February 23, 2024

Taste of Alabama Features Good Food, Good Conversations

The Alabama Farmers Federation Taste of Alabama legislative reception was Feb. 21 at its Montgomery home office. The event allowed farmers to have one-on-one conversations with decision-makers. Pictured L to R: Rep. Adline Clarke, D-Mobile, Mobile County Farmers Federation (MCFF) President Art Sessions, MCFF Board Member James Malone and Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile.

Below Right: Elmore County Farmers Federation President Richard Edgar visits with Alabama Supreme Court Justice Jay Mitchell.

Farmers and elected officials gathered around the table Feb. 21 to enjoy Alabama-grown products and discuss important issues during the Taste of Alabama Legislative Reception in Montgomery. 

State Sen. Robert Stewart, D-Selma, serves on the Senate Ag, Conservation and Forestry Committee. He said he treasures every opportunity to meet farmers and promote agriculture. 

“Ag is the cornerstone of our economy here in the state,” said Stewart. “It’s such an honor to interact with people who really undergird our communities and make sure they are sustainable.”

Hosted by the Alabama Farmers Federation, the reception provided farmer-leaders the opportunity to display homegrown products while getting in the weeds about policy and other important matters. Attendees included over 100 legislators, constitutional officers and other government officials. 

Chris Upchurch, owner of Rockin’ U Farms and Clay County Farmers Federation president, said meetings like this ensure leaders hear directly from their constituents about the issues facing them every day. 

“Taste of Alabama allows our legislators and farmers to come together in a room with a good environment where we can have conversations and serve food from across Alabama,” Upchurch said. “It gives us an opportunity to start and build relationships with our legislators, and I believe it is very important to our farmers.”

Guests enjoyed the best Alabama farmers have to offer during the annual visit to the Federation home office. This year’s menu included: beef sliders from Rockin’ U Farms, Clay County; Bishop’s Barbeque Pork, Colbert County; fried catfish from Consolidated Catfish, Greene County; honey from by the State Bee and Honey Producers; lamb meatballs from HD Farm, Talladega County; peanut butter energy bites from the Alabama Peanut Producers Association; shrimp and grits from Greene Prairie Shrimp, Greene County; sweet treats and samples from Priester’s Pecans, Lowndes County; vanilla ice cream from Blue Ribbon Dairy, Elmore County; venison loin from Venison Provisions, Macon County; and more. 

State Rep. Jennifer Fidler, R-Fairhope, grew up on a farm and serves on the Alabama House Agriculture and Forestry committee. She hopes her fellow legislators take advantage of the face-to-face conversations with producers. 

“Our legislators do need to see how hard our farmers work every day,” Fidler said. “I think farmers being involved with the lawmakers is important to see our grassroots effort, too, and that we can make good changes taking care of the folks who take care of us all the time.”

State Rep. Ben Robbins, R-Sylacauga, said he wants to find any way he can to help farmers who are essential to the local economy. 

“Agriculture is the backbone of Alabama,” Robbins said. “We have to hear from ag producers to know what’s actually going to benefit the entire state.”

In addition to legislators, Gov. Kay Ivey and other constitutional officers were welcomed by the Federation. Upchurch said the magnitude of attendees spoke volumes of the hard work county Farmers Federations are doing with elected officials. 

“We know it’s a busy time, and we appreciate everyone who came out to speak with us,” Upchurch said. “We’ve had good conversations, and I know our officials will take them to heart and use them to better Alabama.”

Hear from guests in the video below:

Gambling Legislation Awaiting Senate Action

Gambling legislation hurriedly passed by the Alabama House last week has slowed since reaching the Senate.

Last Friday, Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine (pictured left), told "The Jeff Poor Show" he doesn't believe the bill has support in the Senate to pass as currently written.

"I will tell you right now that based on the mood of the chamber and the members that I have talked to, I do not think this bill has the votes to move forward as it is now," Elliott said. "I would say that it is far from a foregone conclusion that this legislation as currently written will pass the Senate. As a matter of fact, I would go as far as to say it would not if it stays like it is."

Concerns with the legislation include: lack of judicial oversight, opportunities for corruption, conflicts of interest, little to no funding for addiction support and recovery, and few protections for Alabamians, including children.

The Alabama Farmers Federation opposes all forms of gambling including casino gaming, state lottery, sports betting, electronic gaming and online gambling.

Federation External Affairs Department Director Brian Hardin said he believes most people, including legislators, don't realize the inherent dangers associated with legalized gambling.

"This isn't just a lottery they're voting for," Hardin said." This is all forms of gambling and the possibility for 10 Vegas-style casinos across the state. We're concerned about increased crime, addiction and financial hardship affecting every Alabama citizen.

HB 151, a constitutional amendment, and HB 152, the enabling legislation, passed the House last Thursday and were introduced in the Senate on Tuesday. Both bills are currently awaiting action in the Senate Tourism Committee. A public hearing and committee vote are rumored for next week. If reported favorably, the legislation could be voted on by the full Senate in the following days.

