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Increasing Drought Conditions Threatens Economy

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, 72% of the continental United States is classified as “abnormally dry” or worse.  Alabama is also starting to suffer, 91.5% of the state of Alabama is classified as abnormally dry.

The National Drought Mitigation Center classifies a rainfall shortage as “abnormally dry”, drought level 1, drought level 2, drought level 3, and drought level 4.  Four is the most severe level of drought.  Henry and Barbour Counties are already at category 4. Houston, Russell, Lee, Bullock, Chambers, Macon, Randolph, Clay, and Tallapoosa Counties are suffering from a level 3 drought.

Houston County Cattleman and Farmer, Richard Meadows, says that his family’s farm is already feeling the effects of the drought.  Typically, ranchers like Meadows feed hay in the winter and turn their cows out to green grass in early Spring.  This year there was not enough green grass so Meadows had to start feeding hay to the cows in May.  A couple of rains in June have allowed the Meadows to stop feeding hay, but this year’s hay harvest looks to be down unless the weather changes.  Richard, his wife Kathy; his brother, Glenn; his sister, Cindy; and their families work the farm (Meadows Creek Farm) together.  Their family has been farming the same Alabama land since the 1830s.

Mr. Meadows said that their farm is diversified.  They raise registered Charolais (a breed of cattle developed in France for their growth and muscle mass) beef bulls for other farms and ranches, beef cattle for consumers, as well as peanuts, small grains, and grain sorghum.  The small grains are grown in the winter on the ground that the peanuts and sorghum was harvested off of to protect the top soil.  Richard said that the peanuts and the grain sorghum are both drought tolerant but that they will need rain to actually produce a crop.  Richard said some peanut fields have been planted three times because the lack of moisture prevented the seeds from germinating.  Mr. Meadows said that the aquifer is too deep underneath the ground of his farm for it to be economical for them to irrigate.  The diesel used to operate pumps to get the water out of the ground and to the crops, hay fields, and pastures would cost more than they could make off of the crop.  Other farms in other parts of the area have shallower water tables so those farmers are irrigating.  Drought tolerance is why they grow grain sorghum instead of corn, which is much more susceptible to drought.

Richard said that it has been frustrating to see storms to his south that never quite got to their land.  One storm even got so close that severe lightning strikes killed one of his cows but the rain stopped just short.  Meadows hoped that Tropical Storm Debby would relieve the drought but it stalled out on the Coast.  Mr. Meadows said that they have had to be very cautious about working with the cattle in the extreme heat because hot cattle get stressed easily and could die.  Meadows is also worried

The ‘Drover’s Journal’ is reporting that some meteorologists are already comparing this year to the drought of 1988, which was estimated to cost American agriculture $78 billion.  Since commodity prices are much higher now than they were then IF the same weather conditions develop that the country experienced then the total losses will be far higher.

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A week ago the USDA rated 63 percent of the U.S. corn crop as good or better. This week they lowered that estimate to 56%.  ‘Drover’s Journal’ is reporting that crop scientists “say the crop is deteriorating rapidly”.  Corn futures increased by a $1.50 a bushel last week on the bad news.

The National Drought Mitigation Center is reporting that Colorado is the worst hit state thus far.  Every acre of Colorado is in a level one drought or worse with 71% of the state facing a level 3 drought or worse.  100% of Kansas is abnormally dry with 97.8% in level one drought conditions and 28.8% in level three drought conditions.  99.8% of Nebraska is classified as abnormally dry with 77% in a level one drought or worse. 96% of South Dakota is abnormally dry with drought conditions in almost half of the state.  97.3% of Texas is abnormally dry with 76.8% in drought conditions.  100% of Arkansas is classed as abnormally dry this year with 98.9% facing drought conditions and 36% in level three drought conditions.  99.7% of Oklahoma is abnormally dry with 61% of that state in drought conditions.  96.2% of Tennessee is abnormally dry with 64.7% in a level 2 drought or worse.  86.2% of the state of Georgia is facing at least abnormally dry conditions while 20% of the state is in a level four drought.   The widespread number of droughts could make it very difficult for farms in one state to get the hay that they need this year by importing it from other states.

Much of the best peanut ground in the world is among the hardest hit counties of Alabama and Georgia.  ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ asked Richard Meadows if this was the time for consumers to start stockpiling peanut butter.  He thought that enough ground was planted in peanuts this year due to high prices last year that consumers should not be facing a shortage yet.

