Legislative Session Report Week 6
LEGISLATIVE REPORT WEEK 6
February 18, 2022
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Georgia Farm Bureau Priorities Heard
- Budget Update
- Longtime Friend of Ag and Appropriations Chair to Retire
- House Ag Committee Hears Freedom to Farm and Right to Repair
- 10 Days Left to Double Your Impact!
- Action This Week
- Bills of Interest
- Upcoming USDA Program Deadlines
- Not a Member of Georgia Farm Bureau? Join Today!
- Dates to Remember
GEORGIA FARM BUREAU PRIORITIES HEARD
It was another busy week under the Gold Dome as Georgia General Assembly convened for three legislative days and one committee work day, wrapping up with legislative day 18 on Thursday. Members will get a long weekend back in their districts and return to the Capitol on Tuesday, February 22 for legislative day 19 of 40.
On Tuesday, the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee held their first hearing on Georgia Farm Bureau's spotlight issue: House Bill 1150, the Freedom to Farm Act. The committee heard testimony from many friends and supporters of the bill including Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB), Georgia Agribusiness Council, Georgia Poultry Federation, and NFIB (Small Business Association). On Thursday, the same committee held their first hearing on another priority issue of GFB, the Right to Repair Act (House Bill 1176). Additionally, the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee held a meeting on Thursday, hearing Senate Bill 481 and Senate Bill 512.
Georgia Farm Bureau staff will continue to be at the Capitol every day to represent the interests of our membership and monitor the legislation that impacts agriculture and rural Georgia. For an update on bills that may affect you, please reference our Action This Week and Bills of Interest sections below.
Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn) is the sponsor of House Bill 1176, the Right to Repair Act, which was heard in the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee meeting on Thursday. (Photo Credit: Georgia House Photo)
Last week, the House passed their version of the Amended FY22 budget, putting their own mark on the Governor's proposal. Below are the changes made to the budget that directly affect agriculture in Georgia. It will now make its way to the Senate as they seek to make their own changes.
Department of Agriculture:
- The House added 985,000 for facility maintenance of the Tifton office.
- The House added $4,633,500 for infrastructure repairs and maintenance of the Ag Expo Authority.
Department of Education:
- The House added $4,562,782 for agricultural education equipment and facilities.
LONGTIME FRIEND OF AG AND APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR TO RETIRE
On Thursday, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), announced he will not be running for reelection after this term. Rep. England has served as the House Appropriations Chairman for the past 12 years, most recently helping to guide the state through difficult times as it dealt with economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chairman England has been a strong leader and advocate of Georgia agriculture throughout his career, from serving as Georgia Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee Chair in 1993 to being elected to the General Assembly in 2004.
"Terry has been a cornerstone in the General Assembly throughout his 17 years of public service. The titles and positions he has held show that, but none more than the title of friend. He has been a dear friend of mine from his involvement with Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Committee and Barrow County Board to my seat-mate and Ag Committee member in the House. You’d be hard pressed to find someone more passionate about supporting ag education and rural communities than Terry, and the dedication he has for improving life for all Georgians," said GFB President Tom McCall, a former colleague to Chairman England, regarding the announcement.
GFB appreciates Chairman England’s many years of service to the state of Georgia and his dedication to improving the lives of all Georgians. His mark on ag education and rural communities have set a trajectory for success for years to come. We will greatly miss his presence and wisdom at the State Capitol and thank his wife, Cindy, for sharing him for so many years.
Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) announced his retirement from the well of the Georgia House of Representatives on Thursday.
(Photo Credit: Georgia House Photo)
Lawmakers lined up to pay their respects to Chairman England after his announcement during Thursday's floor session.
HOUSE AG COMMITTEE HEARS FREEDOM TO FARM AND RIGHT TO REPAIR
This week, the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee held two meetings, hearing both HB 1150, the Freedom to Farm Act, and HB 1176, the Right to Repair Act. On Tuesday, Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) along with other agricultural organizations spoke in support of HB 1150 and the need for farmers in Georgia to have certainty that they will not be sued out of business for nuisance claims when operating in the places and ways they are supposed to. Opponents to the bill claimed that it would encourage big industrial agricultural operations to move in and harm their neighbors forever. This is a drastic misrepresentation of agriculture in our state, which is almost completely made up of family owned and operated farms. GFB and other supporters of the bill argue that this bill only offers protections to farms operating according to the law and all rules and regulations, does not show favor to large vs. small farms, and provides a reasonable balance to all property owners. If a farm is operating within the law and in a proper way, they should be able to continue on without having to fight off nuisance claims from neighbors who do not like the inherent aspects of agriculture. We will continue to work with members of the committee and the author of the bill, Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella), as we get closer to a vote by the full committee.
