Sen. Doug Jones gives keynote address at Federation’s Co-op Month celebration at Rural Training Center in Epes

 

U. S. Senator Doug Jones was the luncheon speaker at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives celebration of National Co-op Month at its Rural Training and Research Center near Epes, Alabama. The Federation had a series of workshops on cooperative and credit union development and land retention issues during the morning. This included a presentation by several members of the SoGoCo, meat goat producers’ co-op on their efforts to promote goat production among family farmers in west Alabama. Rev. Samuel Fairley, Rev. Constance Scott and Pamela Madzima talked about their work with SoGoCo to encourage farmers to produce goats. The co-op now has 30 members with over 500 nannies, female reproductive goats. The cooperative is looking forward to having a large enough membership to support a goat processing plant. “We want to produce goat sausage and other quality cuts of goat meat for consumers and restaurants in the area,” said Fairley. The Federation’s Land Retention Specialist and Attorney, Monica Rainge, spoke on the problems of land tenure by Black farmers indicating that “heir property ownership” has become a significant obstacle to Black land owners making maximum utilization of their land. “When the original land owner dies without a will, the land title passes to all of the heirs without a division. This means all of the heirs have an un-divided interest in the land and all the heirs must agree on any decisions affecting the utilization of the land, including the application for USDA funds and programs. If several generations pass before the family tries to resolve this problem, there can be multiple heirs spread around the country, which makes it difficult for families to make decisive and timely decisions affecting the use of the land,” said Rainge. In his luncheon remarks, Senator Jones said he had been working since he was elected on bipartisan themes that would be helpful to rural people and communities in the State of Alabama including affordable health care, expanding high speed internet services and support for farmers. Jones said he was working on several aspects of the 2018 Farm Bill, which was now in a conference committee to reconcile differences between the Senate and House versions of the legislation. Jones said he had sponsored a proposal with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina to provide support and assistance to heir property landowners, which is part of the Senate bill. He is also supporting an effort to provide support for veteran, minority and beginning farmers, which would provide outreach and technical assistance for these groups and help to pass down the farming legacy from older farmers to the next generations. Jones said he was also working to protect the basic safety net and disaster assistance sections of the Farm Bill as well as prevent excessive cuts to food and nutrition programs. “Overall I am looking for ways to bring people together and seek bi-partisan common ground in a Washington D. C. that is broken. This has been a difficult ten days for our nation and I hope you go out and vote. You also must demand that your public officials be more responsible and work together. “We learned from the period of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama that politicians could fan the flames of racism with their words and rhetoric. Governor George Wallace and Police Commissioner Bull Conner made things more difficult with what they said in the 1960’s and the current President’s words on the caravan of poor immigrants from Central America and Mexico weigh on our nation’s discourse. “We must put our common good at the forefront of our discussions and seize the opportunity to speak and work for unity and not discord in our nation,” said Jones. Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director of the Federation observed that, “ We appreciate Senator Doug Jones coming to the Federation’s Rural Training Center in Epes. We have had Congressmen and women, three Secretaries of Agriculture, numerous government officials, but Doug Jones is the first U. S. Senator to visit our facilities. He also came on a great day to celebrate National Co-op Month.

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