Members advocate for ag during GFB Day at the Capitol
Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau
Georgia Farm Bureau again proved it’s the “Voice of Georgia Farmers” as members traveled en masse to Atlanta from across the state Feb. 13 for Georgia Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol. The annual event gives GFB members a chance to meet with their legislators to discuss issues impacting their farms.
“We’re working on numerous issues that impact our farms back home. Georgia Farm Bureau is well-respected at the capitol and that’s because of the work you do back in your counties and the relationships you have with your legislators,” GFB President Gerald Long told GFB members attending the orientation meeting at the Georgia Depot down the street from the capitol. (For photos from GFB Day at the Capitol visit www.gfb.photos/18GFBDayCapitol.)
Priority issues GFB is addressing during this session of the Georgia General Assembly include: protection of the integrity of both the Georgia Agricultural Sales Tax Exemption (GATE) and the Conservation Use Value Assessment (CUVA) programs; retaining farmers’ access to water and working with regulatory agencies to implement control strategies that protect farmers’ crops from damage caused by feral hogs and deer; securing legislation that requires a state approved veterinarian familiar with livestock practices be consulted when animal cruelty charges are filed against a farmer; and legislation that addresses economic development issues rural Georgia is experiencing. stability of our farms. Water continues to be a priority issue as we wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue their ruling on the Florida lawsuit against Georgia, and so Farm Bureau continues to support legislative efforts to fulfill the original intent of the state agriculture water metering program as a management tool for farmers without infringing on private property rights,” Long said.
GFB is working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on improving the availability of deer depredation permits available to farmers who need help controlling deer that eat crop plants as they emerge.
GFB is supporting Sen. Bill Heath’s S.B. 257, which would require government entities to consult with a veterinarian approved by the Georgia Department of Agriculture to confirm if reported mistreatment of animals is abuse or is in accordance with standard livestock practices before criminal animal cruelty charges can be filed.
Thanks to Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) and Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa) resolutions declaring Feb. 13 as GFB Day at the Capitol were read in both the House and Senate Chambers. President Long and GFB Vice Presidents Robert Fountain Jr., Daniel Johnson and Bernard Sims accompanied Long to each chamber where GFB was recognized. Long had the privilege of addressing each chamber to discuss the contributions agriculture makes to Georgia’s economy.
After visiting with their legislators at the capitol, GFB members reconvened at the Georgia Depot for lunch with their elected officials. Gov. Nathan Deal addressed the group, thanking GFB for what it does as an organization to represent Georgia’s farmers. He applauded the GFB Foundation for Agriculture for its work to educate students about how their food is grown. Deal outlined what his administration has done to help the economies of rural Georgia during his eight years in office.
“My administration has invested more than 100 million dollars to ensure rural students have access to high speed internet so they are not left behind. In 2017, eighty percent of the economic projects brought to Georgia were outside metro Atlanta that will provide economic opportunities and employment,” Deal said.
Deal said his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year includes $125 million to improve equipment and runways at 11 airports across Georgia to allow corporate planes to travel more readily to rural areas.
“We believe by extending runways and improving equipment so company jets can visit communities that could be potential site for businesses we can bring development to rural Georgia,” Deal said.
Since 2011, when he took office, the One Georgia Authority has invested more than $100 million in rural Georgia, which has created or retained 25,000 jobs in rural communities, Deal said.
To ensure the vitality and future growth of their rural communities, Deal encouraged Farm Bureau members to get involved with their local school systems, to look at the test scores and graduation rates of students and the number of high school graduates getting into colleges and universities. Deal stressed that having a strong school system is key to attracting new businesses to communities.
Deal also encouraged Farm Bureau members to mentor bright students and encourage them to come back to their home communities to practice medicine, law or dentistry.
“Many of your young people may not go directly into agriculture, but they may go back to a rural community and work in another field as a doctor or lawyer,” Deal said. “The best way you are assured of getting the doctors you need is to have students return to the communities where they were raised and have family.”