Congressman Barry Moore holds Farm Bill listening session in Andalusia
Published 9:15 am Saturday, April 8, 2023
U.S. Representative Barry Moore was in Andalusia Thursday to hear from local farmers directly as work begins in Washington on a new Farm Bill.
Moore, who serves Alabama’s 2nd District, is a member of the House’s agricultural committee. He was joined at the session by Emma Johnson, a representative of U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville’s office who specializes in agriculture and food issues. Tuberville sits on the Senate’s agriculture committee.
About 30 people attended the “listening session” at the Covington County Extension Office and shared some of their concerns about agricultural issues facing south Alabama, as well as things they would like prioritized within the next Farm Bill. The current bill, formally known as the Agriculture Improvement Act, was passed in 2018 and is set to expire in September with the end of the fiscal year. The Farm Bill is renewed every five years.
“We want to visit with you and find out what you think is important and pass that along as the committee begins to formulate the Farm Bill for the coming year. We want to make sure your issues on the table,” Moore said.
Among the topics raised at the meeting were protecting American beef producers from foreign investors, farming safety net programs, the invasive cogongrass spreading across the region, barriers for new farmers entering the agriculture industry, feral swine eradication, broadband access, and others.
Samantha Barnett, a legislative assistant in Moore’s office said efforts are underway to protect America’s farm land from foreign investors.
“We are looking into foreign investments into agriculture and strategic assets. This has been a fairly hot topic on the Hill and certainly here in the district. The House Ag Committee is doing work on this topic and has asked for a study to best report and enforce these acquisitions and ensure we have a plan in place to protect our assets,” Barnett said.
The first concern to be voiced during the meeting related to protection for beef producers.
“Beef is a big concern for me. I know foreign countries have been chomping at the bits for years to send beef here. I hope there will be some protection for all of us in the beef industry,” said one beef producer.
Sen. Tuberville has already voiced concerns regarding cogongrass that is spreading across South Alabama and into Florida.
“We’ve heard a lot of concerns about cogongrass across the state,” Johnson said. “We are pushing for some research opportunities on cogongrass within the Farm Bill.”
There is a herbicide spray program currently in place to battle the cogongrass, but one attendee said it is important that it remains funded, adding that additional funds are needed.
Another attendee also voiced concerns about marijuana farms, citing statistics that indicate a correlation between marijuana farms and drug use.
“We already know that where these farms are located there will be a 35 percent increase in marijuana use for children 12 and up,” the participant said.
Another participant said he hopes the government will keep in mind that many farmers depend on migrant workers when dealing with immigration issues.
“Obviously the border is a big problem. Something I would like to make sure doesn’t get squashed is that we depend a lot on workers from Mexican, El Savador, etc. It would be nice to watch out for the legal people who do come here to work,” he said.
Moore agreed that the government should support those immigration-work programs.
Increasing the number of people participating in the agriculture and forestry industries was also discussed, possibly through apprenticeship or community college programs.
“I’m a huge proponent of that,” Moore said. “It’s a big question for us … how can we develop a workforce that can actually run a farm.”
Moore added that there are financial hurdles for anyone wanting to start a farm. “Between equipment costs, fuel, fertilizer … you guys are being squeezed.”
Feral hogs were also an issue raised. The growing feral hog population is causing millions of dollars in damage for Alabama farmers and property owners. Not only do the hogs eat crops, but their rooting and wallowing behaviors cause damage to the field.
“They are getting trap-wise. You put the camera up, put the bait out, get the hogs coming for about two weeks then put the trap out and you don’t see them anymore.”
In terms Farm Bill funding, Moore said about 80 percent of the bill’s funds goes to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
The Farm Bill session in Andalusia was the third Moore has held across the district with other sessions held previously in Montgomery and Dothan.
— Editor’s Note: The Andalusia Star-News was asked by meeting organizers to not identify audience members who spoke at the meeting with the goal of encouraging full engagement.