Many family farms merge to buy expensive equipment together. Georgians are encouraged to expand an existing tax exemption for single farms to merged farms. / Photo by Logan Thomas
By Jake Matthews
When you head to the polls this November there will be more than just names of candidates for office on your ballot. There will also be a statewide referendum that has the potential to provide Georgia farmers some relief from today’s increased input prices and the large amounts of capital they must invest in agriculture to grow our food and fiber.
House Bill 498, passed during the 2021 state legislative session and authored by Rep. Sam Watson of Moultrie, provides for Referendum B to be included on the 2022 ballot, asking Georgia voters if they support expanding the ad valorem tax exemption currently offered to family farms across the state.
These days many family farms are going into business with one another to purchase large pieces of equipment or even to share a herd of cattle. This lowers farmers’ upfront costs and allows them to purchase the things they need for their daily operations. Right now, when two of these independently qualifying family farms merge to form one entity, they can no longer receive the tax exemption they previously had.
If Georgia voters pass Referendum B with a majority “Yes” vote in November, Georgia tax code would be amended to allow a farm entity made up of two people, who individually qualify for this ad valorem exemption, to remain eligible once they have merged. This would reflect the way many farms are currently structured.
This will not only benefit the farm families who grow the things we rely on every day, but it will also greatly benefit all Georgia consumers who depend on the products farmers provide by lowering production costs. It will especially help beginning farmers seeking to enter agriculture with the major investment required to get started.
Referendum B on the ballot will read as follows:
“Shall the Act be approved which expands a state-wide exemption from ad valorem taxes for agricultural equipment and certain farm products held by certain entities to include entities comprising two or more family-owned farm entities, and which adds dairy products and unfertilized eggs of poultry as qualified farm products with respect to such exemption?”
Whether you’re enjoying fresh food on your table, clothes on your back, or a roof over your head, a family farm is usually to thank for these necessities of life.
This fall when you head to the polls, thank a farmer by voting to support this greatly needed change that will play a small role in helping lower the financial burden on both farmers and consumers.
Jake Matthews is a governmental affairs specialist in the GFB Public Policy Department. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 478-474-8411, ext. 5286.