GFB meetings cover deer damage, CDL exemptions, WOTUS, farm bill
By Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau
Georgia Farm Bureau continued holding spring meetings for its commodity advisory committees with the GFB Peanut, Equine and Feedgrain/Soybean Committees meeting in Macon the last week of March. The committees discussed production and policy issues affecting their respective commodities. Committee members also recommended speakers for the organization's upcoming commodity conference set for Aug. 10 in Athens and made nominations for the GFB Commodity Award, which honors a long-serving individual who has had a significant impact on Georgia agriculture. The award will be presented at the GFB Commodity Conference
Feedgrain/Soybean Committee discusses deer crop damage permits
Crop yield and economic loss farmers are experiencing from deer eating row crop plants, especially soybeans, corn, wheat, cotton and peanuts was the main topic discussed at the GFB Feedgrain/Soybean Commodity Committee on March 30.
Several farmers quantified the impact deer damage is having on their farms. One said deer destroyed 80 acres of his soybean crop last year, never letting the plants get above 3 inches tall. Another explained that having to replant seed after deer destroy a first planting costs at least $100 an acre.
Committee Chairman Jesse Patrick, of Putnam County, welcomed Charlie Killmaster, the state deer biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division, to the meeting. Killmaster shared steps the DNR is taking to help farmers combat crop damage from deer.
Farmers with a deer crop damage problem can visit www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com to apply for a "deer crop damage permit” that allows the applicant and up to six other people to shoot deer during the growing season caught in fields with a growing crop that the applicant has registered. Farmers can register up to 32 fields on one permit.
Killmaster encourages farmers to apply for the permits before they plant their crops, so they have the permits when their crops begin to emerge, and the deer start grazing their crops. but the DNR accepts permit applications throughout the crop growing season. Most of the permits expire before firearm deer season begins in mid-October.
When applying for a damage permit, farmers will supply information such as number of total acres under cultivation and a description of crop damage deer have caused in past years. Applicants will identify the locations of the fields they want to register on the permit using a satellite map feature that is part of the online application.
Most crop damage permits allow a farmer or his assistants to shoot up to 10 deer, but if you are still experiencing deer damage after meeting that limit, Killmaster said farmers can reapply for another permit.
Farmers who have had multiple years of crop damage and know they will need to shoot more than 10 deer may request a higher number within reason for the acreage they are registering. To do this, farmers should explain why they are requesting more than 10 tags in the section of the permit form where they describe their crop damage.
Farmers applying for a damage permit can list up to six assistants who will be allowed to shoot deer caught damaging crops in the registered fields under the permit. Applicants will need the legal name of each assistant as it appears on an official form of ID such as a driver’s license or social security card and the person’s ID number on the ID
Killmaster said DNR staff aim to review submitted permit applications within 24 hours during the work week. If the form isn’t correctly completed, DNR staff will reach out to you. Once the permit is approved, applicants and assistants listed on the permit must carry a printed copy of the permit with them any time they shoot deer in the registered fields during growing season to control crop damage.
Deer caught grazing harvested fields are not eligible to be shot under the damage permit. Farmers applying for the crop damage permit do not need to have a Georgia hunting license. During hunting season, landowners don’t need a license to hunt property they own but do need a deer harvest record, which is free.
Deer control activities, such as spotlighting or scanning with a thermal scope, cannot be conducted while on a public road. Firearms cannot be discharged from, across, or within 50 yards of a public road.
While the application to receive a deer crop damage permit must be completed online, Killmaster said people can call 1-800-366-2661 to request help with navigating the online application.
Equine Committee reviews CDL farm exemptions
Georgia Farm Bureau Equine Advisory Committee members discussed the need to increase awareness of the MAP-21 commercial driver’s license farm exemptions during its March 27 meeting. Committee Chairman Gary Walker, of Tift County, led the meeting.
Visit https://www.gfb.org/advocacy/map-21.cms for more information on the CDL exemptions for farmers, their employees or family members hauling commodities anywhere in Georgia and up to 150 miles from their farm outside the state.
The online form that must be completed for the Georgia Department of Public Safety to get the exemption is accessible at the weblink above. You must also keep a printed copy of the completed form in the truck for which an exemption is sought. A covered farm vehicle that is eligible for the MAP-21 CDL farm exemption is a vehicle that:
1. Is operated by a farm owner, or an employee or family member of the farmer.
2. Transports agricultural commodities, livestock or machinery or supplies to and from a farm or ranch.
3. Is NOT operated for-hire (hauling for others for compensation).
4. Must NOT transport hazardous materials in quantities requiring the display of hazardous material warning placards.
Other MAP-21 CDL farm exemptions include:
• 26,000 pounds or less can be operated anywhere in the U.S. under the MAP-21 Exemption.
• Between 26,000-80,000 pounds can be operated anywhere in Georgia. Such vehicles may also be operated across state lines within 150 miles of the farm or ranch.
• Although the MAP-21 exemption allows for travel into other states, other states may not immediately adopt and implement the exemptions in the same way. Be sure to know the regulations before entering other states.
