March 18, 2022
Alabama Farmers Federation State Legislative Programs Director Russ Durrance sits down with Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, to talk about the peanut being recognized as Alabama's state legume and George Washington Carver's legacy on agriculture in the state. Federation Director of Agricultural Legislation Preston Roberts visits with House Democratic Caucus leader Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, about the Legislative Session, the Federation's 2022 Farm Package, and recently introduced gambling bills. Click here or above to watch.
Gambling Stalls In Senate, Lottery Bills Advance

The Senate adjourned for spring recess this week without taking a vote on a comprehensive gambling package. Introduction of “clean” lottery bills in the House of Representatives and uncertainty about the level of Senate support likely contributed to the delay. The House is expected to consider the lottery package when it returns from spring recess Tuesday, March 29.

SB 293, Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, proposes a constitutional amendment to create a statewide lottery and legalize other forms of gambling including casinos, online betting and sports books. SB 294, also by Albritton, provides additional details about the regulation and taxation of gambling as well as expenditure of lottery and gaming proceeds.

A Senate vote was predicted this week if Albritton could secure the needed votes for passage. Fate of the package in the upper chamber likely rests with one or two key senators, with House passage late in the session more challenging. 

Members of the Senate Tourism Committee voting in favor of SB 293 and SB 294 last week were: Sens. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton; Chris Elliott, R-Fairhope; Andrew Jones, R-Centre; Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery; Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro; Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro; Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham; Randy Price, R-Opelika; and Del Marsh, R-Anniston. Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, voted “no.” Tim Melson, R-Florence, and David Sessions, R-Grand Bay, were not present for the committee vote.

Introduction of a paper lottery package in the House this week further complicated the issue. HB 501 and HB 502 by Rep. Chip Brown, R-Mobile, call for a constitutional referendum on creation of an education lottery. Both bills passed the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee Thursday, with Reps. Rolanda Hollis and Neil Rafferty, both D-Birmingham, abstaining.

Alabama Farmers Federation has a longstanding policy of opposing gambling in all forms. In 2021, Federation members discussed gambling proposals and public opinion research at county meetings and statewide conferences of local leaders. In December, the Federation’s 500 voting delegates affirmed the organization’s unequivocal opposition to gambling. 

The Federation thanks legislators who’ve taken a stand against gambling.
Federation members are encouraged to talk to their legislators during spring recess and encourage "no" votes on the House lottery package and the Senate comprehensive gambling package.
Sweet Grown Alabama Bill Clears House Committee

Legislation to help farmers develop new markets for their products passed the House Ways and Means Education Committee Wednesday. The Sweet Grown Alabama Act would empower family farms and stimulate local economies by clarifying the inclusion of value-added agricultural products in existing sales tax exemptions. 

HB 412 is sponsored by Rep. Van Smith, R-Billingsley. The bill is set to be considered sixth on the House special order calendar Tuesday, March 29, when the Legislature returns from spring recess.

“Farmers are dealing with the smallest of margins for their products. Then, they are challenged with sky-high equipment costs, unpredictable weather and volatile markets, among a variety of other difficulties,” Smith said. “As they create 'value-added' products, they can control some of the market volatility. If we can encourage them by assisting to create a greater margin, we should do so.”

Alabama Farmers Federation External Affairs Director Brian Hardin thanked Smith and others instrumental in advancing the bill, a key piece of the Federation’s 2022 Farm Package. 

“We appreciate Rep. Smith sponsoring the Sweet Grown Alabama Act and Chairman Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, putting it on the committee agenda,” Hardin said. "Rep. Barbara Drummond, R-Mobile, spoke in favor of the bill, demonstrating strong bipartisan support. Auburn University’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology played a critical role in moving this legislation forward. Their analysis helped address concerns about the bill’s potential impact on tax revenue. We thank College of Agriculture Dean Paul Patterson and Department Head Joshua Duke for their partnership in serving Alabama’s farmers.”

The companion bill, SB 274 by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, was previously approved by the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. 
Federation members are urged to contact their House of Representatives members during spring recess and encourage a "yes" vote on HB 412.
Senate Committees Advance Agriculture Bills

Two bills in the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 2022 Farm Package and a third supported by the Federation and Alabama Peanut Producers Association received favorable reports in the Senate committees this week.

