Legislative Session Report Week 11
LEGISLATIVE REPORT WEEK 11
March 25, 2022
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Five More Days
- Freedom to Farm Update
- Raw Milk Subcommittee Meets
- FY23 Budget Update
- Georgia FSA Director Visits House Ag Committee, UGA CAES Hosts Rural Caucus
- GFB Impact Fund
- Action This Week
- Bills of Interest
- Upcoming USDA Program Deadlines
- Not a Member of Georgia Farm Bureau? Join Today!
- Dates to Remember
FIVE MORE DAYS
Spring is in the air and there is light at the end of the tunnel as the Georgia General Assembly wrapped up the week with Legislative Day 35 of 40 on Friday, after meeting for four legislative days and one committee work day this week. Lawmakers will return to Atlanta on Monday for Legislative Day 36. Legislative Day 40, also known as "Sine Die," is slated for Monday, April 4.
Georgia Farm Bureau’s (GFB) priority issues saw action this week as both House Bill 1150, the Freedom to Farm Act, and House Bill 1175, the Raw Dairy Act, were heard again in the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. House Bill 1175 received a do-pass recommendation from the Raw Milk Subcommittee, chaired by Senator Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown). Both bills are expected to be voted on in full committee on Monday afternoon. On Thursday, the committee also reappointed GFB Director Russ Moon as ex-officio member for Georgia’s Agricultural Commodity Commissions.
GFB and its coalition of ag partners under the Gold Dome expect to see a jam-packed final five days of the session, beginning with Monday's Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee meeting. As our priority bills continue to make their way through the legislative process, we encourage you to remain in contact with your elected officials, emphasizing the importance of these issues to the livelihood of you and your families. If you would like talking points on either House Bill 1150 or House Bill 1175, please reach out to the Public Policy Department by replying directly to this email.
Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella), alongside members of the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, marked Tuesday as National Ag Day in the House Chamber, stressing the impact that Georgia agriculture makes on the state and nation. (Photo credit: Georgia House Photo)
FREEDOM TO FARM UPDATE
On Monday, the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee held their second hearing on HB 1150, the Freedom to Farm Act. The committee heard public testimony from many different groups including GFB and other allied agricultural organizations. This GFB legislative priority has been worked on extensively to secure protections for farms against nuisance lawsuits. HB 1150 is a balanced approach to protecting farmers while still giving neighbors the opportunity to object to new agricultural operations. It does away with the ambiguous changed conditions language that does not clearly define when a farm would be afforded protection and replaces it with a definitive time period in which a nuisance suit can be brought. HB 1150 in no way protects bad actors or any farm acting illegally, negligently, or improperly.
Opponents of the bill have continued to push the idea that this legislation would encourage “corporate industrial agricultural operations” to move to Georgia. The fact is that this bill in no way favors large farms over others. It seeks to protect all of Georgia agriculture, 98% of which consists of family owned and operated farms. A farm that is doing everything the right way, in the right place, and in accordance with the law should not have to worry about nuisance lawsuits that have the potential to put them out of business.
The Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee is expected to take up HB 1150 on Monday, March 28th, for a vote. This bill is vital to protecting agriculture and encouraging the future growth of farming in Georgia. We urge you to contact your Senator today and ask them to support Georgia agriculture, support our state's farming families, and support HB 1150.
Now is the time to act.
If you do not know your Senator’s contact information, please click here.
RAW MILK SUBCOMMITTEE MEETS
On Tuesday, the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Raw Milk Subcommittee met to discuss HB 1175, the Georgia Raw Dairy Act. This bill would legalize the sale of raw milk for human consumption in Georgia. Chaired by Sen. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown), the subcommittee heard testimony on the bill from agricultural organizations including GFB. The driving factor behind the bill is the known fact that raw milk is currently being purchased and consumed by humans, under the guise of a "pet milk” label. This milk requires only a permit from the Georgia Department of Agriculture without any safety regulations or testing in place. Under HB 1175, farmers would have a legal way to produce the safest raw milk product possible and a viable market to sell it directly to the consumer. Changes from the version passed out of the House so far include a new warning label and an effective date of January 1, 2023. The committee had a few additional changes they wanted to make before the bill is brought up for a vote. Specifically, they want to ensure the bill would not make it illegal for anyone to consume their own raw milk produced by their own animals. The bill is expected to receive a full committee vote on Monday, March 28th.
