Legislative Session Report Week 10

June 27, 2020


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GEORGIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY COMPLETES HISTORIC 2020 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

The General Assembly declared sine die last night after using the full eleven days it had remaining in the 2020 Legislative Session. Like many predicted, the legislature's top priorities for the remaining days included passing the FY21 budget, reflecting a 10% cut across the board, and passing a hate crimes bill, which Governor Kemp signed into law on Friday. 

 

Georgia agriculture saw success this week as Senate Bill 211 passed the House on Thursday. The bill - which passed the Senate during the 2019 session - calls for truth in labeling, prohibiting companies from referring to plant-based or lab-grown product as "meat." Proper labeling of protein substances has been a priority issue for Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) for many years, and we worked diligently with a number of agriculture and retail groups across the state to craft a bill that would satisfy all affected parties. We applaud the hard work and diligence of Senator Tyler Harper who carried this bill through the legislature over the past two years.

 

As you are aware, House Bill 545, the Right to Farm Bill, passed out of the Senate last week with an amendment that removed many of the protections that our current law had in place. Due in large part to party-line disagreement, House Bill 545 did not make it to a conference committee where it could have once again been amended, and with the conclusion of the 2020 Legislative Session, the bill ultimately died. The 2021 Legislative Session will mark the first year of a new biennium, complete with a new slate of legislators, and GFB staff will spend the off-season dedicated to wordsmithing a new bill to send through the proper channels as the legislature reconvenes in January. While this was not the outcome we hoped for, we could not be more appreciative of the many calls, emails, and visits that our members made to their legislators over the past two sessions. Your efforts helped us to continue moving the needle in the right direction, and your dedication did not go unnoticed.

 

Stay tuned for a final recap of the 2020 Legislative Session next week. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to any of our Public Policy Department staff.


BILLS OF INTEREST THAT SAW PASSAGE THIS SESSION

HB 777: Tall Mass Timber Construction
Reps. Corbett, Burns, McCall, England, Smith, LaRiccia
This bill would allow for the Department of Community Affairs to review the 2021 International Building Code so as to consider amending the state minimum standard codes to allow tall mass timber construction types.
Passed the House on 2/20/20. Senate Adopted on 6/16/20.

HB 847: Hemp Regulation Updates
Reps. Corbett, McCall, Dickey, Pruett, and Gilliard
This update to the hemp legislation that was passed last legislative session makes technical adjustments to comply with federal rules, creates a new license for a hemp nursery grower allowing sale to another permittee, sets the initial processor permit fee at $25,000, increases the automatic renewal fee from $10,000 to $50,000 after the first calendar year, and establishes a sampling test requirement prior to harvest.
Passed the House by Substitute on 3/05/20. Senate Adopted on 6/22/20.

HB 897: Uniform Timber Harvest Ordinance
Reps. Burchett, Burns, McCall, Corbett, Rhodes, Watson
This would provide for a uniform timber harvest ordinance statewide and establish a statewide notification process by the Georgia Forestry Commission. 
Passed the House on 3/04/20. Senate Adopted by Substitute on 6/22/20. House Agreed to Senate Substitute on 6/25/20.

HB 966: Regulating the Harvest and Sale of Palmetto Berries
Sens. Burchett, Corbett, Pirkle, McCall, Ridley, Rhodes
This bill would regulate the harvest, sale, and personal home use of palmetto berries. 
Passed the House by Substitute on 3/03/20. Senate Adopted by Substitute on 6/19/20. House Agreed to Senate Substitute on 6/25/20.

HB 1057: Regulation of Soil Amendments
Reps. Rhodes, Fleming, Erwin, Frye
This bill would authorize further regulation of soil amendments derived from industrial by-products by local governments.
Passed the House by Substitute on 3/12/20. Senate Adopted on 6/25/20.

HB 1093: Establishing an Agricultural Commodity Commission for Wine and Grapes
Reps. Meeks, McCall, Pirkle, Ridley, Watson
This bill would allow for the establishment of an Agricultural Commodity Commission for Wine and Grapes.
Passed the House on 3/12/20. Senate Adopted by Substitute on 6/23/20. House Agreed to Senate Substitute on 6/25/20.

SB 211: Meat Labeling
Sens. Harper, Wilkinson, Black, Anderson, Walker, Heath
This bill will prohibit the sale and advertisement of nonanimal and non-slaughtered animal flesh from being called meat.
Passed the Senate on 3/7/19. House Adopted by Substitute on 6/25/20. Senate Agreed to House Substitute on 6/25/20.

SB 346: State Board of Veterinary Medicine
Sens. Black, Burke, Anderson, Harrell, Payne
This bill would allow for the addition of a veterinary technician to the State Board of Veterinary Medicine as well as provide a professional health program for impaired veterinarians.
Passed the Senate on 3/03/20. House Adopted on 6/19/20.

SB 358: Muscadine as State Grape
Sens. Harper, Sims, Burke, Walker, Black, Karinshak
This bill would designate the muscadine grape as the official state grape.
Passed the Senate on 3/10/20. House Adopted on 6/19/20.

