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Alabama Young Democrats Travel to San Antonio

Beth Clayton

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By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY–Eleven members of the Alabama Young Democrats are in San Antonio, Texas, at the Young Democrats of America biennial convention, hearing from nationally renowned speakers and attending training sessions.

The convention is scheduled from Thursday afternoon until Sunday evening following the swearing-in of new national officers.

The Castro brothers, Mayor Julian Castro and Congressman Joaquin Castro, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, and Texas Democratic Party leaders were among the keynote speakers for the four-day event.

One Birmingham Young Democrat was even recognized on the floor of the national convention, receiving the William J. Clinton award. Myeisha Hutchinson, the parliamentarian of the Birmingham Young Democrats and former Executive Vice President of the Alabama Young Democrats, received the award for her work on a civil rights commemoration fundraising event.

“We have a great group that has grown exponentially in just a few short months. Since April, our membership has increased by 500%, says Alex Davies, the National Committeeman for the Alabama Young Democrats. “With the new skills that we have gained this weekend, I’m excited to get home and get back to work so that we can organize and elect Democrats in 2014.”

Davies says the group has extended charters beyond their single chapter in Birmingham to start new chapters in important areas. New chapters include the River Region Young Democrats, the Black Belt Young Democrats, the Montevallo Young Democrats, the Etowah County Young Democrats and the Cullman/Blount County Young Democrats.

Groups like Democracy for America, Democratic Gain, NARAL Pro Choice America and Planned Parenthood were on site at the YDA convention to help with training sessions and discuss issues with the participants.

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“The DFA (Democracy for America) trainings have been great. I’m looking forward to the DFA Campaign Academy in September to add on to what we learned this weekend,” Davies said.

The Alabama Young Democrats, Over the Mountain Democrats, Madison County Democrats, Tuscaloosa County Democrats, Saint Clair County Democrats and UAB College Democrats are all partnering to host a campaign and advocacy training with Democracy for America September 7-8 at UAB.
“We’re really setting the stage for 2014. The people are tired of the current leadership that is too busy trying to appease both the Business Council and the Tea Party. The Young Democrats are ready to step in to elect leaders who will fill that void and represent the people,” Davies said.

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Economy

Ag commissioner concerned about collapsing beef prices

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Rick Pate (R) is concerned about dropping cattle prices and the impact that that is having on Alabama’s farmers and ranchers.

“We have been very dialed into the crisis Alabama Cattle Producers are up against,” Pate told the Alabama Political Reporter. “We will continue to closely monitor this dire situation and the market impact it is having on Alabama’s cattle farmers . . . as well as consumers.”

“After I was contacted by a number of Alabama’s stockyards and Cattle producers expressing concern with regards to market inconsistencies and increased consumer prices…… I wrote a letter to Senators Shelby and Jones requesting that they join in on a push for an investigation of the meat packing industry,” Pate said. “I am encouraged by the support we are getting from both Jones and Shelby. It’s also great to see Alabama Producers joining in together in an effort to formulate a strategy to address the current situation.”

Commissioner Pate shared the April 6 letter.

“Over the last five days, I have been contacted by many stockyards and cattle producers concerning the seemingly inconsistent drastic reduction in futures prices for cattle while at the same time consumers are purchasing more beef at grocery stores than at any time in recent memory and at the same time grocery store shelves are empty of beef,” Pate wrote the Senators. “There is concern from many in the cattle industry that the large meat packing companies are manipulating markets to put cattle produces and local stockyards at a disadvantage during a national crisis. Due to depressed cattle prices and uncertainty over cattle prices multiple stockyards will not conduct business this week.”

“I understands that Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Mike Rounds of South Dakota have recently asked the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies to investigate whether the large packing companies are manipulating beef markets to fix prices at a level that negatively impacts beef producers,” Pate wrote. “I urge you to join your fellow senators in calling for this investigation to make certain that Alabama cattle producers are not suffering from artificially low beef prices.”

COVID-19 has impacted many areas of our lives. That includes at the grocery store where selection of beef, pork, and chicken products can be a hit and miss proposition for shoppers due to hoarders and to less cattle, hogs, and chicken being killed because of slaughterhouses suffering high absenteeism due to COVID-19. The big four major packers: Tyson Foods, Cargill/Excel, J.B.S. Swift, and National Beef process over 80 percent of the cattle. When their daily productions dropped there was an oversized effect on cash and futures markets, because of the lack of competition and because 70 percent of the cattle they process are forward contracted. If a feedlot was not forward contracted they often could not sell their cattle at any price.

The spot market or cash market generally determines live cattle prices. Some in the industry have accused the big four meatpackers of engaging in an “allied strategy” to manipulate the spot market so that the four major companies can profit at the expense of farmers and ranchers.

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Sen. Grassley praised President Donald J. Trump’s recent call for an investigation into possible anticompetitive behavior in the beef industry. Last month, Grassley lodged a similar request with the Departments of Justice and Agriculture.