FY23 BUDGET UPDATE
The FY23 budget was unanimously passed out of the Senate on Friday and will now head to a conference committee where both the House and Senate will agree to a final funding measure for the upcoming fiscal year. Please see below for an overview of changes made by the Senate that are important to Georgia agriculture.
Department of Agriculture:
- Added $55,000 to repair the State Peanut Monument located in Turner County.
- Added $22,348 for maintenance costs at the Poultry Veterinary Diagnostics Lab for a total of $225,000.
State Soil and Water Conservation Commission:
- Added $80,000 for funding in each conservation district to support local, discretionary conservation programs for a total of $160,000.
- Removed $292,300 from the House budget proposal for plan review and technical support positions.
- Added $100,000 to expand housing capacity across the state for primary care residents completing rotations in rural areas.
- Removed $55,734 in funds to transfer five certified personnel positions to the state teacher salary schedule.
- Removed $144,000 from the House proposal for an urban/suburban agriculture specialist.
- Removed $100,000 in funds that were put in by the House for Young Farmer programs in Floyd County, Banks County, Barrow County, and Pelham City.
- Removed $40,000 from the House budget proposal for an additional Georgia FFA Association staff member and two agricultural education support staff.
- Added $90,000 for a greenhouse in Calhoun County.
GEORGIA FSA DIRECTOR VISITS HOUSE AG COMMITTEE, UGA CAES HOSTS RURAL CAUCUS
On Wednesday, the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee heard from Arthur Tripp, who was recently appointed Director of Georgia's Farm Service Agency (FSA). Tripp spent the morning visiting with legislators and later attended the Rural Caucus Luncheon, hosted this week by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean's Advisory Council. GFB appreciates the effort that Tripp has put into traveling the state and meeting his constituent farmers since he was confirmed last fall.
Georgia FSA Director Arthur Tripp visited with the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
CONTRIBUTE TO THE GFB STATE IMPACT FUND
We are greatly appreciative of the support we have received for the GFB State Impact Fund since its inception in December, particularly from the counties and individuals that rallied to have their contributions matched in our kickoff challenge. The challenge, which wrapped on March 15, was a smashing success and has put our PAC on the track to make a huge impact this election season.
Even though the challenge is complete, we are still accepting contributions to both the State Impact Fund and the Federal Impact Fund. Support for the State Impact Fund can come from county Farm Bureaus, GFB members, local farm businesses, and others who share our mission. Support for the Federal Impact Fund can only come from members and employees of Georgia Farm Bureau.
These additional tools will allow us to support the candidacies and elections of qualified individuals to public office who have demonstrated a commitment to furthering and strengthening the agricultural industry, regardless of political affiliation. With your support, we can ensure your voice has a seat at the table to protect agriculture for the next generation.
Each contribution to the GFB State Impact Fund is voluntary and will support candidates who support agriculture and Georgia Farm Bureau values. To learn more about the GFB Impact Fund, please contact Katie Duvall.
GFB State Impact Fund
Attn: Katie Duvall
1620 Bass Road
Macon, GA 31210
If you are a member or employee of Georgia Farm Bureau, you may contribute to the GFB Federal Impact Fund by check. Please return your check and this form to:
GFB Federal Impact Fund
Attn: Katie Duvall
1620 Bass Road
Macon, GA 31210
*All contributions are solely voluntary and not tax deductible. Each contribution must be accompanied by the contribution form to be accepted.
BILLS THAT CROSSED OVER
To find more on a specific bill, visit the Georgia General Assembly website and use the "Search Legislation" tool at the top right.
