Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.
Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.
“The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.
Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.
Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.
Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Did you know Alabama’s schools are ranked 52nd in math and 49th in reading? This is unacceptable. Yes on Amendment 1 takes the first step toward improving our schools.
Gov. Kay Ivey has made it abundantly clear. Alabama’s failures in education are not the fault of students or our hardworking teachers, principals and superintendents. The problem is lack of stable, visionary leadership.
Our current system is not working. In Alabama, we’re used to winning. But in education, the state is consistently dead last. We wouldn’t tolerate this kind of performance from our coaches or business leaders, and we must not settle for mediocrity when it comes to our children’s future.
Alabama is one of only six states that still has an elected state school board, and this board has had five superintendents in the last four years.
Amendment 1 gets politicians off the board and replaces them with nine commission members who will bring focus, innovation and accountability to Alabama’s K-12 education system. Our community college system transitioned to this model and has lifted itself out of the mire of scandal by refocusing on student achievement and preparedness.
Commission members will serve no more than two consecutive six-year terms and will be accountable to our elected state senators. They also are required to reflect the diversity of Alabama’s public school students.
Amendment 1 clearly outlines responsibilities for the commission: teacher certification, professional development, student assessment and accountability. In addition, it requires adoption of education standards to replace common core.
Amendment 1 does not take control away from local school boards, and it does not diminish the value of our teachers. To the contrary, Amendment 1 will help teachers, students and local schools by bringing strategic, productive leadership to education policy at the state level.
Gov. Ivey said it best. “For us to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s opportunities, it is time we get serious: It’s time for creativity. It’s time for accountability. It’s time for stability. It’s time to vote YES for Amendment 1 on March 3rd!”
Jimmy Parnell is the President, CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance.
Legislation boosts investment, job creation in rural Alabama
With unemployment at an all-time low and companies relocating to Alabama’s business-friendly environment, our state’s economy is strong. Unfortunately, rural counties have lagged behind their urban neighbors in infrastructure development, job creation and revenue growth.
This year, Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama legislature took strides toward closing the prosperity gap through investment in roads, bridges and Port of Mobile; expansion of rural broadband; and passage of the Alabama Incentives Modernization (AIM) Act.
As a fifth-generation farmer and president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, I have seen firsthand the role rural Alabama plays in our state’s economic success. I’m more encouraged than ever about the opportunity for our rural communities to thrive.
According to recent census estimates, 45 of Alabama’s 67 counties have declining populations. For these rural counties to grow and fully participate in America’s economic rebound, we must improve infrastructure and attract good-paying jobs.
The Alabama Incentives Modernization (AIM) Act, passed this year by the legislature, is a step in the right direction. It provides incentives for businesses creating as few as 10 jobs in rural areas. It also expands the number of rural counties eligible for incentives under the 2015 Alabama Jobs Act and enhances incentives within federal Opportunity Zones.
We are especially excited about one project the AIM Act will advance — the Alabama Farm Center. As the Farmers Federation celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2021, we want to give back to Alabama by investing in the future of agriculture and forestry. The Alabama Farm Center at Alfa Centennial Park will provide a venue to cultivate the next generation of agricultural leaders while educating the public about the importance of farming and forestry.
Located on 500 acres along I-65 in Chilton County, the Center will welcome visitors from across the country for fairs, livestock shows, trade exhibitions, concerts and more. The preliminary master plan includes a 5,000+ seat air-conditioned arena, 150,000 square foot exhibition building with meeting rooms, 400-stall horse barn, 1,125-stall cattle barn, 400 recreational vehicle (RV) hookups, as well as other arenas and buildings.
The AIM Act will help make this plan a reality by driving additional investment in the Alabama Farm Center through economic development organizations, corporations, utilities and others. The result will be an estimated 300-400 new jobs and annual economic impact of $40-$55 million.
We appreciate Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) for sponsoring the AIM Act, and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) for carrying it in the Senate. Thanks to their leadership, with support from small and large businesses alike, the AIM Act will open doors for success in rural counties that need it most.
