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Poultry fight not over,' senator says

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Feb. 4, 2001
Sen. Gloria Williamson's fight for chicken growers against what they consider unfair contracts came to a standstill when her proposed bills died in subcommittee but she says it's not over.
Williamson, D-Philadelphia, vice-chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, saw all four of her bills on poultry processing including the Producers Protection Act killed by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Joseph Stogner, D-Sandy Hook.
The Producers Protection Act was a contract-reform bill, and not just for poultry producers, she said. It would have ensured fairer contracts for muscadine producers, beef cattle and dairy farmers and other food and fiber producers who work on a contract basis.
The bill might have had better odds if it had been introduced in the House as well, but it wasn't. State Rep. Bennett Malone, D-Carthage, said he has tried for eight years to get similar bills passed. Late last year, he said he was tired of "putting the House through a blood bath" to watch it die in the Senate and he would not introduce it again until a senator did.
Williamson said another failure in Legislature has the poultry producers in her district feeling hopeless.
Williamson said she is not through. She plans to work on the bill again this summer and reintroduce it again next year but she knows it will be "an uphill battle."
Williamson proposed another bill to give chicken producers a 25 percent tax reduction on the assessed value of their chicken houses. She said chicken farmers because of their chicken houses are taxed differently than other farmers are.
The bill should go before the finance committee by Feb. 12, and the deadline on revenue bills for floor action is Feb. 21, she said.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.