Legislative Session Report Week 1

January 17, 2020

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Elected officials and lobbyists gathered on Monday in Atlanta to kick off the 2020 legislative session under the Gold Dome. The General Assembly convened for four legislative days this week and didn’t waste any time getting to work as committees began to meet, taking up bills that are still available from last year. 

Being the second of the two-year session, bills that were not passed last year remain eligible for consideration this year. While the General Assembly is held to 40 legislative days, these are interspersed over a few months with committees meeting to debate bills for passage. This year is expected to be an exciting one coinciding with an election year. The legislature's only mandated responsibility is passing a balanced state budget, but many other bills will be pursued for constituents back home.


The General Assembly met on Thursday for a joint session, joined by all of the Constitutional Officers and judges of the Georgia Supreme Court to hear Governor Kemp deliver the State of the State address laying out his top priorities this session deal focus on education, hoping to fully fund Quality Basic Education for the third year in a row. Another priority is keeping one of his campaign promises by rolling out another statewide teacher pay raise. This year’s proposed pay raise would be $2,000, following last years $3,000 pay raise. He also is continuing to set his sights on tackling one of the state’s most pervasive issues, sex trafficking. In addition, he is planning on battling another issue our state faces, gang violence, which has seen a rise over the years. The Governor also recognized a special guest in attendance, former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson. The Governor applauded Senator Isakson for his dedication to serving the state over the years, and will be honoring the statesman by placing a portrait of him in the Capitol so that future generations may recognize all of the hard work Senator Isakson did on behalf of the people of Georgia.


Next week, the General Assembly will begin work on the Governor’s proposed budget through Appropriation Committee meetings and will reconvene for Legislative Day 5 on Monday, January 27th.


The Rural Caucus, consisting of legislators statewide who share the appreciation and importance of Georgia's rural communities, held its first meeting on Wednesday, cohosted by Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Agribusiness Council. The Rural Caucus is the second largest caucus in the General Assembly. This important coalition gathers each week to discuss the issues facing rural Georgia and present a unified and strong voice at the capitol. Adam Graft, a dairyman from Americus, addressed the group regarding the importance of passing the Right to Farm Bill this legislative session. The Right to Farm Bill – HB 545 – is a top priority for GFB, and will strengthen protections from undue nuisance lawsuits against farms. We look forward to continuing to working with the caucus this session to strengthen Georgia's top industry.


We invite you to attend Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 at the Georgia Freight Depot in Atlanta, Georgia. Year after year, Farm Bureau Day is one of the largest events held under the Gold Dome. This free event provides members an opportunity to visit with their legislators, exercise our grassroots structure, and contribute to the voice of Georgia farmers.

Orientation will begin at 9:30 am in the Blue Room of the Georgia Freight Depot located on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, one block northwest of the Capitol, at Underground Atlanta. After orientation, GFB members will have the opportunity to visit with their legislators in the Capitol and return to the Freight Depot for a noon lunch program.

This year, we have changed hotels and parking locations. A limited number of rooms are available at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel. In addition, free security parking will be available at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel parking deck, located at 165 Courtland Street NE. A shuttle bus service will run from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on the day of the event.

This event is complimentary and all GFB members are encouraged to attend. Involvement of our local members and county leaders is the backbone of Georgia Farm Bureau. You are the key to legislative success under the Gold Dome, so please come join us!

To register for the event, please click here. The deadline to register is January 31. For questions regarding the event, please feel free to contact the GFB Public Policy Department.


After many months of negotiations with China, President Trump signed a long-waited Phase One trade deal on Wednesday at the White House. Under the terms of the deal, China is expected to purchase around $80 to $100 billion in U.S. food, agriculture, and seafood products over the next two years. Though many existing tariffs on agriculture products will not be lifted, China agreed to provide exclusions for the commodities it purchases pursuant to the Phase One deal, while also removing other barriers that currently prevent U.S. farm goods such as beef, poultry, blueberries, and more from entering the Chinese market. Click here if you would like to review the U.S. Trade Representative’s Fact Sheet for the new trade deal with China.


In a second round of good news for Georgia farmers, the U.S. Senate approved the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on Thursday, which means the new trade pact can now be signed by President Trump. USMCA—which will replace the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—is expected to increase U.S. agriculture exports by $ 2 billion. In addition to maintain existing favorable treatment of U.S. agriculture products going into Canada and Mexico, USMCA provides new benefits for American diary, poultry, and grain, among other things. You can read more about USMCA by clicking here.


More than 1,500 Farm Bureau members gathered on Jekyll Island in December for our 82nd annual convention to debate and vote on a comprehensive slate of policies for 2020 in addition to attending breakout sessions led by industry leaders. We would like to thank those who traveled to participate in our policy development process. It is imperative in the coming months that members actively work with their legislators advocating our positions. From the policies passed in December, the GFB Board of Directors has adopted the following priorities for 2020:

Taxes & Budget

Advocate for funding of agricultural institutions, agencies, youth development programs, and their essential staff to meet industry needs. 

