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5 months ago

The surprising link between Alabama seafood, timber and U.S. national security, and how Shelby is leading the way

There are plenty of areas of debate over exactly how and where the U.S. should spend its foreign aid dollars. But for Alabamians in particular — and the entire Gulf Coast region more broadly — the international assistance that flows into cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking is paying massive dividends, both economically and, perhaps more surprisingly, in terms of national security.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates Americans grossly overestimate the amount the federal government spends on foreign aid.  The average answer was foreign aid accounts for a whopping 31 percent of spending. Fifteen percent of respondents actually thought it represented over half of the U.S. budget.

In reality, according to the Congressional Research Service, it accounts for about 1 percent total when military, economic development and humanitarian efforts are combined.  And it is paying massive dividends for Alabama.

Here’s how:

First, foreign aid dollars fund multi-nation efforts to combat illegal trade in timber and fish. These illicit practices cost U.S. foresters and fishers billions of dollars in lost revenue every single year by flooding the market and driving down prices.

According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, “Alabama has the second largest commercial timberland base in the U.S., with 23 million acres. Forestry is the state’s second largest manufacturing industry, producing an estimated $14.8 billion worth of products in 2013, the latest data available.” Alabama also ranked second in the country in fish production. By cracking down on the black-market trading of timber and fish, our foreign aid dollars are protecting Alabama jobs.

Second, foreign aid that flows into international conservation efforts, which has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades, helps countries manage their natural resources sustainably. This prevents the scarcity of water, food or forests that often contributes to instability and sparks regional conflicts.

Third, cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking cuts off a major source of income for armed groups and organizations with terrorist ties throughout the world, many of which pose a direct threat to American interests.

A report by the United Nations and Interpol found that the “illegal wildlife trade worth up to $213 billion a year is funding organized crime, including global terror groups and militias.” Additionally, “the annual trade of up to $100 billion in illegal logging is helping line the pockets of mafia, Islamist extremists and rebel movements, including Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked terror group al-Shabaab.”

Fortunately, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who recently rose to the powerful post of Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has remained a staunch supporter of ensuring that resources continue to flow into efforts to combat the illegal trade in timber and fish.

“The Committee has worked together to strike the appropriate balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, scientific advancement, and economic development,” Shelby said after announcing critical funding for Fiscal Year 2018. “Additionally, the measure includes necessary oversight provisions to fight waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a step forward in maintaining critical funding for core programs and addressing the needs of our nation while staying within our spending boundaries.”

The move did not go unnoticed by leaders in the seafood industry, a major source of economic activity in all Gulf States, including Alabama.

“We cannot thank Senator Shelby enough,” said Southern Shrimp Alliance Executive Director John Williams after fiscal year 2018 appropriation. “Their extraordinary efforts ensure the survival of the domestic shrimp fishery in the face of what has been an endless stream of illegal shrimp imports.”

Support for foreign assistance and international conservation is smart domestic policy. It protects our economy and cuts off the flow of cash to criminals and terrorists. Sen. Shelby and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from whom he has helped rally support deserve recognition and praise for their leadership.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

 

 

7 hours ago

Ivey announces staff changes

Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced important changes to her staff as she transitions to a full term.

As the governor moves forward in implementing her vision for the state, a press release from her office explained that she believes these changes to her staff will be crucial to most effectively serve the people of Alabama.

Adam Thompson is being promoted to deputy chief of staff for policy. He joins Liz Filmore, who is serving as deputy chief of staff for administration. Having two deputy chiefs of staff is expected to help to improve organization, structure and focus in the office of the governor.

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Thompson currently serves as the governor’s appointments director. In Thompson’s new capacity, his experience will be beneficial to the governor in executing her policy and legislative agendas. Both deputies will report to the chief of staff, Steve Pelham.

“Alabama is experiencing great momentum, and in my full term as governor, I plan to be ambitious in growing on our successes and tackling our challenges. My recent appointment of Jo Bonner to Senior Advisor, in addition to these staff changes, will be instrumental to best execute my vision for Alabama,” Ivey said.

She added, “Everything we do in the Ivey Administration is a team effort, and I am very proud of that.”

Additionally, Catherine Gayle Thrash is being promoted to serve as director of appointments. Thrash currently serves as the governor’s confidential assistant. She has also managed judicial appointments since joining Ivey’s staff and will continue to do so along with managing all appoints on behalf of the governor in her new role.