Reps. Watson, England, Burns, Buckner, Hatchett, and others
This proposal would provide for a statewide constitutional referendum and question on the 2022 ballot to allow for an ad-valorem tax exemption on timber equipment and products. Equipment that would be exempt under this bill includes logging equipment such as wood cutters, loaders, bulldozers, skid steers, etc. Also included in the exemption would be timber products such as trees and other wood fiber products.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/15/2022. Senate Finance Committee Favorably Reported on 3/24/2022.
Reps. Jasperse, Mathis, Erwin, England, and Pirkle
This bill would prohibit any student who is participating in a 4-H sponsored activity or program from being counted as absent at school.
House Passed/Adopted on 3/1/2022. Senate Education and Youth Committee Favorably Reported on 3/22/2022.
Reps. Dickey, England, Pirkle, Erwin, Bentley and others
This bill would transition a pilot program that has been in place for elementary agricultural education to an ongoing and permanent program. It would also require schools to hire an elementary agricultural education teacher to administer the program.
House Passed/Adopted on 3/1/2022. Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/22/2022.
Reps. Jenkins, Camp, Greene, Jasperse, and Knight
This proposal would allow for the use of ungraded lumber in the construction or repair of any uninhabited structure on property zoned for residential or agricultural use.
House Passed/Adopted on 3/11/2022. Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Favorably Reported on 3/24/2022.
Reps. Gaines, Wiedower, Gambill, Hagan, Cameron, and others
This bill would require that a mobile food service establishment permit be recognized in all counties while still being subject to local ordinances and the county’s board of health.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/15/2022. Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Favorably Reported on 3/24/2022.
Reps. Smith, England, Rich, Pirkle, and Greene
This resolution recognizes and commemorates the outstanding advancements in water conservation that have been made by the Atlanta metro region and all Georgians and urges continued initiatives for water conservation.
Assigned to House Natural Resources & Environment Committee on 3/23/2022.
Sens. Goodman, Jones II, Walker III, Harper, Sims and others
This bill seeks to create the Georgia Farm to Foodbank (F2FB) Program by changing the Georgia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This initiative is a Governor’s priority and included in his budget proposal is $800,000 to fund the program. The funds will be used for grants to provide Georgia Grown products straight from producers to regional foodbanks that will be able to use that food to feed those who need food assistance. The program will be administered by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and they will submit an annual report that contains information on where the food came from and where it went.
Senate Passed/Adopted on 2/11/2022. House Passed/Adopted on 3/23/2022.
Sens. Harper, Walker III, Anderson, Sims, Goodman
Last year GFB worked with Sen. Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown) to pass SB 247, which modernized the procedures for Commodity Commissions to serve notices, hold public hearings, and vote to better utilize commission funds and more effectively reach producers. This bill would provide for the same modernization and updates to the propane commodity commission.
Senate Passed/Adopted on 3/4/2022. House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee Favorably Reported on 3/23/2022.
Sens. Hatchett and Ginn
This proposal would amend current metal theft law to generally allow for cash payments (up to $100) at secondary metal recyclers for deposits excluding utility wire, communications copper, copper wire, batteries, or catalytic converters. Under current law, recyclers may only pay using a check, electronic funds transfer, or a voucher as a proven method of curbing metal theft in our state. We greatly appreciate the bill sponsor, Sen. Bo Hatchett, for working to find a balance between deterrence of widespread metal theft while still allowing for a business-friendly environment. Hatchett incorporated numerous aspects in the bill to avoid a resurgence of metal theft including: maintaining extensive deposit records and documentation of personal identification of customers; a two-year repeal of this bill, unless extended by the legislature because no increased instances of theft are seen; and enhanced penalties by making it a felony if metal theft results in property damage above $1,500.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/15/2022. House Judiciary Non-Civil Setzler Subcommittee Favorably Reported by Substitute on 3/24/2022.
BILLS OF INTEREST
Reps. Cantrell, Greene, Barr, Werkheiser, Gambill, and Williams
This bill would require Georgia to observe Daylight Savings Time year-round. This will only become effective if Congress authorizes states to observe daylight savings time year-round.
House Passed/Adopted on 3/5/2021. Assigned to Senate Rules Committee on 1/10/2022.
