News Federation Grassroots Policy Fuels Legislative Success

Federation Grassroots Policy Fuels Legislative Success

Federation Grassroots Policy Fuels Legislative Success
June 3, 2024 |

By Jeff Helms

Alabama Farmers Federation members successfully defended the organization’s policy on gambling while advancing the Alabama Farm Center and educating lawmakers about the need for reasonably priced health care options during the legislative session.

The Federation’s Brian Hardin said the organization’s grassroots strength was highlighted throughout the session, which concluded May 9. 

“Our policy development process and engaged members are our greatest strengths,” said Hardin, the External Affairs Department director. “Elected leaders know the Federation’s positions on issues are set by members from all 67 counties. The relationships those members have with legislators make the difference when it comes to passing legislation important to farmers and forest landowners or defeating measures harmful to our state.”

Efforts to expand gambling in Alabama took center stage at the State House for much of the session. Federation policy opposes legalizing gambling in any form. The organization’s steadfast position was a safe harbor for lawmakers concerned about the societal costs of gambling as they faced intense pressure to vote “yes” on casinos. Ultimately, gambling failed as the House and Senate differed on the number and type of casinos the legislation would authorize.

In addition to standing firm for the Federation’s core values, the organization further laid groundwork for the Alabama Farm Center at Hallmark Farm. Legislation establishing the project’s governance structure and ensuring sustainable operation was approved. 

“We appreciate Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, and Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens, for sponsoring this important legislation, as well as members of the Legislature who voted for passage,” said Federation Organization Department Director Matthew Durdin. “The Alabama Farm Center will provide educational opportunities for young people and strengthen the local and state economies. We also thank the city of Warrior, Jefferson County, Gov. Kay Ivey and a growing list of corporate supporters for their dedication in making the Alabama Farm Center a reality.”

External Affairs Department Director Brian Hardin, left, and Agricultural Legislation Director Preston Roberts hosted Lee County Women’s Leadership Committee members.

Throughout the session, the Federation worked to educate legislators about the need for quality health care at a reasonable price. Legislation that would authorize the organization to market health plans similar to those offered by other state Farm Bureaus failed to gain traction in a Senate committee. The real-life stories of farmers facing skyrocketing health insurance costs, however, provided momentum for more discussion in the coming months. 

“Health plans have the potential to reduce health care costs for self-employed farmers by 30-60%,” Hardin said. “We appreciate Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, for sponsoring the bill this year. The stories of farmers having to take off-farm jobs, forego investment in their crops or risk going without insurance resonated with legislators. It’s important we keep sharing these real-life experiences in the off season as we prepare to reintroduce legislation next year.”

Other bills important to Federation members which became law this session included a sales tax exemption for agricultural fencing materials; a cap on property tax increases; and a prohibition against the manufacture and sale of lab-grown meat. All Federation priorities in the Education Trust Fund and General Fund budgets were level funded.

Major legislative accomplishments included passing the CHOOSE Act to authorize educational savings accounts for school choice and the Working for Alabama package aimed at increasing the state’s workforce participation. 

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