“While consumers are facing record-level prices at the meat counter, America’s Beef producers are being forced to sell their cattle to meatpackers at a loss, if they can sell them at all,” Sen. Grassley said. “Consolidation in the meatpacking industry has exacerbated the market pain on both sides of the supply chain, and producers and consumers need to know whether unfair business practices by packers are to blame.”

“I’ve called on the Trump administration to look into unfair or anticompetitive practices and I’m grateful that President Trump has made this issue a priority,” Grassley added. “USDA is looking into unfair pricing practices. DOJ must also examine if any collusion within the packing industry has taken place in violation of our antitrust laws.”

Grassley has long raised concerns about consolidation in the meatpacking industry and pressed USDA to protect independent producers.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association recently called for an investigation into the business practices that lead to unfair marketplace for beef producers. R-CALF filed suit against the Big Four packers last year alleging that the four companies are engaging in an “allied strategy” in defiance of U.S. anti-trust law.

Rick Pate is a cattle rancher in Lowndes County. The Pate family has raised Charolais beef cattle in Alabama for decades.

(Original writing and research by Montgomery area writer Amy McGhee contributed to this report. McGhee’s parents have a Black Angus beef cattle farm in Tennessee.)

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Elections

Sessions, Tuberville build campaign war chests headed toward runoff

Brandon Moseley

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Former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) is running in the July 14 Republican Party primary runoff against former Auburn head football Coach Tommy Tuberville. Both turned in Federal Elections Commission reports showing campaign activity through the end of April when Alabamians were still under shelter in place orders to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Sessions was able to transfer over his previous campaign account and he has slightly more cash on hand than Tuberville, but Tuberville had the most votes in the March 3 Republican primary and has led throughout in most of the polling.

Former Auburn football Coach Tommy Tuberville in his filling with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) reports that the campaign has collected total contributions of $2,299,292.20. Tuberville has loaned his campaign $1,000,000. The campaign reports operating expenditures of $2,074,302.74 and has refunded $15,525 in contributions to individuals. Tuberville has repaid $750,000 of the loan that he made to himself. His campaign reports other disbursements of $1,000. .

The Tuberville campaign is reporting a cash balance of $458,819.40 with debts and loans owed by the committee of $393,043.23.

Tuberville’s largest contributors include: Terry Young of Birmingham, AL $10,000. He is the CEO of Southern Risk Services. Douglas Gowland of Gates Hills, Ohio $10,000. He is retired. Stiles Killett of Atlanta, Georgia $10,000. He is the Chairman of Killett Investment Corporation. Marcus Calloway of Atlanta, GA $10,000. He is self employed real estate attorney. Connie Neville of King’s Hill, Virginia $8,400. Connie is a self employed designer. William Neville of King’s Hill, VA $8,400. He is a manager with U.S. Viking. Sandra Hicks of Rainsville, AL $8,000. Sandra is a homemaker. Dennis Hicks of Rainsville, AL $8,000. Dennis is the CEO of Colormaster. M.S. Properties LLC of Wellington, AL $7500. Austin Brooks of Vestavia Hills, AL $6,400. Brooks is a senior associate with Highpoint Holdings.

Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III reported total receipts of just $1,740,194.28. Of that $1,619,657.39 came from contributions. Sessions’ total individual contributions were $1,237,923.39. Sessions also raised $381,73 from other campaign committees. Sessions reported other receipts of $114,759.89. Sessions had total disbursements of $3,815,148.56 of which $3,709,022.56 were operating expenses. The Sessions’ campaign reports ending cash on hand of $749,235.59.

Sessions has received a number of contributions through the WinRed platform. WinRed is an American Republican Party (GOP) fundraising platform endorsed by the Republican National Committee and President Donald Trump. It was launched to compete with Democrat’s success in online grassroots fundraising with their platform ActBlue. Contributors to the Sessions campaign include: Scott Forney of San Diego, California $5,600. He is the President of General Atomics. John Gearon Jr. of Atlanta, GA $2,800. John is an executive with the Gearson Foundation. Jean Penney $2,600 of Gurley, AL is retired. Steven Thornton $7,600 of Huntsville is the CEO of Monte Sano Research. Susan Braden of Washington D.C. $2 800 is retired. Betty Ann Stedman $5,600 of Houston, TX is an investor. Hans Luquire $5,000 of Montgomery, AL is self employed in the HVAC business. Dr. Carl Gessler Jr. $2600 of Huntsville, AL is a heart specialist. Samuel Zell $2,800 of Chicago, IL is the Chairman of Equity International. Leon Edwards $2,800 of Mountain Brook, AL is the owner of Edwards Chevrolet.

The Alabama Republican Party primary runoff was originally scheduled for March 31, but was moved to July 14 due to fears of the spread of the coronavirus.

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The winner of the Republican primary runoff will have just a few short months before going up against incumbent Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) in the November 3 general election.