Reps. Burchett, Blackmon, Dickey, Rhodes, and Watson
The Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act, established in 2017, provides a system of non-traditional loans for rural businesses to encourage economic growth and jobs. This legislation would provide the second round of funding, in the amount of $100 million, to replenish the program.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/22/2022. Assigned to Senate Finance Committee on 2/24/2022.
Reps. Pirkle, Jasperse, Watson, England, Corbett, and others
This legislation increases the available tax credits for contributions to rural hospitals from $65 to $75 million per year.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/11/2022. Assigned to Senate Finance Committee on 3/16/2022.
Reps. Ridley, Corbett, Barton, and Anderson
This bill would amend the definition of “all-terrain vehicle” by increasing the maximum weight to from 2500 lbs to 3500 lbs.
House Passed/Adopted on 2/07/2022. Referred to Senate Transportation Committee on 2/08/2022.
Reps. Rhodes, Corbett, LaHood, Ridley, and Smith
This bill would authorize the hunting and trapping of raccoons and opossum year round.
House Passed/Adopted on 2/15/2022. Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/17/2022.
Reps. Dickey, Watson, England, Jasperse, and Pirkle
Also known as the Freedom to Farm Act, HB 1150, addresses ambiguity in Georgia’s current Right to Farm statute and seeks to protect farmers from frivolous nuisance claims brought by those who do not like the inherent aspects of agriculture. With Georgia’s number one economic driver being agriculture, there is a vested interest in protecting the families and businesses that provide all of our food and fiber. There has been an increase in the number of nuisance claims brought against Georgia farms due to recent federal court precedent that turns current Right to Farm law on its head. This bill would allow for a farm to have certainty after a period of time, as long as they are operating within the law and according to all rules and regulations, that they will be protected from unnecessary nuisance lawsuits.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/3/2022. Assigned to Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 3/4/2022.
Reps. Pirkle, Camp, Campbell, and Jenkins
This proposal comes out of a summer study committee consisting of members from the House Agriculture Committee. Chaired by Rep. Clay Pirkle, the committee looked into the issue of legalizing the sale of raw milk for human consumption. With the technological advancements in the dairy industry that provide for a very consistently safe product, many believed there was a way to produce raw (unpasteurized) milk that would be safe for human consumption. Many in the dairy industry, especially smaller producers, have been seeking a way to increase their already slim margins with a product like raw milk that brings a premium price due and has an increasing consumer demand. This bill would allow for the legal sale of raw milk for human consumption under a set of specific rules and regulations that seek to ensure a safe product.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/3/2022. Assigned to Senate Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 3/4/2022.
Reps. Jasperse, Watson, Corbett, England, and Campbell
This bill would establish the Rural Health Advancement Commission to address healthcare workforce shortages in rural areas of Georgia. The commission would be made up of 13 members from all across the medical field that will explore the issue and deliver an annual report.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/9/2022. Assigned to Senate Government Oversight Committee on 3/11/2022.
Reps. Corbett, Watson, Houston, Burns, and Dickey
This bill would make the State Board of Registration for Foresters an independent state agency and attach it to the State Forestry Commission for administrative purposes. The members of the board would be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/15/2022. Assigned to Senate Government Oversight Committee on 3/16/2022.
Reps. Gullett, Rich, Anderson, Dickey, Gaines, and others
This bill would provide that a local sheriff’s department could donate a single livestock animal that has been impounded to an animal rescue organization after due notice has been given. This bill comes in response to an issue with pot belly pigs getting lose and there being no market for the impounded animals to be sold at, leaving only the option of euthanization. The committee substitute fixed some potential unintended consequences of trying to solve a pot belly pig problem with legislation that would be widely applied to all livestock animals.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/15/2022. Assigned to Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs on 3/16/2022.
Reps. Momtahan, Barton, Corbett, Pirkle, Cheokas, and others
This bill would prohibit anyone other than a licensed secondary metal recycler from purchasing or soliciting for purchase a used or detached catalytic converter. It would also prohibit anyone from possessing, transporting, or selling a detached catalytic converter unless they have the proper licenses and documentation required. Any detached catalytic converter found in possession of someone without the proper documentation will be considered contraband and be subject to forfeiture.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/15/2022. Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee on 3/16/2022.
