Agriculture, protect our local economy

Published 3:09pm Friday, March 22, 2013

While in Selma, I’ve had the opportunity to learn first-hand about the cotton industry, the cattle industry and as of recent — the catfish industry. I guess you could say I’m getting all the C’s of agriculture covered.

And while all of these industries are unique in their own right, there’s one reoccurring theme I’ve discovered while learning about all three, and that’s that agriculture is crucial to our local economy.

I’m sure this isn’t breaking news to anyone. Driving through Dallas County, one can see countless fields filled with different crops and animals.

While talking to these farmers, each of them fifth or sixth generation in their trade, it was made evident how passionate they are about their living. For example, Jimmy Holliman, owner of Circle H Cattle Farms in Marion Junction, takes such pride in his career that he goes as far as to individually test the demeanor of is his cattle, making sure they won’t be trouble for their next owner. Jay Minter, owner of several cotton fields in Dallas County, said there’s nothing else he would rather do than grow cotton.

Tuesday, I had the opportunity to meet Will Pearce, owner of Pearce Catfish Farms in Marion Junction. Pearce generously showed me around the farm, which he also calls home, and explained the inner workings of the catfish industry. While learning about the catfish industry, I discovered that catfish farmers — especially in the United States — have had a difficult time selling their products recently because of foreign competition. When Pearce first explained this to me, much of it went over my head. I understand that foreign products pose a threat to mostly every single American commodity — so why should catfish be any different? However, when I learned how much the catfish industry affects Dallas County’s economy, it made me realize how much unfair pricing can directly affect Selma.

After learning about this issue, I was immediately relieved to hear the news of the Commerce Department’s recent decision to protect Alabama’s catfish industry by enforcing fair value pricing on Vietamese imports of frozen fish filets. This was a decision made as a result of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-Al) recommendation that the the Commerce Department review the low-priced imports.

As a Dallas County resident — and American — I applaud Sessions for pressing this issue and making U.S. and Alabama commodities a top priority.

Not only does unfair foreign pricing affect American catfish farmers, but it also affects people like you and me and especially local farmers like Will Pearce. As a state and county, we need to continue to protect one of our most precious commodities, and that is agriculture.


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