Leaders in the Alabama Legislature predicted tight budgets and immigration would be among the most pressing issues for the upcoming regular session when they gathered in Birmingham to learn more about agriculture and insurance at the 2011 Alfa Symposium.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said he is more encouraged about the education budget after meeting with the Finance Department, but added that the state’s General Fund budget could face proration as high as 15 percent. Despite this challenge, Marsh said he is interested in learning more about what can be done to strengthen Alabama agriculture.

“As you know, we have fewer farmers in the state than ever, and we’ve got to make sure they are protected,” Marsh said. “We have a good agricultural base, and we want to do everything we can to help those individuals.”

The symposium was a joint effort of the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance. It gave the staff a chance to meet with the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the agriculture and insurance committees in both chambers, to discuss issues that affect members and policyholders.

Brian Hardin, assistant director of the Federation’s Governmental and Agricultural Programs Department, said the meeting was especially valuable following the Nov. 2 general election, which brought sweeping changes to the Alabama Legislature.

“There are a lot of new legislators who we haven’t had the opportunity to talk to about our issues to the extent we would like,” Hardin said. “This symposium is a chance to discuss the issues we anticipate we will be facing not only this year, but in the next few years.”