The forum, held at Stone Bridge Farms, was highlighted by a discussion and question and answer session with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).
“I was pleased to visit Congressman Aderholt’s district and join him in an important discussion on agriculture issues,” Lucas said. “This was a great opportunity to meet members of the agriculture community, recognize the contributions our farmers make for this nation and around the world, and discuss the challenges our producers continue to face.”
During his speech to a group of north Alabama farmers, Lucas focused on the future of the farm bill, which is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government.
The bill is passed every five years or so by Congress and deals with agriculture and all other affairs concerning the United States Department of Agriculture. The agricultural subsidy programs mandated by farm bills are usually the subject of intense debate and can have international effects.
Lucas, who holds a degree from Oklahoma State University in agricultural economics and whose family has lived and farmed in western Oklahoma for more than century, is currently leading the drafting of a new farm bill in the House.
The U.S. Senate passed its version of the farm bill in June. Lucas said he expects the House version will be similar to the Senate’s except for the nutrition part of the bill, which deals with food stamps, school lunches and other assistance to low-income families.
In the existing farm bill, about $80 billion per year goes to the food stamp program.
The Senate’s farm bill would cut $4.5 billion from that amount, but Lucas said he expects the House version will cut much more from food stamps.
“We need to help people that need help, but we need to make sure everybody qualifies for the help. I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” Lucas said. “We have programs in states where all you have to do is call in and ask for a food stamp brochure and you qualify, without having to give any information at all. We need to fix those problems and we can save money.”
Aderholt said the farm bill is an important piece of legislature, especially in areas like Alabama.
“It would be a great mistake to have to look to the rest of the world for our agricultural needs,” Aderholt said. “The farm bill is so important. We need to make sure it gets signed, and I look at it as a matter of national security.”
Dora resident Richard Lovelady, a member of the Walker County Farmers Federation Board of Directors, attended Wednesday’s forum. He said it was important to him to hear about the future of the farm bill.
“I don’t make a living off of farming, but I do have a small farm where I raise cattle and donkey,” he said. “I wanted to come today to be informed on what is going on so I can take that information back to the other members of the county’s farmers federation.”
Arley resident Don Allison, a longtime dairy farmer who now owns an agriculture equipment company that has customers throughout the Southeast, said the farm bill is important to millions of people.
“It’s interesting to hear about how the bill is developed,” he said. “I see Rep. Lucas has the initiative to get the bill done, and that’s important. A lot of people count on the farm bill.”
Alabama is home to more than 48,500 farms, which cover 9 million acres of land. Alabama agriculture exports total more than $800 million a year and include poultry, cattle, cotton, peanuts, sod and nursery products. Agriculture and agribusiness make up the largest industry in the state and employs twenty percent of all Alabamians.
“Agriculture is an integral part of Alabama’s history and has a vital impact on our state’s economy,” Aderholt said. “Agriculture is and should continue to be a mainstay of Alabama’s economy, and it is forums like this that help us to better understand and serve Alabama’s agriculture community back in Washington.”