Legislative Session Report Week 4



February 4, 2022



  • General Assembly Meets for Three Days

  • Freedom to Farm Introduced

  • Agriculture Committees Meet

  • GFB County Presidents Gather in Augusta

  • GFB Day at the Capitol This Tuesday, February 8th

  • Georgia Farm Bureau Establishes Impact Fund

  • Action This Week

  • Bills of Interest

  • Waters of the U.S.: Tell EPA to Keep the Navigable Waters Protection Rule!

  • Upcoming USDA Program Deadlines

  • Not a Member of Georgia Farm Bureau? Join Today!



This week lawmakers convened on Tuesday for legislative day 9 and met through Thursday leaving us at day 11 of the 40-day session. As expected, the pace of the Georgia General Assembly picked up as more legislation was taken up by each chamber and committees held meetings throughout the three legislative days. The capitol is much busier than it was this time last year with more lobbyists and outside groups roaming the halls. This week saw the introduction of many bills that seek to make life better for our state’s farmers, including legislation to address Georgia Farm Bureau’s top priority issue for this year that deals with amending Georgia’s Right to Farm law. Also, this week both the House and Senate Agriculture committees met for the first time this year. Legislators are set to return on Monday, February 7th, for legislative day 12.

Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) staff has been hard at work to advance the priorities of our members under the gold dome. Please see below for an update of bills that could impact Georgia agriculture.

Rep. Robert Dickey, Freedom to Farm Act., GFB

Rep. Robert Dickey is carrying House Bill 1150, the Freedom to Farm Act. (Photo Credit: Georgia House Photo)



This week Chairman Robert Dickey of the House Agriculture Committee introduced House Bill (HB) 1150 which seeks to provide protection for our state’s farmers from frivolous nuisance lawsuits. The legislation, titled The Freedom to Farm Act, amends current Right to Farm law by eliminating language that leaves our state’s family farms open to lawsuits from neighbors who do not like the inherent aspects of agriculture, such as sights, sounds, and smells. This is a serious threat to agriculture in our state as the impact of costly litigation for a suit of this nature can put a family farm out of business. If a farm is operating within the law and following all rules and regulations, they should be able to acquire reasonable protections from nuisance claims. GFB has been working with legislators and our allied groups towards this change and we appreciate the work of Chairman Dickey to find a solution to the issue. We expect the bill to be brought before the House Agriculture Committee in the coming days.

Given the controversial nature and history surrounding this issue, it’s imperative that our members contact their legislators to express the need for this change to protect our farms for future generations. GFB looks forward to working with legislators and other interested groups to address any questions or concerns regarding the Freedom to Farm Act and to fend off any intentional misrepresentations of the issue that have been prevalent in the past.



Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees held their first meetings of the 2022 Legislative Session this week. The House committee chaired by Rep. Robert Dickey met on Wednesday, February 2nd, holding a hearing on HB 1000 that deals with the requirement to administer rabies vaccines to an animal even if the veterinarian determines it would be detrimental to the overall health of the animal. The committee also heard from Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black on the progress being made with the soil amendment program and the two new positions that were funded in the FY22 budget. Finally, the Committee heard testimony from President of the Georgia Citrus Growers Association, Lindy Savelle. She spoke to the industry as a whole and the many advancements made in recent years.

The Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee met twice this week to take up multiple bills, one of which dealt with a Governor’s budget priority to fund the purchase of farmers' excess product by local community foodbanks. Senate Bill 396, the Farm to Foodbank Program, would provide those in need with nutritious Georgia Grown food and give farmers a way to sell their crops that otherwise would be unmarketable. Often certain agricultural products such as fruits and vegetables will be considered unmarketable at a retail level due to minor cosmetic defects while remaining perfectly good to eat. This bill will give farmers a way to still sell that product for below what they would receive at retail but above their input cost.

GFB President Tom McCall thanks Roger Rickard of Voices in Advocacy for his keynote address at the Presidents' Conference earlier this week
GFB President Tom McCall thanks Roger Rickard of Voices in Advocacy for his keynote address at the Presidents' Conference earlier this week


Earlier this week, county leaders from across the state gathered in Augusta for the GFB Presidents' Conference. The daylong conference included four workshops led by members of the Field Services, Information/Public Relations, and Public Policy departments.

Roger Rickard of Voices in Advocacy provided the keynote address for the event. He stressed the importance of being a good advocate, listing seven actions of highly effective advocates. Rickard's address was timely as hundreds of GFB members will descend upon Atlanta next week for GFB Day at the Capitol - a perfect opportunity to showcase the skills they acquired at the conference as they advocate for GFB's priority issues under the Gold Dome.


ImPACt Fund Logo


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.



Georgia Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol is scheduled for this coming Tuesday, February 8, 2022. Orientation begins at 9:30 am in the Blue Room at the Georgia Freight Depot. The Depot is located on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, one block northwest of the Capitol, at Underground Atlanta. 

