Preserving family farms, continuing current use valuation of agricultural land and keeping agricultural sales tax exemptions are among the key issues the Alabama Farmers Federation has asked the state's lawmakers to address during the current legislative session.

In addition, the federation will concentrate efforts that insure landowners' interests are fairly represented in the environmental and constitutional reform debates and that key agricultural projects are funded.

The Family Farm Preservation Act, a bill backed by the federation, will keep farmer operations from being declared a public nuisance so long as that farm abides by all current rules and regulations.

The legislation more clearly defines what a farm is, allows an operation to remain classified as a farm if it is transferred to another farmer and allows a farmer to expand his or her operation within the current regulations while maintaining the farm's original established date.

The bill prevents city or county regulations from being adopted that would classify a farm as a public or private nuisance so long as the farm is operating by all state and federal regulations.

Through the Family Farm Preservation Act, farmers also will be allowed to maintain the right to farm if there is a change in the use of property located adjacent to or in the vicinity of his or her farm.

The bill also stipulates that any person or group that sues a farmer abiding by current rules and regulations for public nuisance and loses, must pay the farmer's attorney's fees and expenses associated with the case.

In the budget process, the federation is asking lawmakers to invest in a new fire ant management and control initiative. It also will seek $350,000 to help the Alabama Department of Environmental Management administer the new Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation regulations and another $2.5 million in farm cost-share assistance to aid in the implementation of the rules.

Other appropriations priorities include $50,000 for satsuma research, $150,000 for the Wildlife Services Agency, $250,000 for peanut research, $25,000 for the Dairy Compact Administration and $50,000 for junior livestock shows.

Federation members who want to contact their legislators may call (334) 242-7800 for senators or (334) 242-7600 for representatives.

Additional assistance is available at www.legislature.state.al.us.

e-mail: phollis58@mindspring.com