Editorial Roundup: Alabama

Cullman Times. February 22, 2024.

Editorial: High costs, low profits ... would you want this job? (and why we should thank those who do)

Each month from April to November, we publish a special page, “Thank a Farmer.” Typically, the contents of that section spotlights a local farmer, their family and the successes and challenges they face in running their business.

Why do we do that?

Consider some recent information and challenging words from the Alabama Farmers Federation. …

Recently released data is lending extra credence to Alabama farmers’ reality: Times are tough.

High input costs, low profit margins and farm consolidation helped shrink Alabama’s overall farm numbers from 2017 to 2022. Alabama lost 8 percent of farms in that period, according to U.S. Census of Agriculture ( https://www.nass.usda.gov/AgCensus// ) data released Feb. 13.

The Yellowhammer State had 37,362 farms as of 2022. The decline follows a national trend. There are 1.9 million farms in the U.S., a 7 percent loss in just five years.

In Alabama, 95 percent are still family farms or partnerships. Nationally, that number is 91.31%.

Meanwhile in Alabama, average farm size grew to 231 acres, up 20 acres. The number of smaller farms shrank, while larger operations — those with 2,000-plus acres — rose to 684. That’s a 22.58 percent increase.

The Census of Agriculture surveys U.S. farmers every five years. 2022 data was gathered on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating hurricanes Michael and Sally in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

Impacts of those disasters still echo across farm country, said the Alabama Farmers Federation: At the end of the day, farmers are businessmen, and that means their farms have to be profitable.

The organization also advised caution when analyzing the Census, noting economic shifts since farmers were surveyed: In Alabama, the data says market value of ag products is up 51.08 percent to $9.04 billion, but most of that is directly related to inflation and price surges for beef and poultry during the pandemic. Prices have since dropped, so farmers’ pocketbooks aren’t reflecting that steep increase. The Census also notes high expenses for feed, fertilizer, labor and fuel. While some of that has dropped, expenses are still above pre-COVID levels.

The total cost of production in 2022 was $6.44 billion, up 39.53%. Specific spiked expenses included:

- Feed: $2.86 billion, up 57.52%.

- Fertilizer, lime and soil conditioners: $307.44 million, up 30.64%.

- Hired farm labor: $314 million, up 31.91%.

- Gas, fuel and oil: $219.22 million, up 31.78%.

The Census also shows farmers’ continued adoption of practices that help increase yields and reduce loss.

That includes investments in irrigation. While still dramatically lower than neighboring Georgia and Mississippi, Alabama now has 170,537 acres under irrigation. That’s a 20.1 percent gain.

Diversification into agritourism increased. That income was $9.84 million, up 45%.

Conservation practices increased, too, in 2022 compared to 2017. They included:

- Farms that used no-till: 3,292 farms, up 21.52%.

- Farms that used conservation or reduced tillage: 1,753 farms, up 35.9%.

- Farms that used cover crops: 2,488 farms, up 21.96%.

Other notable statistics:

- Alabama is home to 62,777 farmers. That’s down 3.04%.

- 34.7 percent of all Alabama farmers are female.

- The average age of Alabama farmers is 58.7.

To cap all of this data … many of us have tough jobs.

But then there are our farmers — who we can’t thank enough.


Decatur Daily. February 24, 2024.

Editorial: Alabama Legislature legislates recklessly

Some Alabama lawmakers are now scrambling to deal with the unintended consequences of the laws the state Legislature has passed — unintended consequences that were, nevertheless, entirely foreseeable.

The Alabama Supreme Court last week ruled that frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilization, or IVF, are, as a matter of state law, “children.”

“Unborn children are ‘children’ ... without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics,” wrote Justice Jay Mitchell in the majority opinion, which relied on the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act and a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2018 that holds it is the “policy of this state to ensure the protection of the rights of the unborn child.”

Abortion rights supporters, along with people simply worried about the potentially far-reaching consequences of these laws, have long warned they open the door to declaring embryos to be persons, with the full rights of personhood under the law, which could in turn lead to perverse outcomes, such as banning some forms of contraception or, on the other end of the spectrum, banning IVF.

Supporters of the laws have argued variously that such extreme outcomes are not their intent or that they will come back later and pass clarifying legislation if necessary.

In the wake of the state Supreme Court’s ruling, legislators are scurrying to do the latter.

Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence has said he intends to file legislation to clarify that a fertilized egg has legal protections once it is implanted in the uterus but until then is a “potential life.”

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, has filed a similar bill with stronger, more precise language. It says a fertilized human egg or embryo outside of a human uterus would not be considered an unborn child or human being “for any purpose under state law.” But Daniels is a Democrat, and so carries little sway in the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, has said she will sponsor Melson’s bill in the state House if it passes the Senate.

In 2019, Collins sponsored the state’s strict anti-abortion law, which was written as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and made no exceptions for rape and incest. The law went into effect when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe in 2022.

Collins has said her intent was for the Legislature to go back and add rape and incest exceptions.

Two years into the post-Roe era, however, the Alabama Legislature has failed to act. There are simply too many lawmakers and too many anti-abortion groups that want no exceptions at all.

Melson’s bill to protect IVF could face a similar challenge. There are plenty of anti-abortion activists and groups that are happy to see IVF de facto banned if it puts the state on the path to recognizing and enforcing embryonic personhood.

“There are many other options that moms can definitely take in consideration instead of IVF,” said Catalina Stubbe, the national director of Moms for Liberty, the group that has gained a national profile by challenging every library book that rubs them the wrong way. “This is sad to create a life just to end up like an experiment for a laboratory.”

The Foundation for Moral Law, founded by failed Senate and gubernatorial candidate and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, is also happy with the state Supreme Court’s ruling and its potential consequences.

Passing a law — never mind a state constitutional amendment — in haste is easy. Fixing all of the unintended consequences is hard, because those consequences are not always unintended, as far as some parties are concerned.