Alabama Agricultural Commissioner Discusses Free Trade

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan recently came out in favor of free trade agricultural policies. McMillan, who took office in January of this year, recently attended the National Association of State Agriculture Departments’ midyear meeting in Salt Lake City. In statement’s made before his attendance, McMillan planned on addressing three major concerns to Alabama farmers; the Farm Bill, free trade, and immigration.

Like most farmers across the country, McMillan is concerned about the upcoming Farm Bill. Despite having no official influence over the federal legislation, McMillan was confident that Alabama would have some say over the final version of the bill. Two of Alabama’s national representatives, Martha Roby and Terri Sewell, serve on the House Agriculture Committee.

In addition to the Farm Bill, McMillan addressed Alabama’s controversial immigration law. The law forces employers, including farmers, to verify employees’ immigration status using E-Verify. The law also punishes employers who hire illegal immigrants. Farmers in the state have argued that the bill has chased away farm labor and is threatening the profitability of the state’s agricultural sector. Without condemning or condoning the bill, McMillan stated that he was discussing it with farmers from across the state.

Most important to McMillan’s attendance at the meeting was the impact that free trade agreements could have in Alabama. The federal government is currently considering free trade agreements with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea. Given Alabama’s location in the Gulf of Mexico, the state stands to gain considerably from loosening trade restrictions with Latin American nations. McMillan hopes that free trade deals with Columbia and Panama could generate up to 15,000 jobs in Alabama and is currently urging President Obama to enact these trade deals.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer