Legislative Session Report Week 11


March 26, 2021




State News and Updates


With the state legislature's much anticipated Sine Die quickly approaching, the General Assembly was busy at work this week before adjourning on Thursday, legislative day 38. The political environment has become more intense this week as lawmakers search for legislative vehicles to push their initiatives through to the finish line, and changes by amendments or substitutes are being made frequently to bills that crossed over earlier this month. The final days of session are sure to be long with full debate calendars as legislators continue to carry out the state’s business.

This session, bills related to Georgia agriculture have largely been able to make their way through each chamber and to the Governor’s desk where they await signature. However one final bill for ag - HB 498, sponsored by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie) - is currently awaiting action by the Senate Rules Committee. This bill would allow two individually qualifying family farms seeking to lower their capital-intensive burden by merging in a partnership to qualify for ad valorem tax exemption on farm equipment. Because this change requires a constitutional amendment to be on the ballot in 2022, HB 498’s passage this year isn’t critical - although it is expected.

As work under the gold dome continues ahead of next week’s Sine Die deadline, Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) staff will continue following the issues that matter to our members and Georgia agriculture. To see what bills have seen movement and which bills are still in play, please see the Action This Week and Bills of Interest sections below.


Only two days remain in the 2021 Legislative Session. (Photo Credit: Georgia House Photo)


The sole constitutional requirement the General Assembly is charged with, passing a balanced budget, has continued to be a top priority despite much of the media coverage of the legislative session focuses on election reform. A significant hurdle was passed Tuesday, when the Senate passed their version of the $27.2 billion FY22 budget and a conference committee consisting of both House and Senate members began meeting Wednesday to hammer out differences between the two versions.

“We are in a better position than we thought we would be at this point in time last year, and this budget reflects that, but at the same time, I think it reflects the caution that we feel as we’re rolling into another year with a lot of uncertainty on the horizon,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) said.

Illustrating the increasing divide between rural and urban Georgia, Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta) objected to the proposed $40 million for the new Rural Innovation Fund for targeted solutions for economic, medical, technological or infrastructure challenges in rural communities in part because it can’t be spent in eight metro Atlanta counties.

The changes proposed in the Senate’s version are outlined below.

  • Removed $241,740 funds for one soil scientist, one compliance specialist, and two vehicles to conduct soil amendment program.
  • Added $75,000 for the Southwest Georgia Project (SWGP) for a community food hub to bolster Southwest Georgia's farmers, economy, and public health.
  • Added $57,587 (to total $157,587) to Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority for operational losses due to COVID-19
  • $85,000 increase to Ag Education for additional young farmer position in Ware County
  • Reduced $851,620 from House proposed $2,851,620 for Ag Experiment Station funds
  • Reduced $652,325 from House proposed $2,652,325 for Cooperative Extension Service
  • Doubled the House proposed 20-year bond package to total $523,916 for renovation and addition to Mobley Hall FFA/FCCLA Center in Covington
  • Added $900,000 in 20-year bonds to renovate cabins at Camp John Hope Georgia FFA/FCCLA Center in Fort Valley



In the home-stretch of the legislative session, the House and Senate Ag Committees held their last meetings to pass out a few final bills. House Ag met on both Monday and Tuesday, hearing an update from Mike Giles with the Georgia Poultry Federation on the poultry industry’s response to COVID-19, making an appointment to the Propane Commodity Commission, and passing out Sen. Tyler Harper’s SB 260. This bill, which limits the set-back restrictions local governments may implement for soil amendment application, was sent back to committee to add a requirement for nutrient management plans to be submitted for such applications. This issue came to a head last year due to some bad actors, and tight regulations were implemented. SB 260 enhanced these regulations, while also putting reasonable guards from local governments infringing on private property rights.

Senate Ag held their final meeting on Wednesday, where they made appointments to the Georgia Grown Commission and Equine Commission. They also passed out a new substitute to HB 676 sponsored by Rep. Penny Houston (R-Nashville). This bill is the product of work over the past several years by both House and Senate ag members to improve the state’s farmers' markets. Instead of establishing a separate authority to govern over the markets as initially proposed, the new approach HB 676 takes keeps the state farmers' markets under the purview of the Department of Agriculture, but establishes a legislative oversight committee in an advisory role. The oversight committee is also charged with conducting an independent study of the economic viability and public benefit of each market and developing a five-year business plan.