HB 400 by Rep. Wes Kitchens, R-Arab, would eliminate inconsistencies and confusion across jurisdictions by clarifying the ad valorem tax exemption for grain bins. It was approved by the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee. HB 415 by Rep. Gil Isbell, R-Gadsden protects family farms by expressly prohibiting the requirement of a county license or fee for operations related to the disposition of the farmer’s products. It passed out of the Senate Fiscal Responsibility & Economic Development (FRED) Committee.

HB 350 by Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, would make the peanut Alabama’s official state legume while recognizing the contributions of George Washington Carver to peanut research. It also was approved by FRED.

HB 400 drew opposition from Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, with Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, abstaining.

The Senate version of the grain bin bill, SB 275 by Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, previously passed the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee as did SB 273 by Sen. Tom Butler, R-Madison, dealing with county business licenses.
Federation Hosts House Democratic Caucus

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell and the Federation State Board of Directors Executive Committee welcomed the House Democratic Caucus to the Federation and Alfa Insurance home office Wednesday. Caucus members held their regular meeting and enjoyed lunch featuring U.S. farm-raised catfish and peanut butter pie.
House Passes General Fund, Sends To Conference

The Alabama House of Representatives Tuesday approved a $2.7 billion General Fund budget. The measure was sent to a conference committee to work out differences with the Senate-passed version. 

Agriculture and forestry funding in the budget includes:

  • Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries — $17,870,899, up $200,000 from Senate version
  • Resource Conservation and Development Program — $5,856,242
  • Sweet Grown Alabama — $300,000
  • Farm to School Program — $300,000
  • North Alabama Agriplex — $100,000
  • Alabama PALS — $150,000
  • ADEM / CAFO Program — $575,000
  • Alabama Forestry Commission — $12,471,021, up $200,000 for line item below
  • Forestry Economic Development Specialist — $200,000 (new appropriation)
  • Soil and Water Conservation Committee — $3,170,396
  • Regional Conservation Partnership Program — $81,403

The Forestry Economic Development Specialist is the result of the Federation’s Forest Products Study Committee, which met last year to explore promotion of Alabama forest products, industry recruitment and research.

Federation External Affairs Department Director Brian Hardin credited House Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, for ensuring the appropriation was added to the House version of the budget. 
Alabama Forestry Commissioners Confirmed

The Senate this week confirmed Gov. Kay Ivey’s appointments of Joseph Twardy of Auburn and Caroleene Hardee Dobson of Birmingham to the Alabama Forestry Commission. 

Twardy will represent registered foresters on the Commission. Dobson, originally from Monroe County, will represent owners of timberland. Both terms expire Nov. 5, 2026.
Bills In Brief
Forest Products Tag — HB 262 by Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, won final passage Thursday and now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature. It enhances the forestry products tag approved by the Legislature last year by allowing the tag to also be used for trucks carrying forest equipment.

E-911 — HB 414 by Rep. Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville, unanimously passed the House of Representatives this week and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It would create guidelines and a certification process for 911 public safety dispatchers and would require districts to provide an alternative method for responding to emergency calls, if the primary system fails or is unavailable. The Federation supports HB 414. 

Business Privilege Tax — Legislation aimed at providing relief to small businesses now required to pay a minimum business privilege tax is one vote from final passage following committee action this week. SB 290 by Sen. Tom Butler, R-Madison, received a favorable report from the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee, and HB 391 by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, passed the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee. Under current law, the minimum business privilege tax is $100. The proposed legislation would reduce the minimum to $50 for the 2022 tax year and eliminate it altogether in 2023. The estimated budget impact would be $11.5 million next year and $23 million in subsequent years. 

Auburn College of Agriculture Sesquicentennial — The Alabama Senate this week approved a resolution by Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, recognizing the 150th anniversary of Auburn University’s colleges of Agriculture and Engineering, the graduate school, military instruction programs and land grant status. SJR 85 now goes to the House for concurrence. 
The Legislature is on spring recess until March 29.
Online Resources
Capitol Connection | Alabama Farmers Federation | (334) 288-3900 |

 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