Mar 10 2009

Senator Shelby Announces Agriculture Funding for Alabama

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced funding for agriculture projects in Alabama included in the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009.  Following today’s action by the Senate, the legislation will go to the President for his signature.

“I believe this Agriculture Appropriations funding goes a long way toward helping farmers and rural communities in Alabama and across the country by funding advanced research methods with the ultimate goal of eliminating devastating diseases and increasing agricultural productivity levels,” said Shelby.

Improved Crop Production Practices - $1.293 Million
The research will be based at the ARS National Soil Dynamics Lab in Auburn and conducted in conjunction with researchers at Auburn University, Tuskegee University, and Alabama A&M University.  Researchers will focus on conservation tillage, intensive rotations, and site-specific management to reduce the impact of drought and increase profits.  In addition, Auburn University will maintain a state-of-the-art soil testing lab and web based access information system for producers and homeowners throughout Alabama. 

“Alabama’s recent drought created a dire situation across the state with long-term ramifications affecting both the row crop producer and consumer,” said Shelby. “For this reason, it is critical that we continue to develop methods and technologies that reduce our crops’ susceptibility to drought.”

National Soil Dynamics Lab- Up to $1.2 Million 
Production research is conducted at many locations in Alabama to demonstrate the economic value of improving degraded soils. This project, through on-site research and technology transfer, is designed to demonstrate methods for restoring soil productivity. 

“Alabama’s soil is particularly sensitive to degradation processes that significantly impact profitability,” said Shelby. “Research at the National Soil Dynamics Lab uses a systematic approach to better understand the threats to soil productivity and develop methods to reduce the risk of degradation.”

Catfish Genome - $819,000
This funding will allow researchers to better understand catfish genomic components for disease resistance.  Ongoing cooperative research between USDA, the Agriculture Research Service, and the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University will develop genomic information.  Auburn University will provide assistance and conduct laboratory and field tests at its catfish ponds and farms in Alabama. 

“Alabama’s catfish industry continues to be a major source of economic development in the state,” said Shelby. “The industry, however, faces significant threats from foreign competition.  For this reason, we must ensure that our catfish population is strong and healthy, as well as capable of withstanding both endemic and emerging diseases and disorders.”

Vaccine and Microbe Research for Fish Health - $991,000
This funding will support the ongoing cooperative research between USDA, the Agriculture Research Service, and the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University to develop multivalent vaccines against three major concurrent diseases of catfish.  Auburn University will provide assistance in vaccine formulation and conduct laboratory and field tests at its catfish ponds and farms in Alabama. 

“Better disease management is a top priority for Alabama’s aquaculture industry,” said Shelby. “To date, the results of the research conducted at Auburn University have led to the commercialization of two vaccines, which helped reduce the loss of catfish infected by disease. The ability to better manage disease threats is important to the overall success of fisheries both in the short-term and long-term.  This funding will provide the opportunity for continued advances in disease prevention.”

Auburn Research Center on Detection and Food Safety - $1.748 Million
This program will educate a new generation of engineers and scientists to continue Auburn University’s cutting-edge research to improve food safety.  Ultimately, discoveries made at Auburn could lead to a system that monitors food products from production to consumption, thereby eliminating or significantly reducing the threat of food-borne illnesses.

“Food safety must be a national priority,” said Shelby. “This funding will enable Auburn University to continue to develop the science, technology, and engineering required to rapidly detect pathogens and toxins that may arise in the food chain and quickly resolve the problems before they enter the consumer market place.  This important issue affects not only consumers, but also the millions of workers in the food industry.”

Tri- State Peanut Research - $413,000
Intensive tillage of today’s farming methods has left the soils of the lower coastal plains severely low in organic matter and water holding capacity, resulting in low crop yields and forcing many farmers to leave the farming business.  This project will increase the amount of organic material and carbon storage in the soil, restoring productivity to vast peanut-growing regions of Southeast Alabama. 

“This critical funding will facilitate continued research into several factors affecting the peanut industry,” said Shelby.  “The goal is to develop a sustainable, sod-based crop production system that is customized to the southeastern United States.”

Precision Agriculture and Forestry, Tennessee Valley Research Center – $415,000
Increasingly, farmers are relying on crop yield maps to make decisions on next year’s fertilizer application or crop planting rates. This program will develop and implement techniques to use images taken from satellites, aircraft, or ground-based systems to map competing vegetation and then to plan precision herbicide spraying operations that use less chemicals and improve wildlife habitat.  

“Recent technological advancements have become important tools for many of Alabama’s farmers,” said Shelby. “This funding will be used to develop technology that will help farmers and ranchers evaluate their crops and increase their yields using GPS and other information systems.”

City of Foley Comprehensive Conservation Outreach, Education, and Action Program - $202,000
This project aims to increase awareness of conservation and to educate individuals, particularly young people, on how to do their part to conserve and protect our resources.  This funding will be used to develop an educational conservation program and to develop a conservation park with outdoor classrooms and walking trails.

“We must educate young people now about the importance of conservation for the future,” said Shelby. “This program will teach Alabamians how to practice conservation efforts so that we can ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.”

The following nationwide programs will also be funded through the fiscal year 2009 Agriculture Appropriations bill:

Food Safety - $971.6 Million
“Food safety is a national priority that affects every man, woman, and child and we must ensure the security of the food supply from all forms of contamination,” said Shelby. “The recent food contaminations reinforce the necessity of food inspections.  Enhancing our detection capabilities will help tp discover pathogens before they enter our food supply, and to alleviate widespread outbreaks of food-borne illnesses.”

Rural Source Water Protection - $5 Million
The funding will be used to provide on-site technical assistance to public water and wastewater utilities.  This will include assistance with source water protection assessments, best management practices of drinking water supplies, and other assistance in identifying potential contaminant threats from non-point source runoff such as agricultural wastes and fertilizers.

“Rural communities across Alabama are in need of financial assistance for the development of water and waste disposal systems,” Shelby said. “This program will provide the resources necessary for communities to ensure they have a clean and safe water supply.”

Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC), Vibrio Vulnificus Education - $174,000
Emphasis on this money will be directed to Vibrio Programs.  The ISSC has utilized this level of funding to pursue needed programs to address illnesses and deaths associated with Vibrios in shellfish. 

“The shellfish industry is integral to Alabama’s economy,” said Shelby.  “Unfortunately, the deadly bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus can be found in oysters and shellfish that live in warm coastal waters during the summer months.  Because this bacteria can cause a life-threatening illness in humans, it is critical that we do all we can to learn more about treating those that come in contact with contaminated shellfish.”

Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) - $139,000
The ISSC is made up of members from the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and State Shellfish Control Agencies that include state health and resource regulators and the shellfish industry. 

“Shellfish are an important component of Alabama’s fishery industry,” said Shelby.  “As such, we must continue to ensure that Alabama’s shellfish remain safe for visitors and residents of our state.  This funding will assist states in complying with National Shellfish Sanitation Program (NSSP) Guidelines.”