We would like to thank the members of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees for their hard work this year and continued dedication to ensure a vibrant future for our state’s largest industry, agriculture.



On Thursday, March 25, Rep. Rob Leverett (R-Elberton) honored Georgia Farm Bureau President Tom McCall with a privileged resolution on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives. Leverett was elected to House District 33 in November, following in the footsteps of President McCall, who held the seat for 26 years.  

"I don't know of a more decent or honorable person who ever served in this body than Tom McCall," said Speaker David Ralston. 


Watch Video



On Wednesday, the last Rural Caucus lunch of the session took place, hosted this week by MagMutual Insurance. Over the course of the session the Rural Caucus met weekly to discuss the issues and legislation introduced that affects rural communities throughout Georgia. In addition, the members of the caucus pay yearly dues out of their own pockets in order to raise money for scholarships given to students seeking to earn a degree or certification in an agricultural or rural focused industry. This year, scholarships were given to Oconee Tech’s CDL truck driving program and Fort Valley State University’s Foundation. Additionally, a donation was made to Second Harvest of South Georgia, the second largest food bank in the state serving a 26-county region. Georgia Farm Bureau is grateful for the Rural Caucus and its members who support Georgia agriculture and rural communities.



Georgia Farm Bureau’s (GFB) twenty Commodity Advisory Committees have begun their slate of spring meetings at the home office in Macon. Committees are composed of representatives from GFB’s ten districts and are appointed to one-year terms, meeting two to three times yearly to discuss timely issues and review policies related to their respective commodities. Throughout the year, the committees serve as valuable resources for the GFB President and staff as they navigate issues particular to their respective industries. At the spring meetings, each committee has received state and federal updates from Public Policy staff, planned for August's annual Commodity Conference, and made nominations for the organization's Commodity Award recipient.

If you are interested in serving on a Commodity Advisory Committee in the future, contact GFB's Agricultural Programs Specialists, Raynor Churchwell (Row Crops) or Jeremy Taylor (Livestock).



The Georgia Cattlemen’s Association (GCA) hosted their annual Legislative Steak Biscuit Breakfast on Monday. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the breakfast took place on the street between the State Capitol and the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. Because of the new location, legislators were treated to a guest appearance from Georgia's Mobile Dairy Classroom. Members and staff alike kicked off their last few days of the legislative session visiting with Georgia's cattle producers while enjoying a steak biscuit and fresh glass of ice cold milk from the Georgia Milk Producers.

Cattlemans Breakfast
Chairman Robert Dickey poses with Georgia Milk Producers Executive Director Farrah Newberry (L) and Nicole Duvall (R). (Photo Credit: Georgia Cattlemen's Association)



Earlier this week, Governor Brian Kemp announced that beginning Thursday, March 25, all Georgians ages 16 and up would be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccination. 

The Georgia Department of Agriculture, UGA Extension and Georgia Farm Bureau are partnering with local health departments and other organizations asking the Georgia ag community to “Protect Your Peach.” The public education campaign is using the social media hashtag #ProtectYourPeach to feature information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) to promote the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. The goal is to provide Georgians with the facts about the vaccine.

Extension, CDC and DPH have compiled resources and encourage all members of Georgia’s agriculture community to share them. UGA Extension encourages anyone working closely with the agriculture sector to utilize the materials, which were jointly developed with CDC and DPH to educate Georgia farmers and ag workers. ‘Healthy Georgia’ flyers, which outline pertinent facts about the vaccine are available to download at the aforementioned website or may be requested at county Extension & Farm  Bureau offices. For more information on these collaborative efforts, click here.

A total of nine state mass vaccination sites are operational. To register for a vaccine at one of the sites, visit 

  • BIBB COUNTY: Macon Farmers Market, 2055 Eisenhower Parkway, Macon, GA 31206
  • BARTOW COUNTY: LakePoint Sports Complex, 261 Stars Way, Emerson, GA 30121
  • CHATHAM COUNTY: Gulfstream Aerospace, 500 Gulfstream Rd, Savannah, GA 31408
  • DOUGHERTY COUNTY: Albany, Georgia Forestry Site, 2910 Newton Road, Albany, GA 31701
  • FULTON COUNTY: Delta Air Museum, 1220 Woolman Place SW, Hapeville, GA 30354
  • HABERSHAM COUNTY: Habersham County Fairgrounds, 4235 Toccoa Highway Clarkesville, GA 30523
  • MUSCOGEE COUNTY: Columbus Civic Center, 400 4th St, Columbus, GA 31901
  • WARE COUNTY: Waycross Mall, 2209 Memorial Dr, Waycross, GA 31501 
  • WASHINGTON COUNTY: Sandersville Word of Life Church, 1209 S Harris St, Sandersville, GA 31082