Also this week, the committee heard from many different groups regarding HB 1176, sponsored by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn). This bill encompasses all kinds of equipment and products, but it is particularly important for farmers as it would provide them with the tools, parts, and information necessary to repair and maintain their equipment. Farmers are and always have been very good at fixing things on their own. Due to the use of computer systems in tractors and other equipment these days, manufacturers are able to place roadblocks in the system that limit the ability of owners to work on their equipment as they traditionally have. GFB testified in support of the bill, pointing out that third party access to parts, tools, and information will help farmers choose options based on their capabilities and can reduce down-time, which is critical for daily agricultural operations.
DAYS LEFT TO DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT!
On December 7, 2021, after nearly two years of diligent evaluation and consideration, voting delegates at the 2021 Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) Annual Meeting unanimously endorsed the creation of the GFB Impact Fund, a political action committee (PAC), to advocate on behalf of agriculture, farmers, and our rural communities. The following week, the GFB Board of Directors unanimously voted to put it into action and simultaneously authorized the GFB Mutual Insurance Company to match every dollar contributed to the GFB State Impact Fund by February 28, 2022 - up to $500,000!
With election season on the horizon, it is vital that we work to get our PAC up and running as quickly as possible. Support for the GFB State Impact Fund can come from county Farm Bureaus, GFB members, local farm businesses, and others who share our mission. This additional tool will allow us to support the candidacies and elections of qualified individuals to public office who have demonstrated a commitment to furthering and strengthening the agricultural industry, regardless of political affiliation. With your support, we can ensure your voice has a seat at the table to protect agriculture for the next generation.
Each contribution to the GFB State Impact Fund is voluntary and will support candidates who support agriculture and Georgia Farm Bureau values. To learn more about the GFB Impact Fund, please contact Katie Duvall.
To contribute to the GFB State Impact Fund, please return your check and this form to:
GFB State Impact Fund
Attn: Katie Duvall
1620 Bass Road
Macon, GA 31210
*All contributions are solely voluntary and not tax deductible. Each contribution must be accompanied by the contribution form to be accepted.
ACTION THIS WEEK
Reps. Rhodes, Corbett, LaHood, Ridley, and Smith
This bill would authorize the hunting and trapping of raccoons and opossum year round.
Passed the House on 2/15/2022.
Reps. Jasperse, Watson, Corbett, England, and Campbell
This bill would establish the Rural Health Advancement Commission to address healthcare workforce shortages in rural areas of Georgia. The commission would be made up of 13 members from all across the medical field that will explore the issue and deliver an annual report.
Assigned to House Special Committee on Access to Quality Healthcare on 2/17/2022.
Sens. Goodman, Jones II, Walker III, Harper, Sims and others
This bill seeks to create the Georgia Farm to Foodbank (F2FB) Program by changing the Georgia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This initiative is a Governor’s priority and included in his budget proposal is $800,000 to fund the program. The funds will be used for grants to provide Georgia Grown products straight from producers to regional foodbanks that will be able to use that food to feed those who need food assistance. The program will be administered by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and they will submit an annual report that contains information on where the food came from and where it went.
Passed the Senate on 2/11/2022. Assigned to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 2/14/2022.
BILLS OF INTEREST
To find more on a specific bill, visit the Georgia General Assembly website and use the "Search Legislation" tool at the top right.
Reps. Cantrell, Greene, Barr, Werkheiser, Gambill, and Williams
This bill would require Georgia to observe Daylight Savings Time year-round. This will only become effective if Congress authorizes states to observe daylight savings time year-round.
House Passed/Adopted on 3/5/2021. Assigned to Senate Rules Committee on 1/10/2022.
Reps. Mainor, Dukes, McClain, Mallow, and Thomas
This bill would prohibit trains from blocking any traffic crossing for longer than 15 minutes (with exceptions for safety reasons), and also require signage at crossings providing a telephone number to report such instances.
Assigned to House Transportation Committee on 1/28/2021.
