Morale was high as nearly 140 Alabama farmers returned from the nation’s capital March 7-10, buoyed by promises of regulatory reform and increased interest in agricultural issues.
The visit starkly contrasted trips during the previous administration, said Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell.
“Being in D.C. confirmed my belief that agriculture will experience real change under the Trump administration,” Parnell said. “We’ve seen this with his order to review the Waters of the U.S. rule and look forward to other improvements over the next few years.”
Speakers during the 2017 Washington Legislative Conference continually emphasized the importance of immigration and regulatory reform, trade, biotechnology and the farm bill.
During briefings March 8, U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) encouraged farmers to share ideas about the upcoming farm bill.
“The beauty of doing farm bills every five years is you get to address the things you didn’t get right,” Conaway said. “We’re going to get this bill done, and we’re going to get it done on time.”
Farmers also heard from Special Assistant to the President and Director of White House Messaging Strategy Cliff Sims, who founded Yellowhammer News, and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Public Policy Executive Director Dale Moore.
This was David Lee’s first trip to Washington, D.C., and the Lowndes County Farmers Federation president said visiting with Alabama’s delegation encouraged him.
“I’ve always heard to ‘Call your senator,’ but never felt like I was able to communicate with leaders in our nation’s capital,” Lee said. “Now that I’ve met our leaders and many staffers, I feel they are more approachable to me and ready to hear about my particular issues.”
During the Congressional barbecue, AFBF President Zippy Duvall advised farmers to establish relationships with Congressional leadership.
“You have to come and be seen,” said Duvall, a Georgia farmer. “Those who show up are the ones who make a difference. It’s so important for farmers to look their congressmen and senators in the eyes and say, ‘This is important to me, my family and my community.’”
Attendees met with Alabama’s U.S. representatives during Congressional breakfasts, followed by meetings with U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Luther Strange, a Senate Agriculture Committee member.
Supreme Court nominations, confirming Sonny Perdue as agriculture secretary and improving Alabama’s trade opportunities peppered the conversation.
Other events included visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture and British Embassy, as well as a moonlight monuments tour.