This week, Rep. Greg Morris (R-Vidalia) was elected to serve on the State Transportation Board of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) representing the 12th Congressional District. In taking on this new role, Rep. Morris will resign from his House seat where he served as chairman of the Banks & Banking committee, and a member of the Code Revision, Appropriations, Natural Resources & Environment, and Rules committees. Georgia Farm Bureau would like to extend our congratulations to Rep. Morris on his election and our appreciation for his service to District 156 since his election in 1999.



To find more on a specific bill, visit the Georgia General Assembly website and use the "Search Legislation" tool at the top right.


HB 150:
Reps. Williamson, Hatchett, Kelley, Frazier, Parsons, and Smith

In a concerning trend, some state and local authorities in the U.S. have adopted measures banning the connection of certain fuels (propane and natural gas) in new construction in an effort to reach their “carbon free” goals. HB 150 would prohibit government entities in Georgia from banning the connection of any utility service based on the type or source of fuel. GFB supports this bill, as many agricultural producers rely on these resources.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/22/2021. Senate Passed/Adopted by Committee Substitute on 3/22/2021.


SB 100:
Sens. Watson, Dugan, Kennedy, Miller, Au, and Burke

This bill would NOW 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. (See above section for additional clarification.)
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/24/2021. House State Planning and Community Affairs Committee Favorably Reported by Substitute on 3/22/2021.


SB 119:
Sens. Harper, Goodman, Burke, Mullis, Anderson, and Walker

Under Senate Bill 119, you would not have to obtain a burn permit to burn leaf piles, yard debris, or hand-piled natural vegetation, given that you meet guidelines regarding time, location, and others.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/24/2021. House Passed/Adopted on 3/23/2021.


SB 195:
Sen. Mullis

In another clarification to Georgia’s new hemp industry, this legislation states that the drying and curing of hemp plants does not qualify as “processing.”
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/3/2021. House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Favorably Reported on 3/17/2021. Recommitted to House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee by Rules Committee on 3/22/2021.


SB 247:
Sens. Anderson, Walker, Miller, Goodman, and Summers

SB 247 modernizes the Agricultural Commodities Promotion Act regarding marketing orders to allow for online publication of notices and announcements, online public comment periods, and clarity to the voting process to create new or major amendments to marketing orders.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute and Floor Amendment on 3/8/2021. House Passed/Adopted on 3/22/2021.



To find more on a specific bill, visit the Georgia General Assembly website and use the "Search Legislation" tool at the top right.


HB 44:
Reps. Cantrell, Greene, Barr, Werkheiser, Gambill, and Williams

This bill NOW would require Georgia to observe Standard Time year-round until Congress authorizes states to observe Daylight Savings Time, at which point Georgia would observe Daylight Savings Time year-round. (See above section for additional clarification.)
House Passed/Adopted on 3/5/2021. Senate Government Oversight Committee Favorably Reported by Substitute on 3/16/2021.


HB 90: 
Reps. Williamson, Burns, Dickey, Hatchett, Morris, and Watson

HB 90 seeks to address an issue that the existing 1939 statute does not appropriately cover modern forestry practices with in regards to mill purchases of cut timber and the chain of liability that follows such transactions. The legislation is supported by both the Georgia Bankers Association and the Georgia Forestry Association.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/17/2021. Senate Passed/Adopted on 3/9/2021.


HB 150:
Reps. Williamson, Hatchett, Kelley, Frazier, Parsons, and Smith

In a concerning trend, some state and local authorities in the U.S. have adopted measures banning the connection of certain fuels (propane and natural gas) in new construction in an effort to reach their “carbon free” goals. HB 150 would prohibit government entities in Georgia from banning the connection of any utility service based on the type or source of fuel. GFB supports this bill, as many agricultural producers rely on these resources.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/22/2021. Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Adopted by Substitute on 3/10/2021.


