We, The Farmers, Will Persevere!
By Zippy Duvall
Thanks to one of the rainiest Februarys on record, Georgia farmers are entering the planting season with refilled irrigation ponds and renewed optimism. Although most of Georgia is still classified as being in a drought, the severity of our drought conditions has been downgraded from exceptional and extreme to severe, moderate and abnormally dry, with the least severe classification making up the largest portion of our drought classification. Drought conditions in the upper north quarter of the state have been completely wiped out.
Some farmers have had to wait to prepare their fields for spring planting, but the wait has been made easier knowing we’re going into the growing season with more water than we had last year.
GFB has been working hard representing farmers in the Georgia General Assembly. Our priority issues include allowing cattle producers to vote in a referendum to decide whether to create a Georgia Beef Commission, funding for the state veterinary diagnostic labs, working to update commercial drivers license (CDL) regulations to allow farmers to take advantage of new federal CDL exemptions, and being engaged in legislation to amend the Flint River Drought Protection Act to make sure farmers’ needs are addressed. GFB also offered language to make sure farmers who hire immigrant workers are not accidently included in legal definitions to combat human trafficking.
We had another terrific turnout for our annual Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol in February during which your organization was honored to have Gov. Nathan Deal speak to our members at our legislative luncheon. When I read accounts of legislative action in other states, it reminds me that Georgia is fortunate to have a General Assembly whose members are willing to listen to Farm Bureau and carefully consider agriculture’s point of view.
Gov. Deal is a longtime supporter of agriculture and it was in this spirit that he cautioned Georgia farmers to use the new Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE) program wisely so that potential critics of the program have no grounds to call for the program’s repeal.
Everyone is still learning about this program as it just went into effect Jan. 1. The Georgia Department of Revenue (DOR) issued their guidance documents on the program in late January. Now that we have DOR guidance as to what does and doesn’t qualify for sales tax exemptions, it is imperative that Georgia’s farmers only use their GATE cards to get exemptions on eligible ag inputs.
Farm Bureau and Georgia’s ag community worked too hard for too many years to get a uniform sales tax exemption program for us to lose it. See page 14 for a summary of the DOR eligibility guide. Share this information with your farming neighbors because it is in everyone’s best interest that all of Georgia’s farmers are well-informed about this program.
GFB often works with other farm organizations to promote agriculture to the General Assembly. On March 1, GFB was proud to be a sponsor of Peanut Butter & Jelly Day at the Capitol, which is hosted annually by the Georgia Peanut Commission and the National Peanut Buying Points Association. Legislators enjoyed grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other peanut products. The event showcases that Georgia produces about half of the nation’s peanut crop and that the peanut industry provides more than 50,000 jobs in Georgia.
For the second year Georgia Farm Bureau sponsored the grand champion awards for the six species of livestock shown during the Georgia Junior National Livestock Show in February. About 1,600 4-H and FFA students competed in this event during some of the coldest and wettest weather we had all winter. But that’s what the 4-H and FFA programs are all about - teaching our future ag leaders to persevere even when the going gets tough.
It was a pleasure to meet the young people who won these awards and hear them talk about how they have been working with their animals to prepare for the show. GFB honored these kids, their parents, Extension agents and FFA advisors with a celebratory dinner on March 29. Farm Bureau is dedicated to helping the 4-H and FFA programs in this state because what these programs do for the youth of Georgia is important.
Life is full of challenges that we face in every season of life, such as weather, government regulations, family and financial problems or bad health. The Apostle Paul said it best in Philippians 4:6 when he prescribed the Philippians church the perfect plan to persevere: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made to God.
For we, the farmers, our instructions are clear: don’t worry, be confident in our faith, humble ourselves in prayer about everything and ask God for what we need with a heart of thanksgiving. We, the farmers, must persevere. The men, women, and children of this world are depending on us to feed and clothe them.
(Zippy Duvall, a farmer from Greene County, is president of the Georgia Farm Bureau, the state's largest general farm organization.)
© 2013 Georgia Farm Bureau Federation