Legislative Session Report Week 2

January 24, 2020

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The stride of the General Assembly was very slow this week at the Capitol following Monday's holiday. The General Assembly did not burn any of their 40 legislative days as they remained in recess while the Joint Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Terry England and Sen. Jack Hill, met for 3 days to discuss changes to the amended FY20 budget. The Governor, agency heads, and various state experts testified before the committee to present the changes to their budgets. Last year Governor Kemp announced that he would be looking to make cuts across all agencies and departments, so the hearings were mainly comprised of testimony on where these cuts came from. 
Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) staff will continue evaluating the proposed budget and advocate for funding initiatives of agricultural institutions, agencies, and youth development programs supported by GFB policy. 
Legislators will return to the Capitol on Monday, January 27th to gavel in for the 5th of the 40 legislative days. GFB will be present each day of the session to monitor, protect, advocate, and report on issues impacting our members and Georgia agriculture.


Governor Kemp revealed his proposed Amended FY20 Budget and the FY21 budget last Thursday. This began a series of appropriation hearings by the General Assembly as funding priorities are debated to set the state's annual spending. The proposals contain cuts across most state departments and agencies, following Governor Kemp's request late last year: 

Amended FY20 & FY21 Budget Includes:

  • Department of Agriculture 
    • Proposed cuts of $6,541,851 or (10.6% - FY20 & FY21)
      • Includes:
        • Eliminates vacant positions
        • Reduces Georgia Poultry Lab funds: $128,456
        • Reduces Marketing & Promotion: $1,366,086
        • Reduces Administratively Attached – GSWCC: $100,263
      • Increased funds to provide for raises to employees making $40,000 or less
      • $2,000,000 Bonds for Farmers Markets and Georgia National Fair Facilities
  • Forestry Commission 
    • Proposed cuts of $1,894,053 or (3.4% - FY20 & FY21) 
      • These include cuts to:
        • Regular operating expenses
        • Motor vehicle funds
        • Equipment purchases
      • Increases funds to provide for raises to employees making $40,000 or less 
      • Bond funds for facility major improvements and renovations and to replace firefighting equipment: $4,255,000  
  • Department of Natural Resources 
    • Proposed budget increase of $16,907,904 or 5.9% (FY20 & FY21) 
      • The increase comes from funding of new programs the department is responsible for, such as:
        • Funding Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act: $20,000,000
        • Hazardous Waste Trust Fund: $4,316,823
        • Solid Waste Trust Fund: $26,758
        • Increased funds to provide for raises to employees making $40,000 or less
    • The department also had to make cuts like other state agencies and departments 
      • Those include cuts to:
        • Eliminate funds for Georgia Heritage Grant funds: $200,000
        • Transfer funds for Historic Site Preservation to Department of Community Affairs: $1,027,936
  • Cooperative Extension Services 
    • Proposed cuts of $4,103,364 or 5.2% (FY20 & FY21)
      • These include cuts to:
        • Regular operating expenses
        • Travel funds
        • 20 vacant positions 
  • Agricultural Experiment Station 
    • Proposed cuts of $3,560,148 or 3.9% (FY20 & FY21)
      • These include cuts to:
        • Elimination of vacant positions
        • Regular operating expenses
        • Funds for maintenance


Over 5,000 members of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) gathered in Austin, Texas this past week for the 101st Annual Meeting and Convention of the organization. Georgia had a large contingency of members present who, in addition to attending educational sessions and workshops over the course of the weekend, also had the opportunity to tour the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch and Presidential Library during their time in the Lonestar State. Special thanks to our Member Services Department, specifically Jay Murdock, Michael Fulwood, and Jennifer Brack, for coordinating such a great trip for our members. 

This year's convention was a bittersweet one as members mourned the loss of Bonnie Duvall, who passed away on Saturday, January 18 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Bonnie was the wife of current AFBF President and former GFB President Zippy Duvall. Following the convention, family and friends from all over the country gathered in Greensboro, Georgia to celebrate her life, most of which was devoted to Farm Bureau. 

For the third year in a row, convention attendees were delighted and honored to have the opportunity to hear from President Donald J. Trump. In President Duvall's absence, GFB President Gerald Long was called on to introduce Georgia native, former Governor, and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to the stage prior to Trump's address. In his address, the President applauded America's farmers, celebrated the Senate's passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), and vowed to continue working to improve trade relations with China, with whom he had signed a partial trade agreement with earlier in the week. You can view President Trump's remarks below.

GFB's Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) fared very well in their respective competitions. Discussion Meet winner Kaitlyn Marchant of Morgan County advanced to the Sweet Sixteen round of competition. Jason and Rachel Kinsaul, also of Morgan County, were named Top Ten Finalists in the Excellence in Agriculture contest. Finally, Preston and Kendall Jimmerson of Colquitt County were named Top Ten Finalists for the Achievement Award. Additionally, 2019 GFB YF&R Committee Chairman Ben Cagle was named to the AFBF YF&R Committee, a position he will hold for two years. 

Also taking place in Austin was the annual meeting of voting delegates, represented by members from each of the fifty state Farm Bureaus,  plus Puerto Rico. At the annual meeting, 2020 priorities for the organization were established. A number of resolutions were considered, covering issues ranging from dairy and the modernizing of Federal Milk Marketing Orders, to labor and immigration policies - including changes to the H2-A program, to conservation compliance. GFB had a record year in policy development, with all 25 of our policy resolution submissions being adopted into the 2020 AFBF Policy Book. Each of these policies began at the county or commodity advisory committee level in Georgia and are now guidelines for how our national organization will operate in 2020 - this is grassroots work at its finest, and we commend our members for their thoughtful dedication to this important process. 



We invite you to attend Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 at the Georgia Freight Depot in Atlanta, Georgia, featuring keynote speaker Governor Brian Kemp. 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!

For questions regarding the event, please feel free to contact the GFB Public Policy Department.



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



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



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