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December 8, 2015

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

CONTACT:

Jennifer Whittaker, jawhittaker@gfb.org

 

GEORGIA FARM BUREAU HOLDS 78th ANNUAL CONVENTION

Gov. Nathan Deal discusses ag efforts & education initiatives

Saxby Chambliss reflects on his Congressional career

GFB President Duvall outlines how organization advocates for farmers

 

JEKYLL ISLAND – About 1,550 Georgia farmers and agribusiness leaders from across the state met on Jekyll Island Dec. 6-8 for the organization’s 78th annual convention. The three-day event included a trade show and commodity conferences providing farmers updates on policy and production issues impacting Georgia’s major commodities. During the general session on Dec. 8 convention attendees had the pleasure of hearing from Gov. Nathan Deal and former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

 

Gov. Nathan Deal discusses ag efforts & education initiatives

 

While addressing the GFB convention, Deal discussed efforts his administration is making to support Georgia agriculture.

 

Noting the important role Georgia’s poultry industry plays to the state economy, Gov. Deal said, “The state of Georgia is being vigilant about monitoring for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and preparing for a potential outbreak so we can keep our number one poultry industry in Georgia.”

 

The USDA estimates that an outbreak of HPAI in the Midwest earlier this year caused about ten percent of the U.S. poultry meat and egg supply to be destroyed causing egg and turkey prices to rise.

 

Deal said he signed House Bill 475, passed by the Georgia General Assembly this year, to give property owners, farmers and hunters a better opportunity to deal with wildlife nuisances, such as feral hogs, that destroy crops.

 

Deal also outlined education initiatives the state is making to attract businesses to Georgia.

 

“We have to make sure our young people are being trained and given skills to get good jobs,” Deal said. “We’ve identified 11 areas where there are not enough people to fill job needs ranging from drivers with commercial drivers licenses, practical nurses, precision manufacturing, film industry, computing technology and welding. Students who pursue degrees at technical colleges will get a one hundred percent scholarship through the HOPE Scholarship Program.”

 

Deal said he has appointed an Education Reform Commission that will be working with the General Assembly during the 2016 session to pass their recommendations for education reform.

 

“I’d like to see us come up with something to keep our best teachers in the classroom so they don’t feel they have to move up to being an assistant principal to get a pay raise,” Deal said.

 

Saxby Chambliss reflects on his Congressional career

 

Saxby Chambliss, a faithful advocate of farmers during the 20 years he served in Congress – first in the U.S. House and then the Senate – received a warm welcome from GFB members.

 

While speaking at the Monday general session, Chambliss thanked the GFB members for their support during his years in Washington and reflected on his work on four farm bills.

 

“It’s hard to believe it was 21 years ago we started out in this world of politics. There wasn’t a county I went to where I didn’t have members of the Farm Bureau show up just to be there and show support for me,” Chambliss said. “I know a lot of it was because you knew that I understood commodity products or understood the farm bill. I didn’t have to be educated on the peanut and cotton and tobacco programs. But you were there for other reasons too. You were there because we shared values, values of commitment to family, commitment to our country, commitment to conservative principles and for a strong faith.”

 

The organization presented Chambliss with a framed proclamation approved by the GFB board of directors, and GFB General Counsel Duke Groover read the proclamation during the session.

 

Chambliss served first on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee from 1995-2002 and then the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, which he chaired from 2005-2007 and served as the ranking member of the committee from 2007-2011.

 

GFB President Duvall outlines how organization advocates for farmers

 

While delivering his annual address to Georgia Farm Bureau members, GFB President Zippy Duvall congratulated members and county staff who worked this past year to increase the organization’s membership.

 

“We had a statewide membership gain of nearly 7,500 members for a total of 309,378 members statewide,” Duvall said. “We not only reached quota, but we were awarded the American Farm Bureau Federation Navigator Award for significant growth in membership. I cannot tell you how pleased I am at this accomplishment. All of our members and staff worked so hard to get to this point. Together, we made it happen!”

 

Duvall also thanked GFB members and Georgia’s agribusiness community for supporting the newly formed GFB Foundation for Agriculture, a non-profit charitable foundation GFB established to fund projects that will increase the public’s understanding of agriculture. The foundation has raised about $200,000 during its first year and in 2016 will award $65,000 in scholarships to students planning to pursue a career in agriculture.

 

Duvall pledged Farm Bureau’s continued support of two state tax programs important to the economic stability of Georgia agriculture - the Conservation Use Value Assessment (CUVA) program, and the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE) program. CUVA allows farmers to have their land assessed on its farm use rather than at its potential for development property while GATE allows farmers to buy some items used to produce their commodities without a sales tax.

 

“Protecting the integrity of CUVA is a major Farm Bureau priority,” Duvall said. “Farm Bureau has also worked to educate our members about the proper use of the GATE card. We will continue to support the proper use of the GATE card by farmers.”

 

On a national level, GFB is calling on Congress to reform Section 179 of the IRS tax code to permanently set the expense amount farmers and small business owners may depreciate in one year at $500,000 indexed to inflation.

 

“The problem is that over the last several years, the level of expense depreciation has varied from $25,000 in one year to $500,000 the next year. Farmers and small businesses cannot plan in such an unstable environment.”

 

Duvall explained that a permanent level of $500,000 indexed to inflation would allow farmers and small businesses to pay less taxes and encourage more capital investment, which would spur economic growth and create jobs.

 

One of the biggest long-term challenges agriculture faces is the gradual loss of private property rights, Duvall said. Duvall said GFB continues to defend private property rights in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers enacting a rule in August commonly called “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) that greatly expands the agencies’ authority to regulate water on private property. Last year GFB conducted a statewide “Ditch the Rule” campaign that resulted in 15,558 comments being submitted to the EPA urging the agencies to withdraw the proposed rule. GFB is currently collecting comments from its members and landowners encouraging Congress to defund the rule. The agencies are temporarily prohibited from enforcing the rule under an order from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The postcards, which are available in all county Farm Bureau offices, will be delivered to key congressional leaders in January.

 

American Farm Bureau Senior Director of Regulatory Relations Don Parrish gave an update on WOTUS. Parrish praised Georgia Farm Bureau for its efforts in opposition to the rule.

 

“Farmers and ranchers support sustainability and support clean water. Our crops, our livestock our families depend on it,” Parrish said. “This rule, however, is about much more. It’s about the EPA pushing its tentacles out into private property.”

 

Parrish urged Farm Bureau members to contact the House and Senate leadership and ask them to defund enforcement of the rule through the appropriations process.

 

Founded in 1937, the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization. The organization has 158 county chapters, and its volunteer members actively participate in local, district and state activities that promote agriculture awareness to their non-farming neighbors. GFB also has 20 commodity advisory committees that give the organization input on issues pertinent to the major commodities grown in Georgia.

 

 

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Below are three possible photos to use with the article detailing the general session of the GFB convention, along with cutlines to accompany each photo.

 

DUVALL, DEAL, BLACK - Pictured from left, Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall, left, welcomes Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black to the 78th Annual Georgia Farm Bureau Convention on Jekyll Island. Deal spoke to GFB members during the general session of the convention on Dec. 8. 

 

GOV. DEAL SPEAKING - Gov. Nathan Deal spoke at the 78th Annual Georgia Farm Bureau Convention on Jekyll Island on Dec. 7.

 

CHAMBLISS SPEAKING - Saxby Chambliss spoke at the 78th Annual Georgia Farm Bureau Convention on Jekyll Island on Dec. 7.