Commissioner's tour promotes state business
State Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan’s visits to the area this week appear to be positive signs of proactive leadership in the department that could help pave the way for improved business opportunities in the state.

McMillan made no bones about the challenges his department is facing — losing one-fourth of his employees to proration six weeks into the job. There are some things he said simply can’t be done, such as checking the accuracy of gasoline pumps in the state. For now, that is being done only in response to complaints.

But he has embarked on a fact-finding tour around the state to meet people at the grass-roots level, especially those involved in agriculture, to learn first-hand about the problems and opportunities they are facing.

One project he mentioned involved fish farmers. Some Alabama catfish farmers are already sending fish to South America, and there may be a chance for them to bring back tilapia as an additional business opportunity.

McMillan said his visits across the state are being organized by different types of groups, including cattlemen associations, Alfa, trade groups and others. His Talladega County visit was organized by the county’s Republican Party with a full day of activities.

He also planned to visit tomato farmers on Chandler Mountain and the St. Clair County Republican Party.

Alabama ranks second in the nation in catfish production and commercial forest land, and is the third biggest producer of poultry and peanuts, not to mention production of cattle, soybeans, cotton and greenhouse and nursery plants. According to figures from the department, Alabama agriculture was a $5 billion business in 2010.

It’s encouraging to see McMillan taking the initiative to promote what the state has and try to find ways to help Alabama agriculture grow.

© 2012