Reps. Watson, Burns, Buckner, Corbett, and Hatchett
This resolution proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would reduce the rate of ad-valorem tax assessment on timber at the time of sale or harvest. The proposal would require that the state appropriate funds annually to each county or municipality to compensate for any loss in revenue.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/15/2022. Assigned to Senate Finance Committee on 3/16/2022.
Reps. Schofield, Smith, Thomas, Kirby, and Scott
This resolution encourages support of urban farming by local governments.
Assigned to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 3/3/2022.
Reps. Dukes, Williams, Thomas, Wilkerson, Jackson, and others
This resolution would establish the Joint Study Committee for the Expansion and National Competitiveness of Georgia Agriculture made up of members from the Georgia State Senate and House of Representatives. The study committee would look at ways to become a national leader and increase Georgia’s market share in a variety of agricultural crops and sectors.
Assigned to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 3/8/2022.
Reps. Bennett, Beverly, Wilkerson, Schofield, Hawkins, and others
This resolution would create the House Healthy Food Retail Study Committee to investigate the availability of and access to fresh, healthy food in certain rural and urban areas in Georgia.
Assigned to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 3/9/2022.
Sens. Summers, Walker III, Harper, Goodman, Anderson
This legislation seeks to amend the state constitution and allow for an ad-valorem tax exemption on aircraft used for the aerial application of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, seeds, or any other agricultural product that would normally be used in an agricultural operation and can be applied by aerial application.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/15/2022. Assigned to House Ways & Means Committee on 3/16/2022.
Sens. Jones II, Goodman, Jackson, Sims, Rhett and others
This bipartisan bill would establish the “Georgia Food Security Advisory Council” made up of 23 members ranging from the Commissioner of Agriculture to representatives from the public health community. One member would be a Georgia farmer appointed by the Majority Leader of the senate in consultation with the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. This council would make recommendations that seek to end food insecurity in Georgia.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/15/2022. Assigned to House Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee on 3/16/2022.
Sens. Summers, Tillery, Kennedy, Mullis, Sims and others
This resolution is to recognize and commend Representative Terry England on his outstanding public service. Earlier this year, longtime Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and strong advocate of Georgia agriculture announced his plans to retire after this term.
Senate Read and Adopted on 3/16/2022.
UPCOMING USDA PROGRAM DEADLINES
Spot Market Hog Pandemic Program (SMHPP)
April 15, 2022
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept applications for the Spot Market Hog Pandemic Program (SMHPP) from December 15, 2021, through February 25, 2022. SMHPP provides pandemic assistance to hog producers who sold hogs through a negotiated sale from April 16, 2020 through September 1, 2020, the period in which these producers faced the greatest reduction in market prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This program is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.
Learn more about SMHPP
NOT A MEMBER OF GEORGIA FARM BUREAU? JOIN TODAY!
The Georgia Farm Bureau Federation has a membership of almost 250,000 and serves as state's the largest general farm organization. Our goal is to provide leadership and assistance to the agricultural sector, to promote farm products, to aid in ag-related procurement, to be a spokesman for the farmer in the legislative arena, to be a leader in the development and expansion of farm markets, and to strive for more agricultural research and educational funds and facilities.
With members in all 159 Georgia counties, Georgia Farm Bureau is dedicated to promoting and improving agriculture in our counties, state and nation and in continually improving and expanding our service-to-member programs which serve to enhance the quality of life for all Georgians.
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DATES TO REMEMBER
- April 4: Legislative Day 40 - Sine Die
Public Policy Department Staff
Alex Bradford, Director
Raynor Churchwell, Agricultural Programs Manager
Katie Duvall, Advocacy and Policy Development Coordinator
Renee Jones, Operations Coordinator
Jake Matthews, Governmental Affairs Specialist
Jeremy Taylor, Agricultural Programs Specialist