On Monday it was announced that the Alabama Farmers Federation has abandoned plans to build an Agricultural Center at a site in Clanton right off of I-65. On Tuesday the group weighed other options.

Jeff Helms, Communications Director at the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance, told 1819 News that Alabama Farmer’s Federation President Jimmy Parnell addressed the Ag. Foundation Board earlier that morning and told them that they are looking at other sites for the Ag. Center.

However “no specific sites were discussed,” Helms said.

Currently, agricultural events, including the state steer show and state hog show as well as an annual rodeo, are held at the 70-year-old Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery.

1819 News asked if renovations to Garrett were an option.

“Everything is on the table,” Helms said. “We have a great relationship with the Alabama National Fair. We sponsor all of the activities there.

“That facility needs to be able to do other things and not just a couple of events a year,” Helms said of building a new facility. “Horse shows, home and garden shows,” as well as the livestock shows are currently held at the aging Garrett complex.

Garrett used to be owned by the Alabama Department of Agriculture.

“We don’t own that anymore,” Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate (R) told 1819 News. “We transferred ownership to the city of Montgomery a little over a year ago.

“When Ron Sparks was here (as Commissioner) we looked at restoring Garrett. Feasibility studies were done and architectural plans were considered. When I got in, I was told (outgoing Commissioner) John McMillan said don’t try to save Garrett.”

Pate said that there is not enough land at the site to build the kind of ag center that the Farmer’s Federation wants and the state needs.

“Montgomery needed a bigger venue,” Pate explained.

Amy Belcher is a communications specialist for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

“We did not have the funding to fix (Garrett) up so the city of Montgomery wanted to take that over,” Belcher said. “They have actually done quite a bit of work on fixing and improving that on the inside and right now are working on resurfacing the parking lot.”

The Farmer’s Federation chose Chilton County as the ideal site because it is equidistant from both Birmingham and Montgomery.

“We tried and tried to work with Chilton County,” Helms said.

Helms said that there was a proposal for the new ag center to use half of the 150-acre Clanton site and the other half could be used for development, but that when the Farmer’s Federation brought a memorandum of understanding on that and maintenance on the site to move the deal forward the city of Clanton and Chilton County officials rejected the idea.

“The city and county would not do that,” Helms said. “They had some other plans for [the site]

“There is a lot of interest from other sites."

Pate suggested looking at Lowndes County.

“If Chilton County is really out, they should open up their criteria to other sites and go to where I am from, Lowndes County,” Pate said. “Land might be more reasonable.”

Pate said that the Ag center is needed and that when you look at what other states have, Alabama has fallen behind.

“I want to be supportive of ALFA,” Pate said.

“We are committed to making this happen,” Helms said.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.

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