GEORGIA FARM BUREAU ANNUAL MEETING
We're celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of Georgia Farm Bureau, and that anniversary is one of the focal points of our annual meeting, taking place through Tuesday at the new Jekyll Island Convention Center. And we're bringing you complete coverage of this year's convention here, on our Facebook page, and through updates on Twitter.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 3rd
Voting delegates at the Georgia Farm Bureau 75th Annual Convention, held Dec. 2-4, on Jekyll Island, re-elected Zippy Duvall of Greene County to his fourth two-year term as president of the state’s largest general farm organization. Irwin County Farm Bureau President Gary Paulk also ran for the position.
In the past six years, Georgia Farm Bureau has worked diligently to ensure the economic viability of Georgia’s farmers. The organization spearheaded a statewide effort to get its members involved in the Statewide Water Management Plan, secured sales tax exemptions for materials used to produce commodities and secured state laws to thwart metal theft. GFB continues to represent farmers’ interests on labor issues and the farm bill.
A Farm Bureau member since 1977, Duvall, 56, and his wife, Bonnie, raise broilers, hay and beef cattle on their farm in Greene County. Duvall currently serves on the Greene County Farm Bureau Board of Directors and has held numerous leadership positions in the county Farm Bureau including president and vice president. In 1982, he was named Georgia Farm Bureau Young Farmer of the Year and went on to be named the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmer of the Year. The Duvalls served on the GFB Young Farmer Committee from 1984-1985 and Zippy served as chairman of the GFB Young committee in 1985. The Duvalls began serving on the AFBF Young Farmer Committee in 1986, and in 1987, Duvall was named chairman of the committee. Duvall was elected to the Georgia Farm Bureau Board of Directors in 2002 as a 4th District director.
In addition to serving as president of the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation and its affiliate companies, he is a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors and of the Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company Board of Directors.
Duvall’s 30 years of community and public service include graduating from the Georgia Agri-Leaders Program and serving as chairman of the Greene County Board of Commissioners. He is a past member of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Agricultural Advisory Committee and the Georgia Association of County Commissioners. He has served on the Georgia Development Authority since 2010 and was appointed to the Essential Economy Council Board of Directors in October.
The Duvalls have four children: Vince and daughter-in-law Erin; Corrie and son-in-law Jared Terry; Zeb and Zellie and two grandchildren. The Duvalls are members of New Hope Baptist Church where Zippy serves as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.
In other elections, voting delegates selected their state board of directors and officers for 2013. Robert Fountain of Emanuel County was re-elected to his second consecutive three-year term as Middle Georgia vice president. Fountain has held the position since 2009 and previously held the position from 1997 to 2006. Fountain represents 56 counties in the mid-part of the state running from the Alabama to the South Carolina state lines.
Fountain has served on numerous GFB administrative advisory committees as a regional vice president and served on the GFB Beef and Hay Committees. He has served as the Emanuel County Farm Bureau president since 2004 and previously served as vice president and county director.
A Farm Bureau member since 1980, Fountain raises cattle, hay, timber, small grains and pecans. He is the third generation of his family to own the family farm located in Emanuel and Johnson counties. The farm was named a Georgia Centennial Family farm earlier this year.
In addition to Farm Bureau, Fountain is an active member of numerous other agricultural organizations including the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association, for which he served as president from 2001-2002. Since 2002, Fountain has represented Georgia Farm Bureau on the Georgia Beef Board. He served on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Board from 2005-2011 by the appointment of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. He has also served on numerous committees for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
In district director races, D.E. “Skeetter” McCorkle of McDuffie County was elected as a GFB 4th District director. McCorkle has served as the McDuffie County Farm Bureau vice president since 1989. He is president of McCorkle Nurseries, a 70-year-old, third generation family business that sells landscaping plants in seven states.
Scotty Raines of Turner County was elected as a GFB 8th District director to serve a one-year unexpired term. Raines started serving on the Turner County Farm Bureau Board of Directors in 1993 as the Young Farmer Chairman and later served as a director. He has served as county president since 2008. He grows cotton, peanuts, grains and raises beef cattle.