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While most Americans do not work in agriculture, American agriculture creates many more jobs in trucking, ports, food processing, and related fields.  The U.S. produces 50% of the grains that are sold on the global grain market making the possibility of a potentially subpar harvest felt globally

To follow the drought conditions nationally or on a region by region or state by state basis:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/monitor.html

To learn more about Meadows Creek Farm visit their website

http://www.meadowscreekfarm.com/index.html

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Economy

Governor announces auto supplier IAC plans Alabama expansion

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday that International Automotive Components Group North America Inc. plans to invest over $55.9 million in expansion projects that will create 182 jobs at two Alabama facilities.

“International Automotive Components is a leading global auto supplier, and I am pleased that this world-class company is growing significantly in Alabama and creating good jobs in Cottondale and Anniston,” Ivey said. “IAC’s growth plans show that Alabama’s dynamic auto industry continues to expand despite today’s challenging environment.”

Nick Skwiat is the executive vice president and president of IAC North America.

“Alabama was the logical choice due to its skilled workforce and proximity to the customer,” Skwiat said. “We are excited to see the continued growth of the automotive industry in Alabama and we plan to grow right along with it. We thank the Governor and Secretary Canfield for their leadership in this sector.”

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County. This facility will produce door panels and overhead systems for original equipment manufacturers. That project will create 119 jobs at the production site in Cottondale.

IAC also plans to invest $21.6 million at its manufacturing facility located in the former Fort McClellan in Anniston. That East Alabama project will create another 63 jobs.

This project builds on a milestone 2014 expansion that doubled the size of the Calhoun County facility. There IAC manufactures automotive interior components and systems. Key components produced at the Anniston plant include door panels, trim systems and instrument panels for original equipment manufacturers.

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IAC Group is a leading global supplier of innovative and sustainable instrument panels, consoles, door panels, overhead systems, bumper fascias and exterior ornamentation for original equipment manufacturers.

IAC is headquartered in Luxembourg and has more than 18,000 employees at 67 locations in 17 countries. The company operates manufacturing facilities in eight U.S. states.

“With operations around the globe, IAC is the kind of high-performance company that we want in Alabama’s auto supply chain to help fuel sustainable growth,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “We look forward to working with IAC and facilitating its future growth in this strategic industrial sector.”

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Danielle Winningham is the executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority.

“International Automotive Components is a valued part of Tuscaloosa County’s automotive sector,” Winningham said. “We are grateful for IAC’s investment in our community and the career opportunities available to our area workforce as a result of their investment.”

“The City of Anniston is excited that IAC has made the decision to expand here. I have enjoyed working with the leadership at IAC, the Calhoun County EDC, and the state of Alabama to get this project finalized,” said Anniston Mayor Jack Draper. “This is even further evidence that Anniston is indeed open for business.”

Only Michigan has more automobile manufacturing jobs than the state of Alabama. Honda, Mercedes, Hyundai, Polaris, Toyota and soon Mazda all have major automobile assembly plants in the state of Alabama.

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National

AUM poll suggests Alabamians divided on prison reform proposals

90 percent of Alabamians favor some type of reform to the state’s prison systems, but there is little agreement on what efforts should be pursued.

Brandon Moseley

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Last week, a poll by Auburn University at Montgomery’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration found that approximately 90 percent of Alabamians favor some type of reform to the state’s prison systems, but there is little agreement on which reform efforts should be pursued.

  • 36.6 percent: “Reduce or eliminate criminal sentences for non-violent crimes.”
  • 30.3 percent: “Parole inmates convicted of non-violent crimes.”
  • 25.9 percent: “Increase funding to improve existing prison facilities.”
  • 21.4 percent: “Construct new prisons to be operated by the state.”
  • 14.5 percent: “Contract with private firms to construct new prisons the state would then lease to operate.”
  • 27.5 percent: “Increase funding for prison staff such as correctional officers, healthcare providers, educators, etc.”
  • 15.2 percent: “Increase funding for probation officers.”
  • 9.9 percent: “I support none of these options.”

The totals do not add up to 100 because it was a “select all that apply” poll.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan of signing a decades-long lease with private prison contractors was the least popular idea. Repairing the existing prisons 25.9 percent support while constructing new prisons had just 21.4 percent support.

The most popular prison reform measures, according to AUM poll director David Hughes, address prison overcrowding through criminal sentencing reforms.

“Approximately 37 percent of respondents support policies to reduce or eliminate sentences for non-violent offenders, and another 30 percent support paroling inmates convicted of non-violent crimes,” Hughes said.

The governor has included justice reform proposals in her all-encompassing plan. Those proposals were going to be considered by the Legislature in the 2020 legislative session but because of the coronavirus, the 2020 legislative session was cut short and the Legislature went home without addressing that or many other issues.

Much less popular is Ivey’s plan to build three new mega-prisons in Escambia, Elmore and Bibb counties.