For decades, agriculture and forestry have been the lifeblood of small communities across Alabama. The AIM Act — along with infrastructure and broadband improvements —will strengthen these industries while attracting technology companies to invest in Alabama’s future.
Jimmy Parnell is the President, CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance.
American agriculture has long been the envy of the world. Thanks to investment in plant and animal breeding, pest management, conservation and automation, U.S. farmers have more than doubled productivity since 1980 while reducing erosion and protecting the environment.
If America is to remain a farming superpower, we must strengthen research efforts at our colleges and universities. That’s why Alabama Farmers Federation is calling on Congress to increase support for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Since 1921, the Farmers Federation has worked to build public support for agriculture and forestry. Securing funding for research at Alabama’s land grant universities was an early focus of the organization, and it remains a priority today.
Each year, farmers set aside a portion of their harvest revenue to fund education, promotion and research through check-off programs. Over the years, these voluntary efforts have provided millions of dollars to Auburn University and other research institutions. Likewise, private companies leverage intelligence and innovation at our universities to develop new products and technologies.
Still, public investment is needed to ensure American agriculture and forestry remain globally competitive. Alabama’s Congressional delegation has been supportive of agriculture and forestry research. But in recent years, Brazil and China have outpaced America’s commitment to food and agricultural research. In fact, China is now investing twice as much as the U.S. on potentially groundbreaking research to help farmers feed, clothe and shelter a growing world.
NIFA provides a vehicle for coordinating research that can have immediate impact on the agriculture and forestry industries. In one example, over $18 million in competitive grants through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program have been awarded to research projects at Auburn University, Alabama A&M University, Tuskegee University and other state institutions. These AFRI grants, under NIFA, have allowed researchers to discover new ways for farmers to prevent infectious diseases that threaten farm animals; developed strategies to ward off pests that could affect soybean production; and helped farmers embrace data to increase profitability.
The Farmers Federation was founded in the decades following the passage of federal laws establishing land grant universities and Cooperative Extension Systems. Our country’s investment in the threefold land grant mission of instruction, research and outreach had a direct impact on the growth of productive and sustainable agricultural and forestry practices.
By pairing the scientific curiosity and initiative of researchers with the innovation and hard work of farmers, America became the world leader in agriculture. Our farmers learned to produce more food and fiber with fewer inputs. We developed conservation practices to reduce erosion and create habitat for wildlife. Families were given access to a greater variety of high-quality, nutritious food. And, we were able to export much of this technology to help poor and impoverished people around the world.
If the U.S. is to remain the leader in agriculture, we must invest in the future.
Alabama’s 40,000 farms generate $70 billion in economic impact and create one in every five jobs. These men and women possess the work ethic, ingenuity and dedication to take agriculture and forestry to the next level. They are investing their own hard-earned money in research. We ask Congress to join us in keeping American agriculture the envy of the world.
Jimmy Parnell is the president, CEO and chairman of the Board of the Alabama Farmers Federation.
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell urges Congress to ratify USMCA trade agreement
Farming feeds Alabama, but our state’s farmers also help feed the world.
That’s why the Alabama Farmers Federation is urging Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement.
Canada and Mexico are our first and third largest export markets. This agreement not only preserves our partnership with these neighbors, but it also shows the United States can get a better deal for American farmers, businesses and families through strong negotiations.
Alabama already exports about $2.5 billion in agriculture and forest products worldwide, and there’s potential to greatly expand these markets. With plans underway to deepen the shipping channel at the Port of Mobile, customers around the world will have greater access to Alabama-grown food and fiber.
Currently, Alabama exports about $1.3 billion in forest products, $315 million a year in chicken, $158 million in cotton and $92 million in soybeans. Our North American trading partners make up a large portion of these totals and are a big reason agriculture is a bright spot in America’s trade balance.