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Congress

Roby: Applications for farmers to sign up for food assistance program open today

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) sent an email to constituents with a link on how farmers and ranchers can sign up for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program which opens today.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week released details on the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) for farmers, ranchers, and producers affected by COVID-19,” Rep. Roby wrote. “Applications open on May 26 and will be accepted at USDA Farm Service Agency offices through August 28.”

You can learn more about CFAP here.

According to USDA, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP, provides vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline or who had losses due to market supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and face additional significant market costs.

Eligible commodities include: malting barley, canola, corn, upland cotton, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat, hard red spring wheat, wool, cattle, hogs, and sheep (lambs and yearlings only), dairy, apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, kiwifruit, lemons, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines, tomatoes, watermelons, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, dry onions, green onions, peppers, potatoes, rhubarb, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, taro, almonds, pecans, walnuts, beans, and mushrooms.

Alabama farmers hard hit by low commodity prices and market disruption caused by COVID-19 may apply beginning today.

Alabama Farmers Federation National Affairs Director Mitt Walker said farmers have eagerly anticipated the details of the CFAP since President Donald Trump and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the $16 billion program a month ago.

“Farmers in Alabama appreciate President Trump, USDA Secretary Perdue and Congress for recognizing the detrimental impact COVD-19 has had on the industry,” Walker said. “Securing our nation’s food supply is critical, and unfortunately, the virus has dealt our farmers another blow when many were already having a tough time making ends meet.”

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Walker said the Alabama Farmers Federation staff have already begun looking over the final rules and will work closely with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to assist farmers in applying for these funds.

CFAP will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Pres. Trump and Secretary Perdue unveiled the program during a press briefing at the White House, accompanied by farmers including American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall.

“I want to begin by expressing our profound gratitude to everyone here today and the farmers and producers across the country who have kept our nation fed and nourished as we have battled the invisible enemy,” the President said. “Now, we are standing strong with our farmers and ranchers once again. In normal times, roughly about 40% of fresh vegetables and about 40% of beef grown and raised in the United States is distributed to restaurants and other commercial food establishments. But as you know, the virus has forced many of our nation’s restaurants to temporarily close, and this has taken a major toll on our farmers and growers. For this reason, my administration is launching a sweeping new initiative, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.”

You can read more about program specifics at the Alabama Farmers Federation site.

Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She is serving in her fifth term and will retire at the end of this year.

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Congress

Brooks wants to suspend guest worker programs

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) announced that he and five other members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sent a letter to President Donald J. Trump (R).

“38+ million Americans have lost their jobs in the last 2 months,” Rep. Brooks wrote on social media. “The April unemployment rate was 14.7%, the highest rate since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is now more important than ever to put the interests of American workers first. I, along with five conservative colleagues, sent a letter urging President Trump to suspend the guest-worker program for at least one year. Last month, President Trump signed an executive order suspending certain green cards for 60 days. That’s good, but more can be done to protect American workers. Suspend the guest worker program!”

“We should not force Americans to compete with foreign nationals while jobs are scarce, and Americans should get priority consideration for employment when businesses are able to reopen,” the letter stated. “We urge you to suspend granting any new guest-worker visas for at least one year, and potentially longer depending on the strength of the economy.”

The letter was also signed by Reps.: Andy Biggs (R-Arizona), Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Brian Babin (R-Texas) and Steve King (R-Iowa).

The US economy shrank by an annualized 4.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020, ending the longest period of expansion in the country’s history, an advance estimate showed. It was the steepest pace of contraction in GDP since the last quarter of 2008. Joblessness is estimated at 23 percent, the highest rate since the Great Depression of the 1930s. 40 percent of Americans who make less than $40 thousand per year are now jobless. The forced economic shutdown was implemented at the urging of the Centers for Disease Control, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and other public health officials to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

America rewrote its immigration laws in 1965. At that point there were only 9.6 million foreign born persons in the entire country. That number has risen to more than 45 million, due to both legal and illegal immigration. High rates of immigration has driven U.S. population growth as American family size has continued to drop; but it has also helped keep median incomes largely flat from 1980 to 2017. This helped keep inflation from becoming a significant brake on the economy; but it also contributed significantly to growing wealth inequality as upper income earning Americans saw their wealth and incomes increase at a far higher rate than the bottom three fifths of the population. There was some significant wage growth during the Trump administration through February, though that appears to now be a casualty of the forced economic shutdown and the shelter in place orders that closed thousands of business, some who now appear unlikely to ever reopen.

As of early Tuesday morning, 5,607,726 people across the globe have tested positive for the coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV-2. The new virus was first identified late last year in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. Of those 2,384,589 have already recovered and 348,256 have died from COVID-19. 99,806 Americans have already perished in the global pandemic. President Donald J. Trump (R) recently halted nonessential travel from Brazil because of the growing coronavirus situation there. The virus has recently been spreading rapidly in Latin America where many of our guest workers come from. 68,620 Mexicans now have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and 7,394 have died, including 215 on Monday alone.

Congressman Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Brooks is presently in his fifth term.

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(Original reporting from the Hill contributed to this report.)

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