U.S. Agriculture Secretary Notes Alabama's Input on 2007 Farm Bill

8/29/2005

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Notes Alabama's Input on 2007 Farm Bill

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Notes Alabama's Input on 2007 Farm Bill

TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY, AL – (August 29, 2005) – U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns heard from Alabama’s farmers in a big way when his nationwide Farm Bill Forum stopped at Tuskegee University Aug. 25, 2005.

Seven hundred or more Alabama farmers, rural business owners, ranchers and others attended the listening session meant to help Johanns outline issues of importance to farmers as the 2007 Farm Bill policy is drafted.

Tuskegee University 's College of Agricultural , Environmental and Natural Sciences hosted the event, which was the only stop in Alabama . The session lured not only Alabama farmers, but some from Mississippi and Georgia , as well as a diverse audience of men, women and a variety of races and ages.

Cattlemen, crop farmers, cotton farmers, peanut farmers, timber farmers, craftsmen, advocacy organizations and associations raised such issues as commodity pricing, imports and exports, alternative fuels, burdening gasoline prices, preservation, reserve land, subsidies, global marketing, safety of America’s food supply, inclement weather, obstacles facing minority farmers, rural water treatment, farmers’ access to technology, profitability and more.

During the listening session, Johanns announced about $22 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loans and grants to 16 rural businesses, cooperatives, non-profit organizations and municipalities in Alabama and discussed the need for more farmers to take advantage of technology advancements, such as the Internet.

“Since 2001, USDA Rural Development has invested over $1 billion in Alabama ,” said Johanns, who hailed Tuskegee University was an ideal location for the Farm Bill Forum.

Tuskegee , a unique land-grant university with a continuing legacy of service to Alabama ’s citizenry, was indeed the proper place for such a dialogue, the University’s President, Dr. Benjamin F. Payton, said.

That the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture chose Tuskegee for its southern Farm Bill listening post is “a great testimony” to “the quality of the outreach” USDA and Tuskegee are both committed to and “to the depth of concern about farmers and farming in Alabama” that Tuskegee and the USDA share, Payton added.

President George W. Bush, in an audio greeting, encouraged attendees to help Johanns further develop a grassroots understanding of “how the Farm Bill is working and how it can be better. Mike Johanns understands the importance of America ’s farmers around the country.”

Bush also called upon participants to discuss how Americans can remain good stewards of the land and natural resources, while ensuring access to the global marketplace, use of cutting edge agricultural processes and research, protection of the nation’s food supply and preservation of “farmers’ way of life.”

It’s a difficult task, all in the audience seemed to agree. Congressman Mike Rogers of Alabama, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said “farmers in the southern part of my district” have “enormous issues facing us in the next Farm Bill.”

Congressman Artur Davis,  representing Alabama 's 7th Congressional District, said Tuskegee University ’s founder, “Booker T. Washington, would be thrilled to look in this room today … to see the common interests coming together. There are no black farmers, no white farmers. There are farmers here.”

Davis also said men and women serving valiantly in the ongoing war against terror should be able to “come back home to their family farms” with a sense that “we believe in family farms … that ‘persistent poverty’ is a term that belongs in the back of a textbook and not in (Alabama’s Black Belt).”

Alabama Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks thanked Johanns for “coming to the great state of Alabama .” He then asked the Secretary, “How do we encourage young people to get into agriculture, and what do we do when this generation of farmers leaves?”

Sparks offered a few suggestions for Secretary Johanns, who took on the look of a scribe as he wrote “meticulous notes” as promised.

“Profitability,” Sparks rattled off his list, “more vocational, agricultural programs in our schools, a level playing field, helping farmers meet government regulations, protecting the environment.”

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby said he attended to “make sure Alabama farmers’ needs are considered” in the new Farm Bill. Ralph A. Howard, of the Alabama House of Representatives, was also looking after the needs of constituents in Bibb, Hale, Marengo and Perry counties.

Those who weren’t able to share their testimonies with the Secretary, can submit their comments via the USDA Farm Bill Forums Web site at http://www.usda.gov/farmbill.

For more information, call the USDA at (202) 720-4623 or (202) 720-4623.
 

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