Kemp signs ACC for Citrus, farmland conservation fund into law
Compiled Georgia Farm Bureau
On April 18, Gov. Brian Kemp signed two bills that strengthen Georgia's No. 1 industry at a ceremony in Bainbridge, accompanied by First Lady Marty Kemp, Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper, members of the General Assembly, and leaders from the state's agriculture community. HB 545, carried by Rep. Chas Cannon and Sen. Sam Watson, creates the Agricultural Commodity Commission for Citrus Fruits, and SB 220, carried by Sen. Russ Goodman and Rep. Robert Dickey, creates the Georgia Farmland Conservation Fund.
“I am proud to sign these bills that will boost our state's citrus production and farmland conservation efforts,” Kemp said. “Georgia is home to a diverse and thriving agricultural sector, and citrus is one of our fastest-growing crops. By establishing this commission, we are ensuring that our citrus growers have the resources and representation they need to succeed in the global market. We are also investing in our rural communities by creating a fund that will provide matching grants to protect the land of farming families from development and preserve our state's number one industry.”
Agriculture was front and center on several major issues and was the topic of much discussion during the 40-day 2023 session of the Georgia General Assembly. From final passage of truck weights legislation to the stage being set for further work to be done on ag land preservation, there were many successes this session for advancing Georgia agriculture.
In the final hours, the legislature passed, HB 189, which allows for a total 10% variance to the gross vehicle weight for commercial trucks hauling agriculture and forestry goods. This includes hauling both raw commodities from the farm to further processing and the finished goods to their final retail location. The bill will sunset in 2025, and will need to be readdressed to find a more permanent solution to transportation infrastructure and the hauling of various freight in Georgia.
This year began what is expected to be an ongoing discussion and goal of preserving agricultural land in Georgia and ensuring the future of one of agriculture’s most important resources, the land itself, is protected. SB 220, provides a mechanism in Georgia to help fund further conservation of agricultural land through the voluntary encumberment of development rights on one's farm. In return for giving up those development rights, a farmer would be compensated for a portion of the value of the land which is being encumbered in perpetuity. This is a start to more work that will be done in the coming years to find innovative ways to address the rapid loss of farmland in Georgia.
Next year, more discussion and debate are expected on restricting the foreign ownership of agricultural land by entities that have been deemed to be a foreign adversary by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. HB 452 and SB 132, which propose solutions to the issue at hand, will remain eligible next year for consideration. SB 132 passed in the Senate by a 35-20 vote. These measures seek to address food safety and security in addition to the loss of farmland.
Not receiving final passage this year, but expected to be debated next session, is HB 449. This bill would address a provision in the Conservation Use Value Assessment Program (CUVA) that provides special treatment and reduced breach penalties for property removed from the covenant for solar energy. According to current law, the land being used for solar energy must be removed from the CUVA covenant and the breach penalty is limited to the amount of tax savings on the affected parcel for that year.
On the final day of session, the $32.4 billion FY24 Budget passed with the leadership of Senate and House Appropriations Chairmen Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) and Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin). After much negotiation, the two chambers reconciled the substantial differences in their proposals to agree on a budget very friendly to agriculture.
NOTE: For a comprehensive list of ag-related bills that passed or stayed alive for the 2024 session, click here.