By Marlee Moore
For the applicant
Escalating foreign conflict, government overreach, soaring inflation, and ever-rising input costs were top concerns when 80 Alabama farmers traveled to Washington from the 1st to March 4.
Members of the Alabama Federation of Farmers began Capitol Hill tours the day after the city lifted COVID-19 mask mandates. Highlights included meetings with House and Senate agriculture committee staff — critically important as talks on the 2023 farm bill heat up.
“We need to reach out to our members of Congress and especially the farm committees on issues that are important to us,” said Covington County farmer Ricky Wiggins. “We have to try to keep them on track with our issues. We need to know where they are and they need to know where we are.
In a series of visits with members of Congress, staff and US Department of Agriculture officials, farmers reiterated the importance of voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs — not government mandates.
Stakeholders hope these conversations bear fruit as leaders such as U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, bill affecting rural America.
“My message to agriculture right now is that you have to stick together,” said Boozman, who chairs the Senate agriculture committee. “I can’t tell you what the farm bill will look like, but I can tell you it will be based on input from people like you.”
Boozman stressed the importance of rural broadband, maintaining and creating markets, and supporting farms of all sizes.
“We are committed to using common sense. We are not for setting aside productive farmland,” Boozman said. “The last thing we need is to become dependent on foreign sources for our food supply.”
U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, greeted farmer-voters in the capital at the opening dinner, held the night of President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address. During an interview with “Simply Southern TV” that evening, Tuberville thanked the farmers for taking the time to visit Washington.
“We are going to do everything we can to help our citizens through these difficult times that we are going through now and those that we are going to have in the future,” said Tuberville, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee. “There are going to be bumpy roads because of the pandemic, inflation, high prices – whatever is going on.”
Farmers also heard from five members of the Alabama congressional delegation at breakfasts: Representatives Jerry Carl, Barry Moore, Mike Rogers, Gary Palmer and Robert Aderholt. Staff from their offices met in small groups with farmers to discuss pressing issues such as the farm bill, farm labor, livestock markets, disaster programs, and more.
Farmers criss-crossed Capitol Hill and surrounding areas to meet with other agricultural associations to help align goals and communications for Southern agriculture. Meetings included those with the American Forest Foundation, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and American Farm Bureau Federation. The group also heard from representatives of the USDA.