SB 362: Livestock Straying
Sens. Wilkinson, Anderson, Harper, Burke, Rahman
This bill would change the fees for impounding animals and disposing of impounding animals that are running at large or straying.
Passed the Senate on 2/28/20. House Adopted on 6/17/20.

SB 381: Georgia Food Act
Sens. Kirkpatrick, Burke, Black, Walker, Wilkinson, Rahman
This would deem certain information obtained by the Department of Agriculture from the Federal Food and Drug Administration confidential and not subject to disclosure.
Passed the Senate on 3/10/20. House Adopted on 6/26/20.


REMAINING BILLS OF INTEREST THAT DID NOT SEE PASSAGE THIS SESSION

HB 23: EMC Authorization to Provide Broadband Services
Reps. Houston, Powell, England, Watson, Corbett, and Greene
House Bill 23 is another bill to come out of the Rural Development Council. This bill authorizes electric membership corporations (EMC) to establish or partner with another entity to provide broadband services to its members independent from its electrical services. This bill will also allow for EMCs to apply for federal grants to provide broadband.
Passed the House on 2/11/19. Assigned to Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities.

HB 455: Georgia Agriculture Marketing Authority
Reps. Houston, England, McCall, Gilliard, and Stovall
This bill creates the Georgia Agriculture Marketing Authority, the purpose of the authority is to manage the facilities and activities of farmers markets. The Authority will market and promote agricultural products to agribusinesses and the public in an effort to boost the state's economy.
Passed the House on 3/5/19. Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.

HB 545: Right to Farm
Reps. McCall, Burns, England, Watson, Pirkle, and Dickey
This legislation seeks to strengthen and protect farmers from loopholes in our states right to farm laws. This clarification in language helps producers by clearing up language that is vague and could be interpreted in ways detrimental to agriculture.
Passed the House on 3/7/19. Senate Adopted by Substitute on 6/18/20.

HB 690: Exempting Agricultural Structures From Permitting Fees
Reps. Burchett, McCall, Pirkle, Rhodes, Corbett
This bill seeks to exempt agricultural structures from excess permitting fees.
Passed the House by Substitute on 3/12/20.

HB 829: Authorize Reduction of Residential Homestead Property Assessment
Reps. Stephens and Harrell
This bill would allow for local governments to hold a referendum to reduce the 40% assessment of residential homestead property owned by those aged 65 or older to only 20%. This would only apply to local school district taxes for educational purposes. 
Passed the House by Substitute on 3/03/20. Assigned to Senate Finance Committee on 3/04/20.

HB 886: Animal Microchips and Reporting
Reps. Welch, McCall, Knight
This bill would require veterinarians or veterinary technicians that provide treatment to animals to scan such animals' microchips and to report ownership information under certain circumstances.
Passed the House on 3/12/20.

HB 1015: Georgia Carbon Sequestration Registry Tax Credits
Reps. Wiedower, Burns, Smith, Jones, Corbett, and Gaines
Allows for building materials and timber products to be included in the Georgia Carbon Sequestration Registry for tax credits.
Passed the House by Substitute on 3/12/20.

SB 338: Animal Protection
Sens. Kirkpatrick, Black, Walker, Cowsert, Anderson, Sims
This bill would require licenses for pet dealers, kennels, stables, etc., and would also allow the Commissioner to promulgate rules and regulations for animal protection.  
Passed the Senate on 3/10/20.

SB 396: Pecan as State Nut
Sens. Walker, Wilkinson, Black, Anderson, Hill, Burke
This bill would designate the pecan as the official state nut.
Passed the Senate on 3/02/20. House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Favorably Reported on 6/24/20.

SB 407: Regulating the Harvest and Sale of Palmetto Berries
Sens. Harper, Heath, Burke, Harrell, Ginn
This bill would regulate the harvest, sale, and personal home use of palmetto berries. 
Natural Resources and Environment Favorably Reported by Substitute on 3/04/20. House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Favorably Reported on 6/17/20.


 

NINTH CIRCUIT UPHOLDS EPA'S DICAMBA CANCELLATION ORDER

Last week, the Ninth Circuit denied an emergency motion to vacate EPA’s Cancellation Order, including the order allowing use of existing stocks of dicamba purchased before June 3. Potentially more telling of what is to come, the Court also directed further briefing on whether its June 3 order vacating three dicamba registrations should be recalled. The decision should allow farmers more time to apply dicamba this season and signals that the Court is reconsidering certain critical aspects of its June 3 decision. 

