Alabama Farmers Federation leaders encouraged legislators to invest in poultry research and expand irrigation during a joint session of the Senate and House agriculture committees Jan. 27 in Auburn.

Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee Chairman Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, praised the work being done by the National Poultry Technology Center (NPTC) at Auburn University and pledged to sponsor $250,000 in state funding for the complex.

As a poultry farmer, Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill, said he’s seen first hand how technology being developed at the NPTC is helping keep farmers on their land.

“Implementing their research at my farm has saved me a lot of money. That’s money in my pocket,” Scofield said. “It has allowed me to continue to work on the farm and do what I love.”

Federation North Region Vice-President Hal Lee of Morgan County echoed Scofield’s remarks, adding that technology developed at the center helped him reduce his propane usage from 22,800 gallons a year to 12,800 gallons a year.

While poultry farmers are looking to Auburn for new technology that will reduce energy consumption and improve chicken health, Auburn College of Agriculture Dean Bill Batchelor said the best way for many farmers to improve profitability is by increasing the use of irrigation.

“The quickest way our farmers in Alabama can increase yields is by adopting irrigation technology,” Batchelor said.

The senators on the panel are looking at a number of bills that would encourage the expansion of on-farm irrigation, including tax incentives.

Federation Board Member and Elmore County Farmers Federation President Richard Edgar quoted the state climatologist in stating that if Alabama were to add 1 million acres of irrigated cropland, it would have the same economic impact as bringing two more automobile manufacturers to the state.

Using only small percentage of available water

Edgar noted that Alabama only utilizes about 2.5 percent of the water available in the state, while Arizona uses 102 percent of the water that falls on or flows through its borders.

(To see how one Alabama grower plans to use irrigation to increase profitability, see For an overall look at irrigation in the state of Alabama, visit

In addition to poultry technology and irrigation, Federation leaders also spoke on issues ranging from career and technical education to immigration.

Walker County Farmers Federation President Dorman Grace recalled how 4-H Club and FFA leaders encouraged him to pursue a college education. Grace called on legislators to support the Career Tech Initiative by sharing stories about mentoring young people who’ve gone on to successful careers in technical and mechanical trades.

“We have a responsibility to those kids to make them producers in society,” Grace said.

“How do we do that? We do it by caring for them and helping them.”

Montgomery County Farmers Federation President Bill Cook spoke about the impact of Alabama’s new immigration law on farmers.

 “The greenhouse, nursery and landscaping industry is very concerned about the immigration law and how its going to affect our industry. We’re scared to death,” he said.

Cook noted that his business has complied with all state and federal labor laws and has tried unsuccessfully to hire local workers. He also took exception to those who accuse farmers of paying a low wage and asked the lawmakers to carefully consider the impact of the law when they convene Feb. 7.

(For an look at details of the law itself, visit

Federation Southeast Vice-President Ricky Wiggins of Covington County specifically addressed legislation that would require ordinances related to timber harvesting be uniform throughout the state. However, Wiggins’ overall message to the legislators was that farmers “don’t need any more regulations.”

He called on regulatory agencies to use common sense in dealing with farms and other businesses.

Pike County Farmers Federation President John Dorrill testified about the need to preserve the current use provision in Alabama’s property tax law and to preserve exemptions for feed, seed and fertilizer.

As the meeting drew to a close, Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, illustrated how agricultural research and technology can improve the lives of people and the economy of a nation.

A combat veteran, Williams recalled seeing Afghan farmers progress from pulling plows by hand to using modern farm equipment during his tour of duty.

 “What I saw first hand is what technology can mean to productivity.”