Senator Arthur Orr (R- Decatur) introduced SB203 this week which proposes to merge the Alabama Forestry Commission into the newly created Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Consumer Services. Senator Orr introduced similar legislation late in the session last year and it died without being considered in committee.
SB203 has been referred to the Senate’s Finance & Taxation General Fund Committee which Senator Orr chairs. This bill is one of several bills introduced by Senator Orr in his effort to streamline government.
AFA is currently monitoring the legislation and has not taken a position on the bill. The Association has a clearly articulated board policy supporting improving efficiencies in government through consolidation of state agencies.
However, with respect to this legislation, at a minimum, any consideration of restructuring the AFC must include clear language that the consolidation; (1) must be a true merger and not an acquisition, (2) must preserve the core mission of forest fire protection and (3) must protect the funding for the core mission.
The current Department of Agriculture & Industries is run by the Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries, John McMillan. The Commissioner is elected by state-wide vote every four years. The Department is currently governed by the State Board of Agriculture & Industries which is composed of 11 members; the Governor, the Commissioner, the Director of the Cooperative Extension Service of Auburn University, the Administrative Head of Agriculture at Auburn University, four outstanding farmers and three outstanding leaders of industry.
Senator Orr’s bill reconstitutes the newly named State Board of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Services to include 14 members; the Governor, the Commissioner, the Administrative Head of Agriculture at Auburn University, the Administrative Head of Forestry at Auburn University, five farmers (appointed by the Governor from a list provided by ALFA), three forest landowners (appointed by the Governor from a list provided by AFA)and two licensed and registered foresters (appointed by the Governor from a list provided by AFA).
Currently the State Forester is selected by the Alabama Forestry Commission with the advice and consent of the Governor. In SB208, the current State Forester shall remain, but once the position is vacated, the new State Forester shall be appointed by the Governor based upon the recommendation of three of the five forestry board members.
We will keep you updated on this bill as the legislative session moves forward….