Rural crime, federal regulations, drug addiction and interstate water wars were on the minds of Etowah County farmers who met Friday with Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.
“Rural crime is important to me,” said Marshall, who hopes to visit other farmers around the state. “I want our office to be a resource for (rural crime) investigators around the state to make sure they have someone to come to for advice, guidance, and assistance.”
Marshall, who took office three months ago, said he met with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Agricultural and Rural Crime Unit (ARCU) to explore ways to address rural crime.
“I found they don’t necessarily have a resource to come to and ask questions or get search warrants when crimes cross county lines,” Marshall said. “I told them we will be the prosecutors for those cases.”
Alabama Farmers President Donald Sewell said he appreciates the attorney general making rural crime a priority and taking the time to visit farmers.
“I appreciate his Christian faith, humility, and attention to detail,” Sewell said. “You can tell he wants to do the right thing.”
Marshall and Sewell agreed farmers and rural landowners must be more proactive in preventing rural crime. Marshall said simply installing game cameras in equipment sheds can help investigators and prosecutors catch criminals.
In addition to rural crime, Marshall talked about Alabama participation in a lawsuit challenging rule changes that greatly expand the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act. Marshall also has challenged California over regulations blocking some Alabama farmers from selling eggs in the western state.
The Etowah County farmers asked questions about repeat criminals being released from jail, Alabama’s ongoing legal battle with Georgia over water use and the growing epidemic of drug addiction.
Marshall earned statewide recognition while district attorney in Marshall County for his efforts to combat crystal meth and opioid abuse. He said meetings like the one with Etowah County farmers help his office set priorities.
“We, from a public office perspective, need to be driven by those we serve,” Marshall said. “This is an opportunity for me to learn the issues farmers face, what they believe are our priorities and how we can accomplish dealing with those issues.”
He pledged to work on education efforts to prevent crime and prosecute those who steal, damage or trespass on farmers’ property.
“We’re never going to be able to eliminate crime,” Marshall said, “but we can make it harder for the bad guys to do what they want to do.”
by Jeff Harms, Alabama Farmers Federation