Protect the integrity of the Conservation Use Value Assessment (CUVA) and Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA) programs from changes that would jeopardize the future of the program or undermine their original intent. 

Preserve sales tax exemptions of farm inputs through active maintenance of the GATE program. 

Serve as an educational resource to farm businesses navigating complex tax regulations and programs.

Natural Resources & Environment 

Preserve and enhance “Right to Farm” laws that shield producers from frivolous nuisance lawsuits filed by individuals who move into rural areas where normal farming operations exist.   

Work to ensure water policy and regulations do not adversely affect agricultural water supply so Georgia farmers remain competitive with producers from neighboring states. 

Work to ensure adequate resources are readily available for producers severely impacted by natural disasters. 

Implement a state-level cost share program to enhance agricultural conservation and promote on-farm conservation practices.   


Animal Agriculture 

Protect consumers and producers from false or misleading labeling of protein substitutes that infringes on producer-funded research and marketing programs. 

Assist livestock producers who have been unfairly targeted by frivolous legal challenges. 

Limit regulation of animal agriculture at the farm level. 

Provide education to consumers on animal agriculture, while protecting producers from false information and misguided sensitivities. 


General Agriculture Issues 

Implement common sense policy to allow farmers the right to repair, diagnose, and maintain their own equipment. 

Ensure that representation for rural Georgia is maintained through promotion and utilization of the 2020 census. 

Advocate for agriculture-friendly elected officials through promotion and participation in the I Farm, I Vote campaign. 

Ensure that new technologies remain available while promoting their responsible use. 


Hosted by John Holcomb, Jay Stone, and Katie Duvall, "Growing On" is a new podcast produced by Georgia Farm Bureau, covering agriculture related issues and topics to help promote and advocate for Georgia agriculture as well as educate consumers about the production of food and modern farming practices.


With episodes dropping every two weeks, Public Policy staff will be reporting from the Capitol, providing a deeper look into the legislative session in a digestible, audio format. You can subscribe to the podcast and download on Apple Podcasts by clicking here or on Spotify by clicking here. Be sure to look for a new episode every other Tuesday!


HB 13: Livestock & Rodeo Sales Tax Exemption
Reps. Williams, Mathiak, McCall, Blackmon, and Jones
This bill will provide an exemption from sales tax on the entry fee or admission of non-profit livestock, horse shows, or rodeo events and exhibits. This exemption will apply to any participation fees paid for entrants and any admission paid by the public.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee.


HB 22: Telephone Cooperatives Authorization for Broadband Services
Reps. Houston, Powell, England, Watson, Corbett, and Greene
House Bill 22 is a bill that comes from a recommendation of the Rural Development Council. This bill will authorize telephone cooperatives and their broadband affiliates to provide broadband services to its members, as well as, apply for federal grants to provide broadband.
Assigned to House Economic Development and Tourism Committee.

HB 23: EMC Authorization to Provide Broadband Services
Reps. Houston, Powell, England, Watson, Corbett, and Greene
House Bill 23 is another bill to come out of the Rural Development Council. This bill authorizes electric membership corporations (EMC) to establish or partner with another entity to provide broadband services to its members independent from its electrical services. This bill will also allow for EMCs to apply for federal grants to provide broadband.
Passed the House on 2/11/19. Assigned to Regulated Industries and Utilities.


HB 49: Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District Interbasin Transfers
Reps. Morris, Jones, Tanner, Lumsden, Powell, and Carpenter
House Bill 49 relates to water supply and water conservation plan in the Metropolitan Georgia Water Planning District to allow for certain interbasin transfers on rivers with an annual flow of at least 15 billion gallons per day at the withdrawal point.
Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment Committee.
HB 104: Boll Weevil Eradication Tax Exemption
Reps. Watson, Powell, McCall, Meeks, and Pirkle
This bill would propose a constitutional amendment to provide the Boll Weevil Eradication program an ad valorem tax exemption for all of their supplies used for trapping, baiting, luring, and pesticides, as it regards to detecting and preventing the return of boll weevils.
Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee.


HB 105: State Income Tax Exemption for Disaster Payments
Reps. Watson, Powell, Meeks, McCall, Pirkle
In an effort to provide further relief in the wake of Hurricane Michael, this bill exempts payments from USDA as part of a disaster relief payment or program in connection to Hurricane Michael from state income tax.
Passed the House on 2/25/19. Assigned to Senate Finance Committee.
HB 286: Right to Repair
Reps. Turner, Pirkle, and Dickey
House Bill 286 is known as the Right to Repair Act. This bill would require a manufacturer to provide documents, tools, and parts that are necessary for diagnostic, maintenance, or repair services on digital electronic equipment to independent service providers.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.
HB 371: Securing Animals in the Back of Motor Vehicles
Reps. Drenner, McCall, Powell, Williams, Trammell
This bill would require a person to secure or contain a live animal in the back of a motor vehicle if the vehicle is within the arc of Interstate 285 and on any portion on Interstates 20,75 or 85 or Georgia Highway 400.
Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.


