MONTGOMERY –  The Senate passed legislation on Tuesday by a 26-0 margin, creating the Agriculture Exhibition Center Corporation to manage a proposed Alabama Farm Center in Jefferson County.

According to the bill sponsored by State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville), the corporation's board of directors would be made up of one appointment each from the Governor, Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, and Jefferson County Commission. The Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) would get two appointments. The bill also exempts the corporation from municipal ordinance and rules in addition to getting exemptions from certain state, county and municipal taxes.

ALFA announced in September its plans to begin due diligence on a site selected for the Alabama Farm Center at Hallmark Farm in north Jefferson County. 

The Federation entered into a real estate contract with Hallmark Farm Cooperative District to purchase the approximately 500-acre property located along I-65 in Warrior at Exit 280. 

"We are excited about the prospect of moving forward with the Alabama Farm Center at Hallmark Farm," ALFA president Jimmy Parnell said in September. "The location was chosen after a competitive site selection process throughout Alabama. Jefferson County is working cooperatively with the Federation to bring a state-of-the-art agriculture and event center to the heart of the Southeast. The Farm Center would create jobs, enhance tourism and bolster the economy. It's been more than 70 years since Alabama invested in a regional agricultural center. Current facilities are outdated and can no longer meet the needs of Alabama. We are excited to be part of the Alabama Farm Center, which will serve our residents and attract visitors from across the country."

In addition to livestock expositions, the Alabama Farm Center would host an annual state fair and year-round events while serving as an educational facility for the state's youth, according to ALFA.

The bill also allows the corporation to engage in design-build, design-build-operate, design-build-own-operate, design-build-own-operate-maintain, design-build-finance-operate-maintain contracts for projects within the Alabama Farm Center site.

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) said on the Senate floor on Tuesday during a lengthy filibuster, "Inside of this zone they get to do a whole lot."

"They're going to come back next year for money from the state. They aren't going to build this building without the state giving them some money. This is the set up and once they get enough in their hands all that design-build stuff is going to kick in to where they don't need to do any kind of bidding. They can go choose all the contractors that they want," Singleton said. "I see us just throwing away everything. That's my problem with it. All of the glitz and glamor on top of that. Yeah, they'll build it because we're going to give it to them but nobody else in the state can get that. I think that can still be achieved without hurting education, without hurting other things in Jefferson County. I think Jefferson County doesn't know what they're giving away with something this massive. We keep talking about how much return we'll get back. The only thing Jefferson County can get out of it is tax dollars basically. Maybe they'll get some sales taxes or when other folks stay in a hotel somewhere else but those hotels that are going to be on that facility probably won't be taxed."

State Sen. Jack Williams (R-Wilmer), who is running to be Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries in 2026, said he supported the project.

"I do see the good things coming out of it and just all the good shows and all from rodeos. We do not have a good location in the state of Alabama for all of that right now. I really believe it will bring economic impact to that area really strong with everything it's going to bring in," Williams said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

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