The 2022 legislative session brought a welcome sense of normalcy as crowds returned to the Gold Dome to engage with their elected officials. Advocacy is a fundamental component of our democratic system and is vital to Georgia Farm Bureau’s (GFB) grassroots effectiveness.
More than 500 members traveled to Atlanta during the session for Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol to support our legislative priorities that benefit rural communities. Top of their agenda was GFB’s Spotlight Issue: the Freedom to Farm Act (HB 1150).
Farm Bureau worked closely with the House & Senate Ag Committee chairmen and allied partners to craft a balanced and fair update to Georgia’s right to farm law. HB 1150 provides farms of all types and sizes protection against lawsuits trying to deem them as nuisances when they are simply farming the way they are supposed to, in the places they are supposed to.
GFB members voiced their unified support of HB 1150, which the General Assembly ultimately passed, and Gov. Kemp signed into law in April. This legislation will ensure family farms are able to continue providing our nation’s food and fiber for years to come without the threat of being unduly sued out of business.
Another GFB priority the legislature passed is HB 1175, the Georgia Raw Dairy Act, authored by Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Ashburn). GFB’s Dairy Commodity Committee and the Georgia Milk Producers set this policy in motion last year, acknowledging increased consumer demand for unpasteurized milk and advancements in equipment that help make raw milk safer.
Gaps in current law have resulted in untested, unregulated raw milk being sold and consumed under a pet food label. HB 1175 creates a framework of food safety regulations, testing and standards that will ensure raw milk is as safe as possible while also providing a new market opportunity for Georgia dairies.
The General Assembly dealt a winning hand to the agriculture community with these two priorities and other measures. The Farm-to-Foodbank Program, a priority of Gov. Kemp, grants funding for regional food banks to buy fresh, Georgia products straight from farmers for those in need. HB 1303 transitions a pilot elementary school ag education program into a permanent statewide offering.
Additionally, the state’s budget included significant wins with funding for ag support services (diagnostic labs, veterinary labs and the ag experiment station), ag education (research and faculty for the UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, Extension, and Georgia FFA), and statewide conservation projects.
Georgia agriculture is fortunate these bills passed, but it would not have happened without our Farm Bureau members’ advocacy efforts. However, the work is not over. Under the newly drawn district maps, 2022 is a significant election year for our state and federal offices.
Now is the time to meet your candidates and encourage their support for Georgia’s farm families. For resources to support your advocacy efforts, visit www.gfb.ag/PublicPolicy.
Alex Bradford is director of the GFB Public Policy Department. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 478.474-0679, ext. 5287.
Gov. Brian Kemp signs the Freedom to Farm Act into law at Dickey farms April 13.