Gerald Long of Decatur was re-designated as the organization’s 1st vice president. He begins the third year of his second, three-year term as GFB South Georgia vice president in which capacity he represents 53 counties in South Georgia.
Bernard Sims of Catoosa County begins the second year of his second, three-year term as GFB North Georgia vice president. He was first elected to the position in 2008. Sims represents 49 counties in north Georgia.
The following were re-elected unopposed to serve two-year terms on the Georgia Farm Bureau Board of Directors: Henry J. West of Gordon County, 1st District; Randy Ruff of Elbert County, 2nd District; Nora Goodman of Paulding County, 3rd District; Jim Ham of Monroe County, 5th District; James Emory Tate of Jeff Davis County, 6th District; Ben Boyd of Screven County, 7th District; Don Wood of Wilcox County, 8th District; Lucius Adkins Jr., of Baker County, 9th District and Daniel Johnson, of Pierce County, 10th District.
GFB board members beginning the second year of the two-year term they were elected to in 2011 are: Wesley Hall of Forsyth County, 1st District; Bobby Gunter of Lumpkin County, 2nd District; George Chambers of Carroll County, 3rd District; Marvin Ruark of Morgan County, 4th District; Ralph Adamson of Lamar County, 5th District; James Malone of Laurens County, 6th District; Gary Bell of Evans County, 7th District; Paul Shirah of Mitchell County, 9th District and David Lee of Bacon County, 10th District.
Delegates also voted on policy that will direct the organization’s stance on legislative issues pertaining to agriculture in the upcoming year.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 2nd
The General Session for this year's convention got underway on Monday morning with GFB President Zippy Duvall's annual address.
Mr. Duvall urged Congress to take action during the lame duck session to prevent federal estate taxes from rising on Jan. 1, 2013. Rising estate taxes pose a threat to the ability of Georgia farm families being able to pass their farms from one generation to the next because families may be forced to sell land, buildings or equipment to pay taxes due on the death of an owner.
“Federal estate taxes threaten our farms, and unless Congress acts soon, many farm families could be faced with some very difficult financial decisions if there is a death in their family,” Duvall said. “We urge a lower tax rate with increased exemptions indexed to inflation.”
The current federal estate tax exemption is $5 million per person with a top rate of 35 percent. Unless Congress acts before Jan. 1, the exemption will be reduced to $1 million per person and the top rate increases to 55 percent.
An analysis compiled by the American Farm Bureau using USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service data shows 664 Georgia farms would be subject to some level of federal estate tax at the current $5 million exemption. If the exemption level drops to $1 million, an estimated 7,469 Georgia farms would be affected.
Based on 2012 farm real estate values, USDA statistics show that farms larger than 286 acres would exceed the $1 million exemption level that goes into effect Jan. 1. It would take a farm of about 1,429 acres to reach the current $5 million exemption.
Duvall told the GFB members that the organization continues to monitor the status of the pending farm bill in Congress.
“We have remained engaged in the farm bill discussion in both the House and Senate. Sen. Chambliss invited Georgia Farm Bureau to speak at a farm bill forum in Jesup in March where we offered Farm Bureau’s perspective on the issue,” Duvall said. “Farm Bureau continues to work for an adequate safety net for Georgia farmers.”
Duvall also mentioned House Bill 386, and the provision that created the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE) program, which GFB supported.
“This new program includes exemptions for input costs for energy, equipment parts, trailers and more in addition to the existing exemptions for seed, feed, fertilizer, chemicals and equipment,” Duvall said. “GATE is a wonderful program for farmers, and I encourage you to apply for your card before the program goes into effect January 1.”
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal also spoke on Monday morning. Gov. Deal gave the GFB members an overview of tax reform legislation, House Bill 386, passed by the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year. In addition to eliminating sales taxes on energy used in manufacturing and the “birthday tax” Georgia residents have been paying when they renew their car tags each year by their birthday, the bill also expands existing sales tax exemptions on products used to produce farm commodities.