HB 450: Commercial Shellfish Farming
Reps. Jones, Hogan Kelley, Stephens, and Oliver
This bill creates rules and regulations for commercial shellfish farming in the state of Georgia through work between the Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources.
Assigned to House Game, Fish, and Parks Committee.
HB 455: Georgia Agriculture Marketing Authority
Reps. Houston, England, McCall, Gilliard, and Stovall
This bill creates the Georgia Agriculture Marketing Authority, the purpose of the authority is to manage the facilities and activities of farmers markets. The Authority will market and promote agricultural products to agribusinesses and the public in an effort to boost the state's economy.
Passed the House on 3/5/19. Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.


HB 545: Right to Farm
Reps. McCall, Burns, England, Watson, Pirkle, and Dickey
This legislation seeks to strengthen and protect farmers from loopholes in our states right to farm laws. This clarification in language helps producers by clearing up language that is vague and could be interpreted in ways detrimental to agriculture.
Passed the House on 3/7/19. Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.
HB 592: Surface Mining in FLPA
Reps. Meeks, Corbett, England, and Rhodes
House Bill 592 would provide for under certain circumstances for short-term mineral surface mining to not be considered a breach of FLPA. The property would remain under the covenant only if they return the property to premining condition within three years.

Assigned to House Natural Resources and Environment.


SB 76: Veterinary Nurses
Reps. Black, Wilkinson, Harper, Anderson, Burke, and Karinshak
This bill has been proposed in order to change terms used by the State Board of Veterinarians. This bill would change the term veterinary technician to veterinary nurses.
Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.
SB 182: Development of Mariculture
Sens. Ligon, Miller, Watson, Hill, Gooch, and Jackson
This bill creates rules and regulations for commercial shellfish farming in the state of Georgia through work between the Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources.
Passed the Senate on 3/1/2019. Assigned to House Game, Fish, and Parks.


SB 211: Meat Labeling
Sens. Harper, Wilkinson, Black, Anderson, Walker, Heath
This bill will prohibit the sale and advertisement of nonanimal and non-slaughtered animal flesh from being called meat.
Passed the Senate on 3/7/19. Assigned to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.




Beginning in late March, you will begin receiving requests to complete the 2020 Census. Georgia Farm Bureau is proud to be partnering with the Governor's Complete Count Committee to encourage our members to complete the census in a timely manner. The 2020 Census will be the first year you can fill out your census online.


The census website is safe, secure and confidential. The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.


In addition to shaping legislative districts, the census dictates how key funds are distributed. The federal government distributes over $675 billion dollars to states based on the population for healthcare, food, education, and roads. Key programs using census data to drive funding include:

Federal Medical Assistance Programs (FMAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Medicare Part B

Highway Planning and Construction

The Federal Pell Grant Program

Cooperative Extension Service


Georgia’s rural assistance programs received more than $1.4 billion annually in the federal FY 2016.


Census Dates to Remember:

March 2020: The Census Bureau will begin mailing invitations to participate in the 2020 Census to homes. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail.

April 1, 2020: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. When you respond to the census, you tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.

April 2020: Census takers begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers, and others who live among large groups of people. Census takers also begin conducting quality check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.

May 2020: The Census Bureau begins visiting homes that haven't responded to the 2020 Census to make sure everyone is counted.

August 2020: The online form of the Census will close.

December 2020: The Census Bureau delivers apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.

March 31, 2021: By this date, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.




January 28: Conservation District Day at the Capitol

February 4: Equine Youth Day

February 5: Georgia Agribusiness Council Breakfast

February 11: Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol

March 2: PB&J Day at the Capitol

March 2-5: GFB YF&R Trip to Washington

March 4-5: GFB Commodity Advisory Committee Spring Meetings, Macon

March 11: Steak Biscuit Day at the Capitol

March 24: Georgia's Presidential Primary

March 31-April 2: GFB Presidents' Trip to Washington

April 2-4: Georgia Cattlemen's Convention, Perry



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Public Policy Department Staff

Jeffrey Harvey, Director
Joe McManus, Assistant Director
Alex Bradford, State Affairs Coordinator
Raynor Churchwell, Agricultural Programs Specialist
Tripp Cofield, National Policy Counsel
Katie Duvall, Advocacy and Policy Development Coordinator
Renee Jones, Office Coordinator
Blake Raulerson, Governmental Affairs Specialist
Jeremy Taylor, Agricultural Programs Specialist