Rural economic development will be a priority for the Alabama Farmers Federation when the Alabama Legislature convenes Jan. 9.
Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department Director Brian Hardin said proposed legislation and budget allocations are being discussed to ensure farmers and rural families benefit from the rebounding economy.
“Gov. Kay Ivey recently announced the historic low unemployment rate of 3.6 percent,” Hardin said. “Businesses are creating jobs, and legislators want to make sure Alabama agriculture and rural communities are part of that growth.”
Keeping Alabama’s tax structure and regulatory environment friendly to farmers and small businesses will help sustain economic development, Hardin said. The Federation is meeting with other stakeholder groups to combat rural crime, improve infrastructure, expand broadband Internet access and fund agricultural education programs.
Last year, Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill, introduced a bill to expand rural broadband by offering incentives to providers. Federation policy supports increasing access to high-speed internet services. The Federation also is working with supporters of the proposed Alabama Rural Jobs Act, which is aimed at growing businesses outside the state’s metro areas.
“Leadership changes in Montgomery and Washington are creating opportunities for rural Alabama, and we must be ready to take advantage of those opportunities,” Hardin said. “The Federation is closely monitoring the proposed Republican tax plan and any potential impacts it may have on state budgeting. We also will continue to support improving farm- to-market roads and bridges.”
Budget priorities for the Federation include the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) program at the Alabama Department of Environmental Management; Career Tech Initiative; agricultural and citizenship education; irrigation; rural crime, and support for the state’s land grant universities, rural health programs, Extension system and agricultural and forestry agencies.
The Federation will welcome lawmakers to the 2018 regular session Jan. 17 with its annual Taste of Alabama Legislative Reception. About 100 elected officials are expected to attend the event, where they will sample Alabama-grown foods and visit with farmers from across the state.
For weekly updates during the legislative session, read the Capitol Connection electronic newsletter at AlfaFarmers.org.