Reps. Lim and Holcomb
This bill would provide a preferential tax rate program that seeks to promote urban agriculture as well as provide for urban agricultural incentive zones that would be located in areas with a 15% or greater poverty rate. The program includes restrictions for properties that enter a contract such as being at least .10 acres but not more than 5 acres and for an initial term of at least 5 years. This bill is the enabling legislation for HR 164 that would put this change on the ballot in 2022 as a constitutional amendment.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 2/17/2021.
Reps. Burchett, Burns, Rhodes, Ridley, and Williams
This bill seeks to create a $1,000 Annual Forest Product Permit, issuable by the Department of Transportation, allowing vehicles hauling timber up to a gross weight of 95,000, up to 10 feet wide, and no more than 100 feet long.
Assigned to House Transportation Committee on 2/18/2021.
Reps. Burchett, Blackmon, Dickey, Rhodes, and Watson
The Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act, established in 2017, provides a system of non-traditional loans for rural businesses to encourage economic growth and jobs. This legislation would provide the second round of funding, in the amount of $100 million, to replenish the program.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 2/18/2021.
Reps. Williamson, Reeves, Burns, Knight, Blackmon, and Lott
Similar to HB 500, this legislation provides a second round of funding for the Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act in the amount of $100 million. However, the bill goes on to create a new NAICS code and tax program for medical equipment and supplies manufacturers. Additionally, this bill goes on to address other tax credit programs dealing with high-impact aerospace defense projects, Georgia ports, and railroads.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 2/18/2021.
Reps. Wiedower, Burns, Smyre, Parsons, and Kelley
In an effort to enhance the expansion of broadband to unserved areas, this legislation authorizes the use of OneGeorgia funds to award contracts to qualified providers under the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative.
Assigned to House Governmental Affairs Committee on 2/24/2021.
Reps. Schofield, Jackson, Scott, Buckner, Bentley, and others
This bill seeks to establish a “Black Farmer Restoration Office” to support current Black farmers and to encourage the growth of Black farmers into the field of agriculture. It also would establish a “Farm Conservation Corps” to provide on-farm apprenticeships to those between the ages of 18 and 29 from socially disadvantaged groups. According to the proposal, farms offering the apprenticeship must have a gross annual income of less than $250,000 and be owned by a social disadvantaged farmer, a beginning farmer, or a certified organic farmer.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee on 1/25/2022.
Reps. Smith, Stephens, England, Greene, and Dempsey
This bill would require the board of tax assessors for a county that is declared a disaster area to conduct a full appraisal of all the properties located within the disaster area to determine if the current appraised value still reflects the value of the properties following the declared disaster. If it does not, the tax assessor must adjust the appraised value and notify the property owner.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 1/25/2022.
Reps. Watson, England, Burns, Buckner, Hatchett, and others
This proposal would provide for a statewide constitutional referendum and question on the 2022 ballot to allow for an ad-valorem tax exemption on timber equipment and products. Equipment that would be exempt under this bill includes logging equipment such as wood cutters, loaders, bulldozers, skid steers, etc. Also included in the exemption would be timber products such as trees and other wood fiber products.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 1/26/2022.
Reps. Smith, Gambill, Williams, Scoggins, McDonald, and others
This bill would designate the opossum as the official state marsupial.
Assigned to House State Planning and Community Affairs Committee on 1/26/2022.
Reps. Cooper, Jasperse, Corbett, Watson, and England
In recent years, the General Assembly has focused on bolstering availability of rural healthcare. This bill would expand the eligibility of an existing state income tax credit currently limited to physicians practicing in rural areas (<50,000) to also include dentists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 1/27/2022.
Reps. Pirkle, Jasperse, Watson, England, Corbett, and others
This legislation increases the available tax credits for contributions to rural hospitals from $65 to $75 million per year.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 1/27/2022.
Reps. Ridley, Corbett, Barton, and Anderson
This bill would amend the definition of “all-terrain vehicle” by increasing the maximum weight to from 2500 lbs to 3500 lbs.
Passed the House on 2/07/2022. Referred to Senate Transportation Committee on 2/08/2022.
Reps. Dickey, Watson, England, Jasperse, and Pirkle
Also known as the Freedom to Farm Act, HB 1150, addresses ambiguity in Georgia’s current Right to Farm statute and seeks to protect farmers from frivolous nuisance claims brought by those who do not like the inherent aspects of agriculture. With Georgia’s number one economic driver being agriculture, there is a vested interest in protecting the families and businesses that provide all of our food and fiber. There has been an increase in the number of nuisance claims brought against Georgia farms due to recent federal court precedent that turns current Right to Farm law on its head. This bill would allow for a farm to have certainty after a period of time, as long as they are operating within the law and according to all rules and regulations, that they will be protected from unnecessary nuisance lawsuits.