Deal acknowledged the role Georgia Farm Bureau played in securing expanded sales tax exemptions for farmers saying, “Your Farm Bureau leadership was critical in making the importance of your case known to the General Assembly. Without Farm Bureau’s voice being added, this particular part of the tax reform package probably would not have been included.”
Deal said the ag sales tax exemptions will be good for Georgia.
“If we can make your crops less expensive to produce, that will make you more competitive when you sell your commodities, and I think you will help us create jobs, and that, of course, is one of our main needs,” Deal said.
Deal also highlighted other bills beneficial to agriculture that the General Assembly passed this year and he signed into law. He noted legislation that increases the punishment for metal theft and makes metal buyers more accountable for verifying that metal they buy is not stolen.
“I know irrigation systems and poultry houses have been targets of metal theft, so hopefully this bill will lessen the incidence of these occurrences,” Deal said.
He also noted that the minimum acreage to qualify for the Conservation Use Valuation Assessment program that taxes farm and timber land on its current use rather than its fair market use was reset to 10 acres. Another provision was added to allow landowners who purchase land adjacent to property currently enrolled in a CUVA covenant to add the new purchase to the existing covenant if the newly acquired land is less than 50 acres.
“I think this is important for us to be able to continue to preserve our productive agriculture land which helps us to remain a state where agriculture is the number one industry,” Deal said.
Deal commended agriculture for the contributions it makes to Georgia’s economy and the success of the Port of Savannah.
“Agriculture exports are a major part of the overall economy of our state and are one of the reasons our Port of Savannah remains one of the very few in the United States that has more exports than imports,” Deal said, noting that Georgia pecans have been discovered by the rest of the world and are now being shipped to China and India.
Deal said Georgia’s ag export markets are one of the reasons it is crucial that the Port of Savannah be deepened to accommodate the larger ships that will come through the expanded Panama Canal expected to be completed in 2014 or 2015.
“If the ships can’t stop at our port, they will be forced to continue up the East coast, and we will lose out on that business. We will lose out on the efficiency and the economy of reduced shipping costs, and as a result, our state will suffer,” Deal said.
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black also addressed the convention attendees during the general session.
“The Georgia Department of Agriculture has been delighted to be here with you at your 75th convention. There’s a lot to celebrate here in this room. It is a big thing to celebrate 75 years. Congratulations to all of you,” Black said.
Black gave an overview of the GATE program and encouraged farmers to apply for their GATE card before the program goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013. Farmers must apply for a GATE certificate through the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA). Farmers will not receive the sales tax exemption without a GATE card.
“There are going to be those farmers who go to buy a bag of feed on January 7 and don’t have a card,” Black said. “They’re going to be shocked that they have to pay sales tax, but I suppose that will motivate them to go get a card.”
Black encouraged farmers to signup online to help his department be more cost-efficient. About 3,600 farmers have signed up for their GATE cards since enrollment opened Nov. 15 and 90 percent of those signups have been done online, Black said.
Black also described steps the department is taking to market commodities grown in Georgia through its Georgia Grown program, which connects consumers with the farmers who grow their food. Last year the department unveiled a new logo for the program and began using Georgia chefs to promote Georgia commodities. It is also working with school systems to feed students with locally grown food through its Feed My School program. The GDA is working with a Georgia company to get Georgia-grown blueberry juice in Southeast Georgia schools, which will reach about 60,000 students.
“Building the Georgia Grown brand is a real priority for us. We have the best land, ports, and airport in America and because of this I believe you deserve the best Department of Agriculture in America,” Black said.
Brig. Gen. Joe Jarrard, commander of the Georgia Army National Guard, gave GFB members an overview of the Army National Guard’s many programs. Jarrard pointed out that the U.S. National Guard will celebrate its 376th anniversary on Dec. 13 saying, “The Minutemen, the farmer-citizen, is what started our militia, so we have a common thread there.”