According to the Alabama Commerce Department, state exports totaled $21.3 billion in 2018, just shy of the $21.8 billion record in 2017. During the last decade, the value of Alabama exports increased 34 percent.
That means more jobs for Alabama families, more investment by businesses and more tax revenue for public services.
Alabama’s business-friendly climate and hardworking people have led to tremendous economic growth and job creation. To sustain that growth, Alabama farmers and manufacturers must have access to world markets.
The Trump administration’s tough negotiating style is paying dividends with better trade deals. Still, we must act to finalize the USMCA. Last year, Alabama exports were down three percent to Canada and 12 percent to Mexico. When the USMCA is ratified, we can turn those numbers around.
The USMCA will provide new market access for dairy and poultry products. Canada also agreed to grade imports of U.S. wheat in a manner no less favorable than their own, and Mexico agreed all grading standards for agricultural products will be non-discriminatory.
Simply put, the USMCA preserves all the zero tariffs on agricultural products in the North American Free Trade Agreement while leveling the playing field for other farm products.
Alabama farmers have proven time and again their ability to grow healthy, abundant supplies of food and fiber. With access to global markets, there’s no doubt Alabama agriculture and forestry will expand to meet world demand.
Jimmy Parnell is a native of Stanton in Chilton County and a graduate of Auburn University in agricultural business and economics. Parnell was elected president of the Alabama Farmers Federation in 2012.
The clock is ticking to stop the EPA’s latest overreach (Opinion)
(Photo: Farms Reach)
On June 29, the Environmental Protection Agency formally published its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule in the Federal Register. Sixty days from that date, this rule, which could greatly increase regulation under the Clean Water Act, will go into effect. The clock is now ticking to stop the adoption of this detrimental rule.
The lengthy WOTUS rule spans 300 printed pages. Even with all those words, we’ve found the rule fails to clarify the EPA’s jurisdiction and instead relies on ambiguous language that muddies the waters.
While riddled with problems, the greatest issues with the rule lie in the added definitions of “tributaries” and “nearby waters” as protected areas. The definitions are complex and unclear. Failure to precisely define these terms means the EPA could regulate dry ditches or ephemeral streams, which only hold water after a heavy rain.
Good common sense dictates that this should not be allowed under the Clean Water Act, an act implemented to protect water, not dictate land use.
The EPA claims it addressed farmers’ concerns by saying it does not plan to regulate ditches or ephemeral streams. But when dealing with federal regulations, a spoken assurance carries no weight. The words used in the rule do, and those words are vague.
Farmers care for the environment. We want clean water for our crops and animals but most importantly, we want clean water for our families.
However, we also want to provide for our family members and meet the challenge of providing food, clothing and shelter for the world. That means we must be allowed to work in our fields to raise our crops and livestock in the most environmentally friendly way possible.
The ambiguity included in this rule could very well prevent farmers from working their land due to EPA regulations.
This rule should not only concern farmers or only Alabamians. This should be of great concern for U.S. homeowners who spray to kill weeds in their lawns or gardens. It should concern construction companies and workers that move dirt to build houses or businesses.
Luckily, there is still time to prevent the EPA from adopting the WOTUS rule, but that action must come from Congress or the courts.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange signed on to a federal lawsuit that would strike down the controversial rule. He joined eight other states: West Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin. Agricultural groups, including the American Farm Bureau, have also filed a lawsuit against the rule in a Texas federal district court.
The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed the Regulator Integrity Protection Act of 2015, which would prevent the administration from implementing the WOTUS rule. It would also require the EPA to rewrite the rule and consider public input from the hundreds of thousands of Americans who submitted comments since the rule was introduced last year.
A similar measure, S. 1140, passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee June 10. Alabama is fortunate to have the support of Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions in passing this measure. We hope all U.S. senators will make it a priority to stop the WOTUS rule.
Jimmy Parnell is president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, the state’s largest farm organization with more than 365,000 members. The Federation is an affiliate of American Farm Bureau.