By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, four Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) supported bills passed the Alabama House of Representatives and have moved on to the Alabama Senate. The Commissioner of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan graciously agreed to an exclusive telephone interview with The Alabama Political Reporter.
Commissioner McMillan said that since he was elected Commissioner of the ADAI that he has been “moving from crisis to crisis”; but now was starting to implement true reform and modernization to the Department. New technology will allow the Department to perform its mission more efficiently and more quickly. McMillan was grateful for the rapid action of the Alabama House of Representatives on the four bills and looked forward to meetings with Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, (R) from Anniston, and Senator Arthur Orr, (R) from Decatur, on Wednesday.
Commissioner McMillan said that HB 544 would allow the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to raise the fees for seed inspection services. The money from the seed inspections services would go toward modernizing and maintaining the Alabama Seed Laboratory. Com. McMillan said that 80% of the seed that is used in Alabama is imported from outside of the state. It is the job of the Alabama Seed Laboratory to inspect that seed for the presence of weed seed, germination rate, inert material, and other quality factors so that consumers and farmers know that the seed that they purchase in the state is of the highest quality. The Alabama Seed Laboratory also inspects seed that is grown by Alabama farmers for sale. Com. McMillan said that the seed companies and growers came to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and “said we need to do something” about the Alabama Seed Laboratory and together they formed a blue ribbon commission to study what the Alabama Seed Laboratory needed to modernize. McMillan said that he will use the additional money from HB 544 to implement their recommendations. HB 544 has been endorsed by the Alabama Seed Association.
Com McMillan said that HB 543 would raise the amount of the fuel inspection fees paid to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries from 5% to 10%. The bill does not increase the fee paid by consumers or industry it just doubles the amount of the fee that is earmarked for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Com. McMillan said that the ADAI used to get 10% of the inspection money but half the money was taken away from the Department by a previous legislature. The money comes from the inspection fee charged on any fuel that is for sale, stored, or used in the state of Alabama. Currently the ADAI gets 5% (or at least $175,000 a month) of the fuel inspection money, the 67 counties in Alabama split an equal share of 13.87%, The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) gets $408,981 a month, the incorporated towns and cities of Alabama get 2.67%, and the balance goes to ALDOT. Com. McMillan said that the money would be used to hire more inspectors to test the safety and quality of petroleum products sold in Alabama and for the Division of Weights and Measures to properly inspect and calibrate fuel pumps in the state. The Alabama Department of Revenue also collects 11 cents a gallon on gasoline and clear diesel. Commissioner McMillan said that the ADAI has already identified more than $3 million in unpaid fuel inspection taxes based on money that the Alabama Department of Revenue is collecting that the ADAI is not. McMillan said that new technology as well as more inspectors will allow the Department to collect more of the taxes that are owed to the Department. Com. McMillan said that the cities, counties, and ALDOT would actually get more revenue by the change rather than less.
Com. McMillan said that HB 601 would raise the biannual fee to register a pesticide product for sale in Alabama from $400 to $600. The change would be gradually phased in over two years. There are 13,000 chemical products that are registered in Alabama. Com. McMillan said that the bright spot is that technology improvements are allowing the department to do things more efficiently and faster as personnel resources have been cut in recent years.
Com. McMillan said that HB 542 which repeals the statute requiring that weigh master applicants pay a $1000 weigh master bond is out of date. McMillan said that posting the $1000 weigh master bond “is a nuisance.” Com. McMillan said that legally the ADAI can take the license of anyone who was cheating their customers with the scales making the bond unnecessary.
Com. McMillan does not know yet who will sponsor these bills in the Alabama Senate; but is optimistic about moving the bills through the Senate. Com. McMillan said that he expects that the bills will first go to the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee.
Hash Tags: Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries HB 542 HB 543 HB 544 Alabama Seed Laboratory John McMillan Representative Fincher Couse weigh master chemical inspection petroleum