The MAP-21 farm exemptions do not exempt farmers from:
• Size and weight restrictions. Farm vehicles must abide by posted weight and load limits on roads and bridges.
• Covered Farm Vehicles remain subject to inspection by commercial vehicle enforcement officers and other law enforcement personnel. Vehicles must enter weight and inspection stations when they are open.
• MAP-21 does not exempt Farm Vehicles from registration, fuel tax and vehicle marking requirements.
• U.S. DOT number is required.
• Although operators of a covered farm vehicle are not required to hold a CDL, a Georgia operator is still required to have the applicable Georgia driver’s license specific to the vehicle operated. (Proper Class)
Committees receive WOTUS update
GFB Public Policy Department Director Alex Bradford gave the committee an update on the ’23 session of the Georgia General Assembly, which ended March 29. Bradford discussed Senate Bill 220, the Georgia Farmland Conservation Act, which will create a program housed in the Georgia Department of Agriculture that allows state money, private donations and federal matching dollars to fund the purchase of development rights on farmland.
Bradford also discussed options Farm Bureau and other ag groups are pursuing to block the 2023 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule that went into effect March 20. The latest rule, pushed by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and supported by President Biden, exceeds statutory authority originally granted to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution in the definition of navigable waters and given to the two agencies under the Clean Water Act. Farm Bureau and other ag organizations succeeded in getting the U.S. Senate to pass a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval of the new WOTUS rule on March 29 as the U.S. House did on March 9.
AFBF is now encouraging President Joe Biden to accept the recommendation of Congress and repeal the newly implemented WOTUS rule. Although President Biden is not expected to repeal the rule, the resolutions of disapproval Congress passed could serve to strengthen the lawsuits several states, including Georgia, have filed to halt the implementation of the rule.
Portions of the new rule could be rendered non-applicable depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the case Sackett v. EPA, which will determine if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit outlined the proper test for determining if wetlands are “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.
Peanut Committee discusses farm bill, NPB & research techs
The Georgia Farm Bureau Peanut Commodity Committee, chaired by John Harrell of Grady County, met March 27, at the GFB office in Macon. Committee members discussed the upcoming farm bill, received an update on National Peanut Board (NPB) and Georgia Peanut Commission activities.
Committee member Andy Bell, of Decatur County, stressed the need for the peanut reference price in the new farm bill to be raised from its current $535/ton to $667/ton to account for the rise in production costs farmers have experienced since the last farm bill was passed in 2018. Bell traveled to Washington in March 21-23 with the Georgia Peanut Commission to discuss the peanut program in the upcoming farm bill.
The reference price that peanut growers seek in the new farm bill is based on production cost data Dr. Stanley Fletcher, who is professor of policy at the Georgia Rural Center for Prosperity & Innovation, has calculated based on aggregate data collected from all U.S. peanut producing states running from New Mexico thru Texas up to Oklahoma & Missouri and all Southeastern peanut producing states up to Virginia.
“A guaranteed price of $535 a ton sounds pretty good, but not when everything we use to produce our crop has gone up,” Bell said. “We don’t need to raise the loan rate for peanuts and not raise the target reference price. I think we’ve got a lot of people who want to help us, we’ve just got to have everyone in Congress working together.”
Committee member Wesley Webb, who serves as Georgia’s alternate board member on the NPB, reported that the NPB is working to promote peanuts to consumers on multiple social media platforms and is working with Atlanta chefs to get them to feature peanuts or peanut butter in dishes served at their restaurants. He said the NPB is also working to educate parents and schools about peanut allergy research that show peanuts don’t have to be completely banned from school menus to protect those with allergies. Visit https://www.nationalpeanutboard.org to learn more about the work NPB is doing.
Webb said peanut growers benefit from research NPB has funded on crop diseases such as tomato spotted wilt virus and white mold. He encouraged farmers to vote to continue funding the NPB during the referendum to be held April 8-19, 2024.
“We do need a National Peanut Board,” Webb said. “It’s benefiting us as farmers with the work it does promoting the nutrition benefits of peanuts to consumers.”
Georgia Peanut Commission Project Coordinator Justin Odom said the GPC worked to secure funding in the state budget for three technicians to work exclusively with the UGA Peanut Team. The GFB Public Policy team reported in its March 31 Legislative Report that the final state budget included $245,000 for three research technicians to support the Peanut Breeding and Extension Team.
Odom reported that the GPC kicked off its month-long observance of March as National Peanut Month by hosting the 2023 PB&J Day at the Georgia Capitol on March 1. The GPC and National Peanut Buying Points Association served 1,200 grilled PB&Js halves, fried peanuts and peanut candy to legislators and capitol visitors.
“I don’t know how many people came up to us and told us this is their favorite day at the Capitol,” Odum said. “We also used peach jelly to stay with the Georgia theme and that got positive feedback.”
GFB’s CACs for tobacco, environmental horticulture, cotton, dairy, fruit, vegetables, honeybees, pecan and direct marketing/agritourism met earlier in March. Other committees are scheduled to meet into May.