Georgia’s farmers are hurting and need help in terms of federal disaster aid, Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) leaders told federal lawmakers during the 2019 County Presidents’ Trip to D.C. The group also expressed concerns about implementation of the 2018 farm bill, agricultural labor, international trade and regulatory reform.
Almost 100 GFB members and staff took the trip April 30-May 2.
“In order to fulfill our mission, we need to go and meet with our legislators, discuss the issues, carry our wishes and let our voices be heard,” GFB President Gerald Long said. “It’s still as true today as it was in 1937. We had great meetings. We’ve got a lot of issues facing us, but the key thing was the disaster aid.”
The annual trip gave GFB members a chance to meet with Georgia’s congressional delegation, featured policy briefings with American Farm Bureau Federation staff members, remarks from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and visits to Capitol Hill.
GFB members urged their representatives to pass disaster assistance legislation to help Georgia farmers recover from Hurricane Michael, which did about $2.5 billion in damage to Georgia agriculture last October. Many farmers in the storm’s path are struggling, with Michael’s damage compounding the effects of years of low commodity prices.
“Sometimes Mother Nature deals you a tough hand, and we had one last year,” Sen. David Perdue told the GFB group. “This is a generational issue. If somebody loses the farm, it’s hard for the next generation to come back and get it back.”
Perdue and other members of the Georgia congressional delegation expressed frustration that bills to provide disaster assistance funding have failed to get through Congress.
GFB members asked the delegation to monitor the USDA’s implementation of the 2018 farm bill to ensure it is completed appropriately and in a timely manner.
Immigration reform as it relates to ag labor was another key topic. GFB members asked Congress to develop a new ag guest worker program or enact reforms to the current H-2A program.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a new definition of “Waters of the U.S.” in December and accepted public comments from Feb. 14 to April 15. The GFB group asked members of Congress to evaluate the new rule and its potential impact on Georgia farmers.
GFB members also asked representatives to work for a permanent solution on the Department of Transportation’s rules regarding the number of hours drivers can be on the road and the use of electronic devices to track hours driven.
Transporters of livestock and insects have a temporary exemption from the rules, but farmers need a permanent solution that balances road safety with the unique needs of ag transportation.