William Filmore, who currently serves as Legislative liaison, will now take the role of Legislative Liaison and director of Local Government Relations. In addition to his current responsibilities, Filmore will serve as Ivey’s liaison for city and county governments.

“Adam, Liz, Catherine Gayle and William are valuable assets to my staff, and I look forward to continue working alongside them to better serve the state of Alabama,” Ivey concluded.

All of these staff announcements are effective on Sunday, December 16.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Del Marsh congratulates Bobby Singleton on election as minority leader

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) congratulated State Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) on being elected as the Senate minority leader by his seven Democratic colleagues on Wednesday.

In a statement, Marsh said, “I would like to congratulate Senator Singleton on his election as Senate Minority Leader. There are many tough issues facing the Alabama Senate in the year to come and I look forward to working with Senator Singleton as we develop legislation that improves the lives of all Alabamians.”

“Senator Singleton and I have worked well together for several years and I have no doubt that will continue as we strive to ensure that the Senate runs smoothly and that all Senators are represented equally,” Marsh concluded.

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State Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper) was re-elected as Senate majority leader last month.

State Senator Billy Beasley (D-Clayton), who served as Senate Minority Leader the past 14 months, on Wednesday was selected as the Deputy Minority Leader moving forward. He had previously served in that role until then-State Senator Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) became president of Alabama State University.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Alabama lawmakers celebrate passage of 2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill passed the United States House of Representatives on Wednesday by a bipartisan final vote of 369-47 and now heads to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

The bill, which passed from conference and then the Senate on Tuesday, has been celebrated as a major win for Alabama farmers and the state in general.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) have already applauded its passage, with most of Alabama’s House delegation now joining in the plaudits after all of them voted to pass the bill. 

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“Our farmers and foresters are our future. I am pleased to support this bipartisan legislation to better support our farmers in Alabama and throughout the country,” Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) said in a release.

He continued, “The 2018 Farm Bill will allow for improved crop protections and loan options for farmers, incentivize rural development, support animal disease prevention and management, and will continue our nation’s commitment to agriculture and farmers.”

“I am especially pleased to see the substantial resources provided to improve rural broadband access to communities. Providing Internet access to people in rural Alabama is absolutely critical to economic development and the success of these communities in the 21st Century,” Byrne concluded.

Congresswoman Martha Roby (AL-2) added her high praise for the bill’s passage, commenting on the importance of agriculture to Alabama’s economy and way of life.

“In Alabama’s Second District, agriculture is the largest employer. It is imperative that Congress honor our commitments to the hardworking farmers and producers across the country,” Roby outlined in a statement.

“The 2018 farm bill provides certainty to the American families who work every day to provide the food and fiber we depend on. I was proud to support this legislation on behalf of the farmers I represent, and I am eager to see President Trump sign it into law,” she added.

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-3) was on the conference committee of Representatives and Senators that agreed to this final version of the bill.

“I am proud to vote for the Farm Bill,” Rogers explained in a statement. “As a Conferee on the bill, I know firsthand just how important this bill is to our nation.”

“This Farm Bill strengthens the farm safety net for Alabama’s farmers and producers and it provides five years of certainty. America’s farm economy is still struggling, and this bill will be a much-needed shot in the arm,” he continued.

Rogers concluded, “The bill also improves the SNAP (food stamp) program integrity while incentivizing work for those who are on government benefits. The rural development programs in the bill will be great for folks across Alabama who need rural broadband, and the research funding in the Farm Bill is great news for universities like Tuskegee and Auburn. Finally, I am pleased to say language I introduced with Rep. Terri Sewell was included in the bill. This important language helps provide grants for folks with failing wastewater infrastructure.”

The Farm Bill is expected to improve agriculture policy by:

  • Providing a nationwide yield update for Price Loss Coverage (PLC), beginning with the 2020 crop year and allowing PLC to better respond to market conditions;
  • Making several key improvements to Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), including increased yield plugs and yield trend adjustments;
  • Protecting and improving crop insurance;
  • Investing in research, extension, and education projects;
  • Protecting farmers from additional costly and burdensome red tape;
  • Strengthening the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) capacity to combat the opioid crisis;
  • Refocusing efforts to expand quality broadband to rural America;
  • Including critical funding for feral swine control;
  • Improving existing programs to maximize efficiency, reducing waste and maintaining fiscally responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars;
  • Restoring funding for trade promotion efforts in an attempt to keep pace with trading competitors around the world;
  • Boosting anti-hunger programs and incentivizes work for federal beneficiaries;
  • Helping equip and train the next generation of farmers.

