Alabama farmers talk trade, Farm Bill, disaster relief in D.C.

Published 12:21 am Thursday, March 14, 2019

Nearly 150 farmers met with elected officials and agency representatives to discuss trade, the farm bill and disaster relief during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s biennial Washington Legislative Conference March 5-7.

Federation President Jimmy Parnell said the conference is valuable to members as well as congressional and agency leaders.

“This was a great trip, with some of the best meetings we’ve ever had in Washington,” Parnell said. “It’s important for our leaders in Washington to put a face with who they represent and work for, and it’s important for our members to have direct access with decision and policy makers.”

Winston County Farmers Federation President Darrell Lee agreed.

“This was our first trip to D.C.,” said Lee, who was accompanied by wife Linda. “It was kind of overwhelming in some ways when you come from a little town like Addison, Alabama, but the access we had was amazing. We met with Congressmen (Robert) Aderholt  and staff from several agencies and other congressional members. In addition to sharing our needs and concerns, it also allowed us to encourage them and show appreciation for the job they do representing us.”

U.S. Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, R-Pa., spoke about the importance of workforce development with the 150 Alabama farmers. He was appointed to the House Committee on Education & Workforce in 2008 and is serving his fourth term as co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus. He introducedthe Career and Technical Education for the 21st century Act that passed the House and Senate unanimously and was signed into law by President Trump last year.

Other briefings focused on food and agriculture policy, trade and regulatory relief for farmers and ranchers. Breakout sessions included small group meetings with Congressional members and agency professionals to discuss agricultural disaster relief, farm labor, feral swine control and crop insurance.

Federation State Board members met with Ambassador Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Dialogues included the United States – Mexico – Canada agreement, which Doud said will create more balanced, reciprocal trade once it’s finalized.

Farmers also visited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where they heard Administrator Andrew Wheeler speak on the new Clean Water Rule, crop protection product registration and continued efforts by the agency to engage the agricultural community.

“You are welcome here,” Wheeler told the Alabama group. “Let us know what your problems are. We want to hear from you, and we’re here to help you. Thank you for not being afraid to come see us at EPA.”

The Federation hosted a barbecue reception for Congressmen, staffers and agency officials March 6, allowing members to interact with many of those who help develop and implement farm policy.

Greg Ibach, USDA’s Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, addressed farmers at the reception as did several members of Alabama’s congressional delegation.

While in Washington, AFF members attended a special ceremony honoring U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., March 7. Shelby received the American Farm Bureau’s coveted Golden Plow Award, which recognizes members of Congress who exemplify agricultural leadership and support of Farm Bureau policies. It is the highest award given by AFBF.

Earlier that day, each of Alabama’s seven U.S. Representatives attended breakfast meetings with their constituents to discuss issues of local and national relevance.

Other highlights of the conference included a welcome dinner cruise along the Potomac River and a moonlight monument tour.