
Federation budget priorities were funded, including critical support for Sweet Grown Alabama, Ag in the Classroom, Auburn University’s livestock judging program, Classroom in the Forest, the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations program and the Career Tech Initiative.
New appropriations included $275,000 for FFA membership dues of agriscience students; $125,000 for a 4-H youth agriculture and animal science specialist; and $200,000 for a forestry economic development specialist. The latter was recommended by the Federation’s Forest Products Study Committee.
Hardin thanked budget chairmen and committees for investing in the future of agriculture and forestry. Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, and Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, were instrumental in adding the forestry specialist and preserving other priorities in the General Fund. Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, shepherded the Education Trust Fund through the legislative process and worked to increase funding for agriscience education, youth programs and workforce development.
For more details on the legislative session, visit AlfaFarmers.org/capitolconnection.