The Charles C. Miller Jr. Poultry Research and Education Center received special attention today as Alabama U.S. Sen. Luther Strange toured the facility and discussed Auburn's leading role in poultry in the nation.
"Auburn is a jewel of the agriculture world," Strange said. "The research that goes on at Auburn is critical to developing new techniques and products that allow us to grow."
Strange — who was appointed as a temporary replacement to Sen. Jeff Sessions, now U.S. attorney general — faces a fierce primary election next month and a special election in December, if he makes it that far. Strange is being challenged in the primary by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, former Chief Justice Roy Moore and several other Republican contenders.
At Auburn, the Miller Center serves as a teaching and research center for faculty and students. It was designed to assist Alabama poultry markets, which are responsible for $51.1 million in economic impact, 8,600 jobs and 65 percent of the states agricultural sales.
Jim Donald, director of the National Poultry Center, welcomed those touring the center and spoke to the importance of Auburn's poultry research. Donald said research is guiding them toward filling the mouths of many and ensuring no one goes hungry.
"We can turn about a pound and a half of feed into a pound of meat and that is very significant," Donald said.
Donald said the overall goal is efficiency with the industry, a mentality set by the need in the country. Having over 3,500 poultry growers in the state, competition is higher than ever. He said Auburn's efforts are in the top universal rankings.
Construction began in 2012 and has continued, and it will continue to grow even more in 2017.
Strange's interest spawns from his representation of the state and his place on the Senate's Agriculture Committee, he said.
"What I see today here at Auburn and what I look forward to seeing in the future is cutting-edge technology, bright, young students and expert professors who are taking technology and getting into the stream of commerce," Strange said. "Not just here in the academic state, but they are taking it to our farms and extension services."
Strange said he is constantly seeing the results of Auburn's work throughout the state.
"Ultimately, this is feeding our people," Strange said.
Strange said he truly values college-aged supporters and those involved in politics and works through personally backed programs to encourage student voters.
He toured the facility intently listening as the facility workers explained each project and procedure.
Aside from his visit, Strange discussed the upcoming special election and said he was working in Washington every day to further President Donald Trump's agenda.
"It's not an easy job, but I'm working hard," Strange said.
On health care, Strange said he wants to focus on repealing and replacing Obamacare, which he considers the Republicans' political mandate.
Earlier this week, Strange signed on to a letter with several other conservative Republican senators asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel to delay the August recess to give them more time to come to an agreement on the Republican health care bill.
The letter was successful, and Senate leadership delayed the recess for two weeks, perhaps giving Republicans the time necessary to pass the leadership's repeal and replace bill. With the recess delayed, Strange may have less time to campaign for re-election in Alabama, though.
"As important as those things may be, the people of my state work very hard," Strange said in a press conference in Washington earlier this week. "The ones that pay taxes expect the government to listen to them and deliver. They do not take kindly to the idea that we're not solving the problems that they sent us here to solve."
Strange's stop in Auburn may have served as an unofficial campaign stop.
Donald said having Strange tour the facility during such a busy time in politics reinforces the message that agriculture is important and there is "family in the business."