When more than 200 Alabama farmers made their annual trek to the nation’s capital in March 2007, their main concern was a new farm bill. A year later, not much has changed — the farm bill will again be the chief priority when the Alabama Farmers Federation hosts its annual visit to Washington, D.C. on March 4-7.In fact, the Alabama delegation will be in Washington just days before the USDA’s “short-term” extension of the 2002 farm bill expires March 15.”Unless something happens before this trip — and we hope it does — more than 200 Alabama farmers will be in Washington at a very critical time in the farm bill discussions,” Keith Gray, national affairs director for the Federation, said in early February. “This affords us an opportunity to meet with our congressional leaders and let our thoughts be known.”The USDA’s extension was implemented after the 2002 farm bill expired Oct. 1, 2007 with no agreement in sight. The House version of the 2007 farm bill passed July 27, 2007, but the Senate version didn’t come until Dec. 14, 2007.”The decisions that our lawmakers make on this farm bill will have a profound effect on America’s farmers and their ability to feed, clothe and shelter our nation,” said Gray. “So it’s very beneficial to have so many members of the Federation to be in Washington at this critical time.”Another issue that will be on the minds of many will be a bill sponsored by Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt. HR 3098 would ease restrictions on farm trucks engaged in transporting agricultural products within state lines. Currently, farm trucks operating within a state’s borders are classified as commercial motor vehicles, meaning they must comply with federal regulations such as registering their vehicle with the U.S. Department of Transportation, holding a commercial drivers license and logging their driving hours-of-service. Aderholt’s bill would not change any of the commercial drivers’ licenses regulations and instead only ensure that any agricultural vehicles under 26,000 pounds are exempt from federal regulations governing intrastate travel. The bill would also standardize states’ exemptions for agricultural vehicles and raise them to 26,000 pounds.The kickoff for the Washington Legislative Trip will be a Wednesday morning breakfast session featuring American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson also has been invited to speak.Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions will speak during a Wednesday luncheon, and newly sworn-in Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer has been invited to speak later that afternoon, along with a panel of officials from the American Farm Bureau Federation.All Alabama congressmen have been invited to have breakfast Thursday with their respective farmer constituents.Former Federation Board Member L.O. Bishop of Colbert County will provide barbecue for the Thursday night congressional reception, an event typically attended by several members of Congress and dozens of congressional staffers.
State’s Farmers May Arrive In D.C. At Peak Of Farm Bill Talks