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“Only 21 percent of respondents supported a proposal to build new prisons the state would then directly operate,” Hughes said. “The least popular proposal we polled involved the state contracting with private firms to construct new prisons the state would then lease. Only 14 percent of respondents approved of this reform measure.”

The state has grossly underfunded its prison system for decades and the Alabama Department of Corrections is still dangerously overcrowded and understaffed, despite recent efforts by the Legislature to deal with its chronic underfunding of the system.

A U.S. Justice Department investigation begun by the Obama administration and concluded by the Trump administration declared that the state has the most dangerous prison system in the country. The prisons are plagued by rampant drug use, extreme violence, and the prisons have not done a good job at preparing prisoners to return to society.

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The poor track record of rehabilitating prisoners means that inmates are released without job skills, education and still battling mental health issues and drug dependency. Too many inevitably reoffend and get sent back to prison exacerbating the overcrowding situation.

The U.S. Department of Justice warned the state in July that it was violating prisoners’ constitutional rights and that the attorney general may file or join lawsuits to intervene. A federal court has already found that the prisons were understaffed by a thousand guards and that inmates were not receiving necessary mental health care.

The AUM Poll was conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3. It solicited online participation from 1,072 registered voters in Alabama. Respondents were weighted according demographic factors such as age, gender, race, education and income to produce a more representative sample of Alabama’s voting age population.

The survey has a 4-point margin of error.

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News

Federal assistance following Sally tops $100 million, one month remains to apply

The deadline to register for assistance from FEMA and the SBA is Nov. 19, 2020.

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

About a month after the federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Sally, over $100 million in federal disaster assistance has been approved for survivors.

The funds include grants from FEMA, the National Flood Insurance Program and low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help with uninsured or underinsured losses.

“Alabamians, particularly in our coastal communities are still working to get back on their feet following the impacts from Hurricane Sally. I remain grateful to the Trump Administration and the team at FEMA for helping provide this immediate relief for Alabamians,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “I encourage folks in the eligible counties to take advantage of any of this assistance as we work to recover from Hurricane Sally.”

FEMA disaster assistance can help you start on your road to recovery. Alabama homeowners, renters and businesses who had property damage or loss related to Hurricane Sally have one month left to register and apply for federal disaster assistance.

The deadline to register for assistance from FEMA and the SBA is Nov. 19, 2020.

“FEMA is here with our state and federal partners to help Alabama communities and survivors recover from the devastating storm and flooding,” said Allan Jarvis, federal coordinating officer for the Hurricane Sally disaster in Alabama. “Register for assistance if you have uninsured disaster losses.”

Survivors should register even if they have insurance. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, but eligible homeowners and renters may be able to receive FEMA grants or SBA low interest loans for losses not covered by insurance to help pay for basic home repairs, temporary rental assistance and other needs such as replacing personal property.

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Survivors in Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile counties have until Thursday, Nov. 19, to apply for federal disaster help.

Register for assistance in one of three ways:

  • Online by logging onto DisasterAssistance.gov
  • The FEMA app: Visit fema.gov/mobile-app or your phone’s app store
  • Call 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585. Language translators also are available. Toll-free numbers are open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight CST, seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available.

Survivors who have questions about SBA low-interest disaster loans may contact the Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955 (TTY 800-877-8339), email at [email protected] or visit SBA’s website at DisasterLoanAssistance.sba.gov.

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Courts

Aderholt fully supports Barrett’s confirmation process

Confirmation hearings began last week and a vote on her confirmation is expected in the next week just days before the general election.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Robert Aderholt

Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, updated his constituents on the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Aderholt said, “I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms.”

Confirmation hearings began last week and a vote on her confirmation is expected in the next week just days before the general election.

“Senate Democrats are not seriously questioning Judge Barrett on her credentials, instead they have decided to attack her character and her beliefs,” Aderholt said. “I am disappointed to see this unfold on the national stage, but I think Judge Barrett stood strong and did well during this first week of hearings.”

“While I do not have a vote in her confirmation process, I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms when she is officially sworn in as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court,” Aderholt said.

Barrett is a Notre Dame graduate, has served on the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals and is a former clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate,” Barrett said. “His judicial philosophy is mine, too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”

Barrett vowed to keep an open mind on any matter that comes before the court, though Democrats fear she is prepared to overturn Supreme Court precedent on abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.

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That the Republican controlled committee will recommend that Barrett be confirmed appears certain. A vote to confirm Barrett to the nation’s highest court by the full Senate could occur just days ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

President Donald Trump has been the president of the United States for less than four years but if Barrett is confirmed, then he will have selected one third of the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett fills a place created by the death of the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.

Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He faces Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors in the Nov. 3 general election.

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