Show of strength: Nearly 700 GFB members visit state capitol
By Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau
During the 2023 Georgia Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol event, Sen. Russ Goodman, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, noted that only seven of the 226 representatives and senators in the Georgia General Assembly make their living from production agriculture. Despite that fact, speakers at the event said the state’s agricultural output doesn’t go unnoticed, and GFB is a major reason why.
A total of 677 GFB members representing 97 county Farm Bureaus showed up on Feb. 14 to visit their legislators and deliver pro-agriculture messages on topics that included general ag issues, natural resources and the environment, animal agriculture and taxes/budget.
“This crowd shows how strong an impact Georgia Farm Bureau has all across the state,” GFB President Tom McCall said.
The GFB group heard remarks from Goodman and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Robert Dickey, Gov. Brian Kemp, Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and House Speaker Jon Burns. Each of them praised and thanked the organization for its advocacy efforts and encouraged members to develop and maintain relationships with their legislators.
“Your advocacy and you taking time to show up, it makes a difference for making policy and budget decisions this time of year at the capitol,” said Kemp, who is in the early stages of his second term.
Harper, the state’s 17th agriculture commissioner, noted that Georgia’s farm production is vital not only in the state, but nationally and internationally as well. He emphasized that constant effort is needed to ensure agriculture’s continued success.
Harper referenced a 1956 quote from President Dwight Eisenhower: “You know, farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.”
As government develops and carries out ag policy, Harper urged GFB members to maintain relationships with their legislators.
“Your job is to get to know the person with the pencil,” Harper said. “If we don’t know the person with the pencil, we can’t ensure that our industry continues to be successful. So, I want to challenge you today: Get to know those folks with the pencils.”
Goodman, tabbed by Jones to chair the Senate Ag Committee, voiced deep gratitude for the post.
“I just love the ag community,” Goodman said. “I’ve grown up in it. I was marinated in that South Georgia agriculture and what we believe in, what our values are. Those values are the values that made America great, y’all. I mean, individual endeavor, hard work, sense of family and faith, that’s what this country is built on.”
Dickey shared his experience with the Freedom to Farm Act, which passed last year, providing protections from litigation for farmers. More than 100 county Farm Bureau presidents sent postcards to House and Senate members voicing support of the bill, which Kemp signed into law on April 13, 2022.
“I’ll never forget holding up those cards, 100 and something Farm Bureau presidents, Farm Bureau boards, showing my colleagues in the House before we voted, this is what people back home want, Farm Bureau, every county wants us to vote for it,” Dickey said. “It was a great day.”
Dickey said the Georgia Department of Agriculture is working on guidelines for the Raw Dairy Act passed in the legislature last year and the state has funding to implement it. He also said the committee is focused on continuing support for agricultural education and possible upgrades to the Atlanta state farmers market.
“Rural Georgia and agriculture are intertwined,” Dickey said. “So many things we’ve got to look at and do. All across the board, I just feel like agriculture and agribusiness has really got some support up here.”