Hardin urged Federation members to reach out to their senators to express concerns and ask them to vote 'no.' Senators can be reached at the Voter Voice link below.

Voter Voice
HB 151 - Constitutional Amendment
HB 152 - Enabling Legislation

CHOOSE Act Moving Ahead

The Creating Hope and Opportunity for Our Student's Education (CHOOSE) Act is one step closer to being approved by the House after being voted out of committee Thursday.

HB 129 by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville (pictured right), received a favorable report from the House Ways and Means Education Committee with a vote along party lines after being amended. A chamber vote is expected Tuesday.

The CHOOSE Act would create education savings accounts (ESA's) to offset qualifying educational expenses for students. Up to $7,000 per child would be available for students attending public or private schools, while $2,000 per child with a $4,000 cap per family would be available for homeschool students. Participants' income would be capped at 300% of the federal poverty level until 2027. The program would then open to all Alabamians. Funds would come from a new, refundable income tax credit and become available beginning in the 2025-26 academic year. 

The amended version of the bill places a $500 million cap on the fund, with over-funding being appropriated by the Legislature.

Rep. Garrett, chairman of the committee, spoke before the public hearing saying the bill in its amended form provides protections for the Education Trust Fund while creating new opportunities for families.

"The purpose of this legislation is to provide opportunities that are not currently available to parents to use a portion of their tax dollars to choose a school that best meets the needs of their child,” Chairman Garrett said. "This bill does not gut or adversely impact the education budget. The expected growth in revenue coupled with the spending limitations already in effect will fund any future growth of the program."

The concept of school choice is supported by Federation policy which states: "We favor creative and innovative approaches to solving education's problems, thus we support a competitive "voucher" program that allows parents to choose which school, public or private, would be best for their child."

Resolution Commends AFBF, Ag Equipment Manufacturers

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and several high profile agricultural equipment manufacturers were commended in the House by a joint resolution Tuesday.

HJR 27 by Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens (pictured right), praised AFBF for signing right-to-repair memorandums of understanding (MOU) with John Deere, Case IH, New Holland, Kubota, AGCO and CLAAS.

The MOU's are an attempt to provide independent technicians and mechanics access to diagnostic and repair software formerly controlled by leading producers.

Federation Director of Agricultural Legislation Preston Roberts thanked Rep. Crawford for his recognition of AFBF's work in making equipment repairs more affordable and efficient for Alabama's farmers.

The resolution was reported out of a Senate committee Wednesday.

Shelby County Federation Members Visit State House

Members of the Shelby County Farmers Federation (SCFF) visited the State House Wednesday. The guests were able to meet with their local delegation before the Taste of Alabama legislative reception. From L to R: Rep. Russell Bedsole, R-Alabaster; Federation District 6 Director Phillip Hunter; Rep. Corley Ellis, R-Columbiana; SCFF County Director William Crawford; Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Birmingham; Rep. Susan DuBose, R-Hoover; SCFF County Director Lance Byrd; Rep. Leigh Hulsey, R-Pelham; SCFF member Tyler Byrd; SCFF President John DeLoach; SCFF County Director Rachael Wood; SCFF member Kate DeLoach; and Rep. Kenneth Paschal, R-Pelham.

Please reach out to your Area Organization Director to schedule a State House visit.

Bills in Brief

Lab-Grown Meat Prohibition Bill - SB 23 by Sen. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer, passed the Senate unanimously last Thursday. A public hearing is scheduled in the House Health Committee Wednesday. The bill would prohibit the manufacture and sale of cultivated or cultured meat products. The bill defines a cultivated meat product as one that is produced from cultured animal cells. “Lab-grown meat” or “cultured meat” is a developing product which is still being heavily researched. The process involves taking live cells from animals and then culturing those cells in a controlled environment to produce a food product. Farmers Federation policy opposes the labeling of any of these products as meat.

Agricultural Fencing Sales Tax Exemption Bill - SB 73 by Sen. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer, will be considered by the Senate Finance and Taxation Education committee Thursday. SB 73 would exempt the sale of fencing materials used in agricultural livestock operations from the state sales tax. The Federation supports SB 73.

Ballot Harvesting Prevention Bill - SB 1 by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, would make 'ballot harvesting' illegal in Alabama. The bill is currently in the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee with a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday. 'Ballot harvesting' is when an individual pays someone for assistance in filling out an absentee ballot, which is linked to voter fraud. Proponents of the bill argued its necessity in securing Alabama elections. SB 1 is supported by Federation policy.

The Legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, February 27, for day 10 of a possible 30 days. 

The House will convene at 1 p.m. while the Senate will convene at 2 p.m.

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Capitol Connection | Alabama Farmers Federation | (334) 288-3900 | AlfaFarmers.org


 Brian Hardin - Director, External Affairs Department

 Preston Roberts - Director, Agricultural Legislation

Russ Durrance - Director, State Legislative Programs

John Allen Nichols - Agriculture Counsel

Beth Chapman - Beth Chapman and Associates, LLC

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