 

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

Scouts to participate in ‘Wreaths Across America’ Saturday at the State Veterans Cemetery

Thousands of wreaths will be placed on the graves of military veterans across the nation on Saturday to honor their service and sacrifice.

Local Boy and Girl Scouts, as well as family members, will place wreaths on the graves of America’s fallen heroes beginning at 10:00 a.m. at the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort. The public is invited to attend.

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Margaret Cooley, a volunteer who works with the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort Foundation, Inc., will speak about the importance of honoring our veterans.

Friends of the cemetery provide the flag wreaths, which will remain in place throughout the Christmas season. The wreaths are collected after the first of the year and reused.

“We place wreath flags to honor all those who have served us and our country, especially those who found their resting place here,” Joe Buschell, the cemetery assistant director, explained. “It’s so important to recognize the service of our veterans and to come and lay a wreath on their grave.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

Auburn University groundskeeping student headed to Super Bowl to train with legends

After submitting the winning application and essay in the 2019 Toro Super Bowl Sports Turf Training competition, Auburn University and turf management student Wilson Morgan is headed to the Super Bowl, the university announced.

Morgan, who is the first student from Auburn to receive the honor in the 16-year history of the contest, will venture to Atlanta January 27 and experience the week leading up to the Super Bowl, which is scheduled for February 3, as a part of the NFL’s Super Bowl grounds crew at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Morgan will be working alongside some of the best in the realm of athletic field management. NFL Super Bowl field director Ed Mangan, who also serves as chief groundskeeper for the Atlanta Braves, and George Toma, who has been on the grounds crew for the last 52 Super Bowls and turns 90 in February, will be two of the legends Morgan will have the opportunity to work alongside.

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“This is an amazing opportunity to learn from the best of the best,” Morgan said, per an Auburn University release.

Throughout his experience, Morgan will get hands-on experience in turf maintenance, field lining, logo painting, irrigation maintenance, field preparation for media day, halftime preparation and clean-up.

“Mercedes-Benz Stadium has artificial turf, so I’m looking forward to learning what’s involved in managing a synthetic playing surface,” Morgan said. “It will be great to have experience in that.”

In order to receive this special honor, Morgan and other applicants had to submit a 500-word essay detailing their goals for the future.

“It was basically asking where you saw yourself professionally five years from now,” he stated. “I tried to make mine as little about myself as possible.

Morgan added, “I’ve had some excellent mentors in my life who helped me discover my dream of one day becoming a football field manager, and I want to be that kind of person for others.”

Morgan, who is now a junior at Auburn University, attended East Limestone High School in Athens where he was unsure about his goals for a professional career before attending college. He flipped through a copy of SportsTurf magazine that he found in his greenhouse management classroom.

“I picked it up just out of curiosity, but when I started looking through it, I couldn’t believe it,” Morgan said. “I mean, I was a football player, but I had no idea there were people who took care of sports fields for a living.”

After he found out Auburn offered a degree in the program from his ag teacher, John Wilson, Morgan was enthusiastic, yet nervous about beginning his college career.

“I remember kind of worrying because I kept hearing that the average college student changes their major four times before they graduate, and I was thinking, ‘Oh no! I don’t want that to happen to me!’,” Morgan said.

Once he arrived at Auburn University, Morgan was welcomed by other students on the same career path. Austin Brown, one of Morgan’s classmates, welcomed him to a group of students preparing for a win in the National Collegiate Turf Bowl competition.

“Then I met another student who had a job with the Auburn Athletics grounds crew, and I knew I really wanted to get involved with that, so he told me to talk to Richard Wilt,” Morgan recalled.

Wilt, the grounds manager for Auburn Athletics at the time of Morgan’s interest, hired Morgan and later connected him to the Miami Dolphins head groundskeeper Tom Wilson. Morgan ended up spending the summer of 2018 as an intern at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

“I started there the day after they’d had a huge concert and left the week after the first preseason game,” Morgan explained. “One thing I learned there was that managing the playing field is a full-time, year-round job.”

For summer 2019, Morgan will be interning with the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Morgan shared his excitement and enthusiasm for the trip.

“That will give me experience in college sports, the NFL and Major League Baseball,” Morgan said of the trip. “Plus, I’ve only worked with warm-season turf, but the Phillies play on Kentucky bluegrass, so then I’d have experience managing a cool-season grass.

“I’m a big believer in planning ahead, and when I graduate [in May 2020], I plan to have a job,” he explained. “So I’m doing every single thing I can do now to be sure that happens.”

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.