Rural and Economic Development
It is no secret that the economy in Alabama has been affected by the downturn in the economy. This is especially true in the most rural parts of our state. For many years, these areas have produced thousands of jobs in our agriculture industry but as of late, those jobs have been slipping away. When agriculture does well, Alabama does well.
In 2007 the top five commodities in Alabama (broilers; cattle and calves; greenhouse/nursery; chicken eggs; cotton) added a combined $4.17 billion to our economy. In addition to pure revenue, agriculture also affects our economy as a result of the jobs and products produced each year. Without a healthy agriculture system, Alabama will suffer.
From 1997 to 2007, the number of farmed acres in Alabama decreased by half a million. From 2002 to 2007 the number of full-time farmers fell 13.3%, and the average age of farmers increased. Of all the farms in Alabama, 92.3% of them are less than 500 acres, the vast majority of those being less than 99 acres. The numbers are clear - agriculture in Alabama is teetering on the edge - and when agriculture falters so do many of Alabama's families and small businesses.
Alabama needs an Agriculture Commissioner who will fight everyday to end this trend.
As Agriculture Commissioner, I will propose tax incentives for those producers who produce more products while also hiring more workers. I will also work with the state's community college system to provide more training for students who wish to pursue a career in the agriculture industry. This will allow us to sustain the future of our state's economy through a well educated workforce.
One of the most important initiatives I will pursue though is not aimed at increasing production, but at increasing demand. Other states have been very successful in launching and promoting marketing and education initiatives aimed at increasing the demand for commodities in their state; but for some reason, Alabama has not made a concerted and successful effort to create a similar program. By marketing Alabama made and grown products not only in Alabama, but around the country, we will increase the impact that agriculture and the production of basic goods has on our economy.
Governor Riley's broadband initiative has allowed rural communities in our state to become connected with consumers throughout the world through the use of the internet. I will work with the new governor to expand that program, and I will promote a new initiative which will encourage the sale of Alabama goods and commodities on the internet. By helping folks in rural areas sell their products on the internet, we will be allowing them to provide economically for themselves and thus, for the state.
As Agriculture Commissioner, my main focus will be on ensuring that our state in general and our rural communities specifically, are able to compete with anyone else in regard to the sale and marketing of our manmade goods and agriculture commodities.