Of the 11,100 soldiers who serve in Georgia’s Army National Guard, only about 1,500 are full-time employees, Jarrard said. The remaining troops are guardsmen who serve one weekend a month and a couple of weeks in the summer. Although most members are weekend warriors, Jarrard said National Guard members have never been as prepared as they are today.
“It’s true in Iraq and it’s true in Afghanistan. As you tour the battle field you can’t tell the difference between active, reserve or national guard mainly because everyone’s been over there multiple times during this war on terror the past ten years,” Jarrard said.
In addition to being trained to respond to natural disasters, biological threats and search and rescue missions, two teams of Army National Guard soldiers have served in Afghanistan as part of Agribusiness Development Teams, and a third team will deploy next year.
These teams, members of the 48th Infantry Brigade, are working with Afghan farmers to help them improve their farming practices.
“Afghanistan is way behind us in terms of farming technology. While I was serving in Afghanistan I saw a man plowing with a donkey attached to a stick weighed down by a rock,” Jarrard said. “These teams also include female soldiers who teach the ladies how to raise chickens. It’s a great effort our soldiers are doing.”
Jarrard praised Georgians for the appreciation they show military members.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1st
“This is a milestone convention for Georgia Farm Bureau as we celebrate our 75th anniversary. I’m pleased to announce that Gov. Nathan Deal and Brigadier General Joe Jarrard, commander of the Georgia Army National Guard, will address our members during the general session on Monday morning,” GFB President Zippy Duvall said. “We also have a great lineup of speakers for our commodity conferences on Monday afternoon to discuss production and policy issues impacting the major commodities grown in Georgia.”
The final round of the GFB Young Farmer Discussion Meet took place Sunday afternoon. The four finalists - Matt Bottoms of Pike County, Kyle Dekle of Habersham County, B.J. Marks of Newton County and Clay Talton of Elbert County - were selected during preliminary rounds of the competition held in July at the GFB Young Farmer Conference.
The winner of this contest and the GFB Young Farmer Achievement Contest, which recognizes farmers between the ages of 18-35 for their farming operations, were announced at the awards program on Sunday night. For complete awards coverage, click here.
Awards will also be presented to counties and individuals selected as state winners for various programs completed during the past year to promote agriculture.
GFB will award the organization’s highest honor, the McKemie Award, to a county in each of the organization’s three membership categories for having the best overall Farm Bureau program in its respective category.
Carroll, Cherokee, Coffee, Elbert, Habersham, Henry, Jackson, Madison, Newton and Stephens counties will compete for the McKemie Award in the membership category of more than 2,336 members. Cook, Floyd, Franklin, Greene, Jeff Davis, Monroe, Pike, Polk, Spalding, Troup and Washington counties will compete for the award in the 1,393 to 2,335 member category. Bacon, Crawford, Heard, Jasper, Macon, Screven, Upson and Wilcox counties will compete for the award in the membership category of up to 1,392 members.
Commodity conferences featuring 36 speakers, who will address management and policy issues for the major commodities grown in Georgia, will be held Dec. 3, along with a workshop addressing changing estate tax laws.
Members will celebrate the organization’s 75th anniversary with a dinner on Monday evening. GFB began when 50 farmers from 25 counties formed the United Georgia Farmers during a meeting on July 31, 1937. The organization changed its name to the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation in 1941 after affiliating with the American Farm Bureau Federation in 1939. Since 1937, GFB’s primary goal has been to give farmers a united voice in the legislative arena and provide leadership to Georgia’s agricultural community. Every position that GFB takes on any issue is based on policy approved by Farm Bureau members during the organization’s annual policy development process.
On Tuesday, voting delegates will discuss and approve policy resolutions submitted by county Farm Bureau chapters from across the state. The resolutions the delegates approve will become the organization’s official policy that will guide its legislative efforts next year. Delegates will also elect state officers and the 2013 GFB Board of Directors.