December 2006
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Commissioner Addresses Marshall Farmers Co-op Annual Meeting

  Alabama State Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Ron Sparks addresses patrons at Marshall Farmers Co-op’s Annual Meeting.
Alabama State Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, Ron Sparks, recently spoke at Marshall Farmers Co-op’s Annual Meeting.

Commissioner Sparks covered topics including child nutrition, how Alabama leads the country in diabetes and obesity; drought relief, and how only 31 counties received disaster aid from the federal government when corn, cotton and pasture were lost in every county; and how an attempt by the U.S. Department of Transportation to force farmers to comply with over-the-road truck driving regulations was thwarted by a bill passed by the Alabama legislature. Sparks explained that the license and registration on any pick-up truck used for personal or agricultural use would be based on gross vehicle weight, or the empty weight of the truck, instead of usage. He also pointed out that with diagnostic labs in Hanceville, Elba, Auburn and now, the new facility in Boaz, Alabama is on the cutting edge of technology. These facilities are designed to protect Alabama’s citizens from possible transmittable disease as well as timely alerts to human, animal, or poultry disease concerns.

He discussed premises I.D., country of origin labeling and how agriculture will lead the way in alternative fuels with chicken litter, corn, soybeans, switchgrass and wood all being produced in Alabama. He went on to say that the upcoming Farm Bill is the most important Farm Bill we’ve ever had. Sparks said that we need to fight for Southern agriculture because California and the Mid-West are going to want an even bigger slice of the pie.

Sparks concluded by asking the audience of about 200, “How do we encourage young people to go into agriculture?” He then answered himself, “We do it with profitability. In 1960, Alabama had 250,000 farmers. Today we have about 45,000. The price of diesel is up and the price of fertilizer is up while commodity prices remain the same as they were thirty years ago. If young people can’t be shown that they can make a living and provide for their families with agriculture, then they won’t go into it.”