For background, here is a brief timeline of the major events related to the Ninth Circuit’s decision:

  • June 3: The Ninth Circuit vacates the registrations for three dicamba herbicides – Bayer’s Xtendimax, BASF’s Engenia, and Corteva’s FeXapan – on the basis that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in its conditional approvals by, among other things, not adequately estimating dicamba damage.
  • June 5: The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) calls on EPA to allow farmers who have already purchased dicamba products to use existing stocks this season.
  • June 8: EPA issues a Cancellation Order that allows stocks of dicamba purchased before June 3 to be used until July 31.
  • June 11: The Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity (eNGOs) files an emergency motion to vacate the Cancellation Order and hold EPA in contempt of court.
  • June 12: BASF and duPont separately request to intervene in the case.
  • June 16: AFBF and a coalition of national grower trade associations asks the Court to reject the emergency motion. The amicus brief argues that vacating EPA’s Cancellation Order (and existing stock order) would cause growers immense harm and explains the necessity for farmers to be able to rely on EPA’s registration process when making their planting decisions.
  • June 16: BASF opposes the eNGOs’ emergency motion to vacate the Cancellation Order. At the end of the motion, BASF requests that the Court recall its June 3 order.
  • June 19: The eNGOs oppose AFBF’s amicus brief, asking the Court to refuse the brief.
  • June 19: The Ninth Circuit denies the emergency motion and orders further briefing on whether its June 3 order should be reconsidered. The Court also accepts AFBF grower coalition brief.

JUNE 30 LAST DAY TO COMPLETE ENROLLMENT FOR 2020 AGRICULTURE RISK COVERAGE, PRICE LOSS COVERAGE PROGRAM

Agricultural producers who have not yet enrolled in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for 2020 must do so by June 30. Although program elections for the 2020 crop year remain the same as elections made for 2019, all producers need to contact their local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to sign a 2020 enrollment contract.

To date, more than 1.4 million ARC and PLC contracts have been signed for the 2020 crop year. This represents 89 percent of expected enrollment. FSA will send reminder postcards to producers who, according to agency records, have not yet submitted signed contracts for ARC or PLC for the 2020 crop year.

Producers who do not complete enrollment by close of business local time on Tuesday, June 30 will not be enrolled in ARC or PLC for the 2020 crop year and will be ineligible to receive a payment should one trigger for an eligible crop.

ARC and PLC contracts can be mailed or emailed to producers for signature depending on producer preference. Signed contracts can be mailed or emailed back to FSA or, arrangements can be made in advance with FSA to drop off signed contracts at the FSA county office – call ahead for local drop off and other options available for submitting signed contracts electronically.

Producers are eligible to enroll on farms with base acres for the following commodities: barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium- and short-grain rice, safflower seed, seed cotton, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. 

More Information 

For more information on ARC and PLC including web-based decision tools, visit farmers.gov/arc-plc.

USDA Service Centers, including FSA county offices, are open for business by phone only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.               

Visit offices.usda.gov to find location and contact information for the nearest FSA county office.


IFARM. IVOTE.

This year is a significant one in Georgia as we are positioned to elect a President and not one, but two, U.S. Senators, as well as a number of U.S. Representatives. As Election Day nears, Georgia Farm Bureau's Public Policy team will keep you up to date on what is happening in the political arena to ensure that you are prepared to make well-educated, informed decisions at the ballot box. 

2020 Election Guide
Over the coming weeks, Public Policy staff will be working with candidates for both state and federal races to complete a 2020 Election Guide. The guide will feature the remaining candidates for State House, State Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate.  Candidates will be provided with questionnaires that ask them to elaborate on their positions on ag policy within the state. As we receive completed questionnaires, we will be sharing them to our I Farm. I Vote. website so that you can make an informed decision when you go to the ballot box this fall. 

Each county Farm Bureau has been provided with an I Farm. I Vote. starter kit of materials for this year's campaign. If you are interested in receiving any of these materials, please reach out to your county office. More information on the I Farm. I Vote. initiative can be found on our website.


KEEP UP WITH WHAT'S "GROWING ON" IN GEORGIA AGRICULTURE

Hosted by John Holcomb, Jay Stone, and Katie Duvall, "Growing On" is a new podcast produced by Georgia Farm Bureau, covering agriculture related issues and topics to help promote and advocate for Georgia agriculture as well as educate consumers about the production of food and modern farming practices. 

Listen Now


CENSUS 2020: YOU FARM. YOU COUNT.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline to respond to the 2020 Census has been extended to October 31. Georgia is currently ranked 36th out of all states in the U.S. in terms of response rate. It is imperative that we encourage our Farm Bureau members and local communities to participate in the census as data derived from the short, ten-question survey helps to determine legislative districts and representation as well as funding towards many projects and initiatives important to Georgia’s communities.

Rural Georgia in particular is seeing a significant undercount. While access to reliable internet may play into this discrepancy, there are currently three total ways that the census can be taken. Those include:

As of June 16, Hancock County had the state’s lowest rate at 24.5% and Fayette County had the state’s highest rate at 73.3%. To see where your county ranks, click here


Public Policy Department Staff

Jeffrey Harvey, Director
Joe McManus, Assistant Director
Alex Bradford, State Affairs Coordinator
Raynor Churchwell, Agricultural Programs Specialist
Tripp Cofield, National Policy Counsel
Katie Duvall, Advocacy and Policy Development Coordinator
Renee Jones, Office Coordinator
Blake Raulerson, Governmental Affairs Specialist
Jeremy Taylor, Agricultural Programs Specialist

 

 

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