By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Cattleman’s Association Executive Vice President Dr. Billy Powell, addressed the membership of the St Clair County Cattlemen’s Association at their annual Christmas Party event at Celebrations in Pell City.
Dr. Powell said that this has been a good year for the cattle industry in Alabama. Alabama’s farmers have seen record feeder calf prices and Powell said that next year also looks good for the cow calf sector.
Powell said that the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association has been fortunate in Montgomery to have good volunteer leaders. Powell said that the Association recently had about 85 people attend the board meeting in Montgomery. The group consists of the County Cattlemen’s Association Presidents, the regional vice-presidents, and the state officers. Powell said of the board members, “They come from all over the state and provide good input.”
VP Powell said that he served as the registered lobbyist for the cattlemen. Powell said that the cattlemen have good friends in the current Alabama legislature.
Powell said that the cattlemen have to coordinate their lobbying efforts with the Alabama Forestry Association, the Alabama Poulty and Egg Association, the state Department of Agriculture, the Farmer’s Federation, and other groups in order to serve farmers and ranchers interests in the legislature. The small group meets every day that the legislature is in session to coordinate their activities to pass “…legislation we can live with and to block legislation we can not live with.”
Powell said that when he started, there were 90 regisered lobbyists in Montgomery and today there are 900 registered lobbyists in Montgomery all competing for the ear of state senators and representatives. Powell said that this is magnified many many times in Washington. It is very difficult to get the ear of a U.S. Representative or Senator. Powell said this is why it is important for members to keep up grass roots efforts to contact their legislators.
VP Powell said that in 2010 the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries had over 400 employees. When Commissioner John McMillan was sworn in the Governor ordered prorations so McMillan had to lay off 25% of that workforce. One casualty was the Commissioner’s agriculture investigators. “We did not have anybody to investigate rural crime.” Powell said that last year Gov. Bentley wanted to consolidate most of the 22 law enforcement agencies in the state and at the urging from ACA and other farm groups the state created a new rural crimes investigations unit to investigate farm equipment and cattle theft. In just a few short months that new unit has recoverd nearly $2 million worth of stolen farm equipment and cattle.
Powell said that only 1.5% of the public have jobs on the farm and they don’t understand where their food comes from, Powell praised ACA staff member, Erin Beasely for her work promoting the benefits of beef in the diet to consumers, restaurant suppliers, grocers, and others around the state. The staff also has a staff member who works with farm youth.
Powell said that these programs and the ACA staff members are paid for with money from the state beef checkoff. On Wednesday, December 18 cattle farmers and ranchers will vote on whether or not to keep the state beef checkoff at county extension offices across Alabama. Powell said, “We encourage you to vote yes.” Powell said he talked with one rancher who sold a feeder calf that brought $2.50 a pound. That ranchers said that just that one pount paid for his checkoff. “Go and vote yes at the county extension office,” Powell said.
Powell said that state ACA convention will be in Montgomery on the 18th and 19th of February.
Powell also urged Cattlemen to purchase the cowboy tag which is used to pay for scholarships for Alabama youth. The ACA has received 114 applications for scholarships. A committee will go through those applications to award $40,000 in scholarships. Powell warned the cattlemen to tell their sons not to just put down just hunting and football on their applications because those girls will have 12 to 14 pages of their activities on their applications.
Powell told the gathered cattlemen, “We appreciate what you do.” and urged them to increase the ACA’s memberships. Membership dues, the beef checkoff, and the license plates are their three revenue sources.