Kemp signs ag bills in event at Dickey Farms
By Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau
Georgia Farm Bureau’s priority bill, the Freedom to Farm Act, and bills to fund a farm to foodbank program and make permanent an elementary ag education program made it to the legislative finish line.
On April 13, Gov. Brian Kemp signed three ag-related bills into law during ceremonies at Dickey Farms in Musella. House Bill 1150, titled the Freedom to Farm Act, which Georgia Farm Bureau championed, was the first. The bill protects farms from nuisance lawsuits after two years of operation, provided they meet environmental and other regulations. The two-year period to protection resets if a farm adds or changes to a concentrated animal feeding operation.
Kemp praised GFB for its efforts to get final approval for HB 1150 and noted that recent events, including the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, have underscored the importance of ensuring agriculture can continue to thrive.
“Agriculture has been the foundation of our economic success,” Kemp said. “Even after all these years of new economy job growth in the No. 1 state for business, agribusiness and agriculture continue, by far, to be our No. 1 industry. That will always be one of the defining traits of the Peach State. Our farming families are now more important than ever before, and that’s one of the many reasons why it’s so crucial that we protect this way of life.”
Rep. Robert Dickey, (R-Musella), chairman of the Georgia House Committee for Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, sponsored the bill, which had five cosponsors and received final passage on April 4, the final day of the 2022 session of the Georgia legislature.
“We pulled together at the capitol this year on many issues just to keep agriculture strong in our state,” Dickey said.
In the Georgia Senate, Larry Walker (R-Perry), led the effort to get HB 1150 passed as chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.
“We started working on this bill in 2019 with Chairman (Tom) McCall and Chairman (John) Wilkinson, and we have finally gotten it over the finish line, and I’m proud today to see the governor’s going to sign it,” Walker said. “I think the pandemic and the supply chain challenges and the food supply challenges we’ve seen over the last two years has made it more evident to the citizens of Georgia how important our farmers are and how important our food supply is, to our food security and also to our national security.”
Walker noted that 85 county Farm Bureau presidents signed a letter to state legislators in support of the bill.
House Bill 1303 authorized permanent funding for elementary agriculture education, which was established as a pilot program in 20 schools beginning in 2020. Making the funding permanent will allow more elementary schools to offer the program.
Senate Bill 396, sponsored by Russ Goodman (R-Cogdell), makes a total of $800,000 available through state funding and a variety of grants for the Farm to Foodbank program.
“We are connecting food banks in need directly with farmers who will benefit from being able to bring more products to market,” Kemp said, adding that Georgia’s food banks will benefit from funding with which to purchase Georgia-grown produce.
The bill was generated in response to food supply issues that were exposed during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when some farms had to resort to discarding their crops and products because normal supply lines were interrupted.