Assigned to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 2/02/2022.
Reps. Pirkle, Camp, Campbell, and Jenkins
This proposal comes out of a summer study committee consisting of members from the House Agriculture Committee. Chaired by Rep. Clay Pirkle, the committee looked into the issue of legalizing the sale of raw milk for human consumption. With the technological advancements in the dairy industry that provide for a very consistently safe product, many believed there was a way to produce raw (unpasteurized) milk that would be safe for human consumption. Many in the dairy industry, especially smaller producers, have been seeking a way to increase their already slim margins with a product like raw milk that brings a premium price due and has an increasing consumer demand. This bill would allow for the legal sale of raw milk for human consumption under a set of specific rules and regulations that seek to ensure a safe product.
Assigned to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 2/03/2022.
Reps. Pirkle and Clark
This bill pertains to the right of those to maintain and repair their own personal property, whether it be a cell phone or agricultural equipment. Although this would apply to many consumer items, it is increasingly important for the agricultural sector. Farm equipment is now reliant on computer systems, and technological barriers placed in the software and codes of equipment are only accessible to the manufacturer and dealers. Currently, farmers must rely on dealers for repairs to their tractors and equipment due to these stop-guards which render equipment useless unless parts and repairs are done by an authorized dealer technician.
Without third-party access to the necessary tools and software, farmers are beholden to the prices and schedules of manufacturers. Farmers already face historically high costs to purchase equipment, and with the consolidation of many dealers they must also face high prices for dealer technicians to travel long distances to the farm to make repairs—an issue that could be addressed with third-party solutions. This legislation would require that manufacturers make available to independent service providers or owners of the equipment, at a fair and reasonable cost, the tools, parts, and manuals necessary to work on their own equipment.
Assigned to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 2/03/2022.
Reps. Jasperse, Mathis, Erwin, England, and Pirkle
This bill would prohibit any student who is participating in a 4-H sponsored activity or program from being counted as absent at school.
Assigned to House Education Committee on 2/10/2022.
Reps. Dickey, England, Pirkle, Erwin, Bentley and others
This bill would transition a pilot program that has been in place for elementary agricultural education to an ongoing and permanent program. It would also require schools to hire an elementary agricultural education teacher to administer the program.
Assigned to House Education Committee on 2/11/2022.
Reps. Thomas, Schofield, Lim, and Lewis-Ward
Also known as the Georgia Urban Farming Youth Initiative Act, HB 1309 would create a pilot program through UGA's Cooperative Extension Service to promote farming and the efficient use of land in urban counties (with a population of 150,000+); educate program participants on all aspects of farming in an urban environment and encourage other members of the community to begin and to continue farming; and provide a sufficient understanding of farming operations so as to facilitate the ability of graduating participants to obtain Georgia Agriculture Tax Exemption (GATE) identification numbers and subsequently operate successful, small-scale farms within their communities.
Assigned to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 2/11/2022.
Reps. Lim and Holcomb
HR 164 would allow for a constitutional amendment to be on the ballot in 2022 should HB 482 pass. See above for additional information on HB 482.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee on 2/17/2021.
Reps. Watson, Burns, Buckner, Corbett, and Hatchett
This resolution proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would reduce the rate of ad-valorem tax assessment on timber at the time of sale or harvest. The proposal would require that the state appropriate funds annually to each county or municipality to compensate for any loss in revenue.
Assigned to House Ways & Means Committee on 2/03/2022.
Sens. Beach and Harbison
Senate Bill 30 would provide for pari-mutuel horse racing in the state at a limited number of licensed equestrian centers, create the Georgia Horse Racing Commission, and provide for the comprehensive regulation of pari-mutuel horse racing and related activities.
Referred to Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee on 1/28/2021.
Sens. Gooch, Miller, Cowsert, Tillery, Harper, and Hatchett
In a continued effort to expand broadband access to rural and un-served communities, this legislation allows the Public Service Commission and Department of Community Affairs to utilize a portion of the Universal Access Fund for such services.
Assigned to Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee on 2/2/2021.