Complimentary security parking is located at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel parking deck, located at 165 Courtland Street NE, and the shuttle bus service will run from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. When you arrive at the parking garage, you’ll receive a sticker (from a GFB staff member) to place on your ticket. The sticker allows you to leave the garage and not pay for parking. After you park your car, walk inside the hotel and look for the GFB Shuttle signs to guide you to the elevator. You will go down a floor and out the back of the hotel to meet the shuttle bus. If you have a handicap placard or tag, valet parking is available and will minimize the distance to the shuttle bus. NOTE: The shuttle bus company requires you to wear a mask if seated in the front two seats on each side of the bus, and seat belts, are required in these four seats.  

If you are staying at the Sheraton – the breakfast buffet is $19.99 and open from 6:30 – 11 am.  If you stay at the hotel Monday night, you can leave your car parked in the garage and use the shuttle bus. 

If you have a van/busload – you can drop them off at the Depot and pick them up after the lunch program. However, the van/bus cannot park there. Dropping off and picking up in this area may be more convenient than using the shuttle.

After orientation, we encourage you to visit with your legislators at the Capitol and return with them to the complimentary luncheon at the Depot beginning at noon. Luncheon invitations have been sent to all legislators, but a personal invitation from you would be especially helpful and effective. Additionally, GFB’s Georgia Ag Experience mobile classroom will be parked outside the Capitol available for attendees and legislators to visit. REMINDER: no pocket knives are allowed in the Capitol! 

We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta on Tuesday!



HB 1055:
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.
House Motor Vehicles Committee Favorably Reported on 2/02/2022.


HB 1147:
Reps. Rhodes, Corbett, LaHood, Ridley, and Smith
This bill would authorize the hunting and trapping of raccoons and opossum year round.
Assigned to House Game, Fish, & Parks Committee on 2/02/2022.


HB 1150:
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.


HB 1175:
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.


HB 1176:
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.


HR 686:
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.


SB 396:
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.
Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Favorably Reported on 2/03/2022.


SR 414:
Sens. Walker III, Anderson, Harper, Sims, Payne and others
This resolution commends the University of Georgia 4-H Program and Ms. Katie Beth Brewer, Mr. Arch D. Smith, and the 2021-2022 4-H Leadership Teams and recognizes February 9, 2022, as 4-H Day at the state capitol.


SR 415:
Sens. Walker III, Anderson, Harper, Sims, Payne and others
SR 415 recognizes and commends the University of Georgia 4-H Program, Ms. Jhaycee Barnes, Mr. Arch D. Smith, and the 2020-2021 4-H Leadership Teams.



To find more on a specific bill, visit the Georgia General Assembly website and use the "Search Legislation" tool at the top right.


HB 44:
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.


HB 139:
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.


HB 482:
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.


HB 496:
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.


HB 500:
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.


HB 504:
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.


HB 608:
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.


HB 976:
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.


HB 978:
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.


HB 997:
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.


HB 1002:
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.


HB 1038:
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.


HB 1041:
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.


HR 164:
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.


SB 30:
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.


SB 65:
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.


SB 118:
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.


Federal Updates


Four years ago, efforts of Farm Bureau members in Georgia and beyond helped to create the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). This rule fixed the problems of the 2015 WOTUS Rule, bringing clarity to how you farm and ranch. 

Under the commonsense NWPR, farmers and ranchers have delivered positive environmental benefits.

On December 7, 2021, the EPA and the Army Corps proposed a new rule that would reverse the NWPR and bring back the troubling pre-2015 regulatory regime. Farm Bureau is urging EPA to recognize the burden that this overreaching regulation places on farmers and ranchers, and keep the term “navigable” in the Clean Water Act regulations.

Once again, we need you to be involved and encourage you to write the EPA and ask them protect the NWPR and prevent a return to regulatory uncertainty. The deadline to submit comments is this coming Monday, February 7, 2022. You can learn more about the issue here

To provide comments to the EPA, please click the red button below. and complete your information in the boxes provided. This is required information to submit your comments to the EPA docket. Please consider adding a personal message in the space provided, such as the environmental benefits you have created farming under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule versus the 2015 Obama rule. Then click the red “Send Email” button to send your comments.

Submit Comments



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.


Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP)
Feb 4, 2022
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept applications for the Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP) for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 from November 8, 2021, through February 4, 2022. FSA extended the original signup deadline, which was January 7, 2022. OTECP provides assistance for certified organic operations and transitional operations that incurred eligible expenses in fiscal years 2020, 2021, and/or 2022. This program is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.
Learn more about OTECP


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 



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.



  • February 7: Georgia Forestry Day at the Capitol
  • February 8: Georgia Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol
  • February 9: Georgia Young Farmers Association Day at the Capitol
  • February 16-18: 60th Annual Georgia Cattlemen's Association Convention, Savannah
  • February 22: Georgia FFA 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