Cullman County Republicans host ADAI Commissioner John McMillan

Andrew Cryer

Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan

CULLMAN – The Cullman County Republicans welcomed a handful of special guests to their monthly meeting over the weekend, including Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan and Representatives Corey Harbison, R-Good Hope and Randall Shedd, R-Fairview.

McMillan, who is in his second term as ag commissioner, began by making a quick comment on the drought situation over the last year, praising Cullman officials, “No officials in the state responded to the degree that folks did in Cullman County. Your legislative delegation were the first folks that were heard from when we began to realize the potential for a serious situation.”

McMillan was quick to address the current avian influenza battle that the Department of Agriculture and Industries is trying to resolve. Poultry represents nearly $16 billion dollars in economic activity throughout the state of Alabama, and north Alabama, particularly Cullman, has the most to lose. The issue started in Tennessee, but a control zone included a portion of Jackson County. The disease was feared to have spread to several counties in Alabama, including Cullman. A flock of Cullman County chickens was depopulated, but McMillan said on Saturday that the test for avian influenza was negative. “Our folks have worked virtually around the clock,” commented McMillan on his department’s work to control the spread of the virus. 

Shifting gears to address the purpose of his department and the investment that the state of Alabama has put into it, McMillan said, “Governor Bentley and the legislature has done everything that we have asked them to do.”

Dennis Beavers, who was the Alabama state director of the Donald J. Trump campaign, chimed in, saying, “Everything that these guys spend on testing is needed; we have people’s health at risk. We must do our part… we want a healthy food source.”

On politics in general, McMillan stated, “We have a serious leadership crisis in this state. We have to do something with stability and trust in the state; we still have issues in the court system and in the Governor’s office.”  He did say, however, that he feels that the House has begun to repair its image.

Commenting on budget cuts to state agencies, McMillan says he believes the state is at a crossroads. “We have to do something… we do not do a good job with planning in Alabama. We’ve really reached a point with all of our problems that our elected officials are not capable to deal with the situation that we have now… Somebody has to provide the leadership to take advantage of our educational institutions and our businessmen.”

McMillan acknowledged the responsibility that’s placed on the Republican party, both statewide and nationally, “The burden is really on us nationally and at the state level, as a party, to fix the things that need to be addressed so we can begin to move forward.”

Harbison and Shedd gave the group a brief update on what’s coming up in Montgomery.

Harbison will vote against a proposed statewide fuel tax increase. He says that he would, however, like to consider a local tax where the money would benefit those in Cullman County. Harbison says he will propose a bill to eliminate state funding for the construction of central offices for new city school systems.  According to Harbison, in 2005, the state spent $23 million on countywide school systems’ offices.  “Every time that a city sets up a school system, that’s chipping away $400,000 to $500,000. That’s money that should be going to our children’s education,” stated Harbison. He says his bill will not affect any existing school systems.

Shedd discussed the state budget. As it currently stands, the proposed budget will roll over $97 million to be used in the next fiscal year; however, the budget still needs to be passed by the Alabama Senate. “We’re committed to standing our ground,” said Shedd, if the Senate votes to alter the budget. “We know that we’re going to need that money, so we saved it.”

Shedd addressed the coming impeachment proceedings against Gov. Bentley.  The vote is set for May 9, according to Shedd. “It’s going to be interesting,” he said.

County Chair Waid Harbison lead the meeting and reminded those interested that Terry Lathan, chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party, will be speaking at the Cullman County Republican Women meeting on April 11 at the Cullman VFW. The event is free and open to the public, and is set to begin at 6 p.m.


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