Sens. Harper, Burke, Tillery, Goodman, Anderson, and Kennedy
SB 118 would increase truck weights for 6-axle timber haulers up to 100,000 lbs.
Assigned to Senate Transportation Committee on 2/10/2021.
Sens. Jackson, Harper, Mullis, Jones II, Summers
This bipartisan piece of legislation would amend the “Georgia Hemp Farming Act” to allow for someone convicted of a misdemeanor that involved the sale or trafficking of a controlled substance to still be permitted to grow hemp in Georgia. Under this proposal anyone convicted of a felony involving the sale or trafficking of a controlled substance would still be prohibited from obtaining a permit to grow hemp.
Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee on 2/10/2022.
Sens. Harper, Walker III, Anderson, Sims, Goodman
Last year GFB worked with Sen. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown) to pass SB 247, which modernized the procedures for Commodity Commissions to serve notices, hold public hearings, and vote to better utilize commission funds and more effectively reach producers. This bill would provide for the same modernization and updates to the propane commodity commission.
Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee on 2/11/2022.
Sens. Halpern, Harrell, Jones II, Davenport, Butler
This resolution recognizes February as Career, Technical, and Agriculture Education Month to highlight the necessity of programs that support critical sectors of Georgia's economy, including the agriculture industry.
Senate Read and Adopted on 2/10/2022.
UPCOMING USDA PROGRAM DEADLINES
Several U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) national program deadlines are approaching. Note that this list does not include every deadline, and only includes federal deadlines. Check with the local USDA Service Center to learn about all available programs, and programs that have local or state level deadlines.
Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) and Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage (SDMC)
Feb 18, 2022
Enrollment is open from December 13, 2021 through February 18th, 2022 for the Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program and the new Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage (SDMC) program. SDMC enrollment must occur before 2022 DMC enrollment. DMC continues to offer protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. SDMC expanded the program to allow dairy producers to better protect their operations by enrolling supplemental production.
Learn More About DMC and SDMC
Spot Market Hog Pandemic Program (SMHPP)
Feb 25, 2022
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept applications for the Spot Market Hog Pandemic Program (SMHPP) from December 15, 2021, through February 25, 2022. SMHPP provides pandemic assistance to hog producers who sold hogs through a negotiated sale from April 16, 2020 through September 1, 2020, the period in which these producers faced the greatest reduction in market prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This program is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.
Learn more about SMHPP
Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) for 2021 Losses
Mar 1, 2022
LIP provides benefits to livestock owners and contract growers who experience livestock deaths exceeding the normal mortality, due to specific adverse weather, disease, or animal attacks.
Learn more about LIP for 2021 Losses
Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) Programs
Mar 15, 2022
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) encourages producers to contact their local USDA Service Centers to make or change elections and to enroll for 2022 Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, providing future protections against market fluctuations. The election and enrollment period opened on Oct. 18, 2021 and runs through March 15, 2022.
Learn more about ARC and PLC
NOT A MEMBER OF GEORGIA FARM BUREAU? JOIN TODAY!
The Georgia Farm Bureau Federation has a membership of almost 250,000 and serves as state's the largest general farm organization. Our goal is to provide leadership and assistance to the agricultural sector, to promote farm products, to aid in ag-related procurement, to be a spokesman for the farmer in the legislative arena, to be a leader in the development and expansion of farm markets, and to strive for more agricultural research and educational funds and facilities.
With members in all 159 Georgia counties, Georgia Farm Bureau is dedicated to promoting and improving agriculture in our counties, state and nation and in continually improving and expanding our service-to-member programs which serve to enhance the quality of life for all Georgians.
Membership in Georgia Farm Bureau is open to everyone. You don't need to be a farmer or have insurance with us to join Farm Bureau!
If you would like to become a member of Georgia Farm Bureau, you can start your membership online right now! We have a simple application process, and you can be our newest member in just a couple of minutes. Click the button below or use our County Office Locator to find the office nearest you.
DATES TO REMEMBER
- February 22: Georgia FFA Day at the Capitol
- March 15: Georgia Cattlemen's Association Steak Biscuit Day at the Capitol
Public Policy Department Staff
Alex Bradford, Director
Raynor Churchwell, Agricultural Programs Manager
Katie Duvall, Advocacy and Policy Development Coordinator
Renee Jones, Operations Coordinator
Jake Matthews, Governmental Affairs Specialist
Jeremy Taylor, Agricultural Programs Specialist