HB 265:
Reps. Knight, Williamson, and Blackmon

House Bill 265 aims to clean up the state's revenue code, a large portion of the bill relating to tax-relief measures stemming from federal Covid-19 relief legislation. Included in the bill is a measure which would make certain Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans tax exempt. Under SB 265, businesses eligible for PPP loan forgiveness would not be required to pay state taxes on the loans, even though they count as income. The measure also lets those business owners claim tax deductions on the loans.
House Passed/Adopted on 2/9/2021. Senate Passed/Adopted on 2/24/2021.


HB 282:
Reps. Meeks, England, Hatchett, Watson, and Dickey

This bill provides clarity to the ad valorem taxation of qualified timberland property by defining parameters for “contiguous” property, specifying how the appraised value of timberland property is calculated, and clarifies the required documentation landowners must submit to the Commissioner of Revenue for certification.
House Passed/Adopted by Committee Substitute on 2/17/2021. Senate Finance Committee Favorably Reported by Substitute on 3/18/2021.


HB 290:
Reps. Setzler, Newton, Hatchett, Rich, Jackson, and Bentley

House Bill 290, or the "Right to Visit" Bill, would require Georgia's hospitals and nursing home facilities to allow patients to visit with family members for a minimum of two hours per day - even during a public health emergency such as the Covid-19 pandemic - following proper safety and health protocols including as negative testing.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/8/2021. Assigned to Senate Health and Human Services Committee on 3/9/2021.


HB 336:
Reps. Corbett, Dickey, Pirkle, Jasperse, and Watson

Following two years of extensive legislation establishing Georgia's new hemp industry, HB 336 is a cleanup bill seeking to align Georgia's hemp laws to match federal standards.
House Passed/Adopted on 2/26/2021. Senate Passed/Adopted by Committee Substitute on 3/18/2021.


HB 498:
Reps. Watson, Dickey, LaHood, England, and Pirkle

Tax programs and business models have increased the prevalence of family farm mergers. This bill modernizes the ad valorem tax exemption of farm equipment and products to these merged entities, so long as they would qualify for the exemption individually.
House Passed/Adopted on 3/8/2021. Senate Finance Committee Favorably Reported on 3/18/2021.


HR 185:
Reps. Ralston, Watson, Jasperse, England, Dickey

House Resolution 185 would reauthorize the House Rural Development Council. The Council was created to study the issues facing rural parts of Georgia and recommend any action or legislation necessary to the continued economic success of Georgia, especially in rural areas.
House Passed/Adopted on 3/3/2021.


SB 148:
Sens. Hufstetler, Miller, Butler, Dugan, Parent, and Mullis

Senate Bill 148 calls for the systematic study of the state's revenue structure through the creation of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians and the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. The committee would report its findings and make recommendations to the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor by January 10, 2022. 
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 2/24/2021. Failed to Pass the House on 3/18/2021.


SB 222:
Sens. Summers, Walker III, Sims, Harper, Goodman

SB 222 would designate the pecan as the official state nut of Georgia.
Senate Passed/Adopted on 3/3/2021. House State Planning and Community Affairs Committee Favorably Reported on 3/18/2021.





HB 531:
Reps. Fleming, Jones, Powell, Blackmon, Smith, and Williams

House Bill 531 is an omnibus bill that aims to provide uniformity to Georgia’s voting process. It would require all counties to hold early voting from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday for the three weeks leading up to the election in addition to the second Saturday prior to the election and it would prohibit any Sunday voting. Additionally, the bill contains photo ID requirements for absentee ballots and limits the amount of time that absentee ballots can be requested and returned. It also restricts drop boxes to early voting sites, only allowing for their usage during early voting hours.
House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/1/2021. Assigned to Senate Ethics Committee on 3/3/2021.


SB 67:
Sens. Walker, Miller, Mullis, Kennedy, Gooch, and Anavitarte

SB 67 would require Georgia's voters to provide a copy of a valid driver's license, voter ID card, or state ID number when requesting an absentee ballot. It would also allow the Secretary of State's office to establish a web portal in which a voter may submit a request for an absentee ballot by providing proper identification, following which the Secretary of State's office would forward the information to the voter's county of residence for issuance of an absentee ballot.
Senate Passed/Adopted on 2/23/2021. Assigned to House Special Committee on Election Integrity on 2/25/2021.


SB 89:
Sens. Miller, Albers, Gooch, Kennedy, Anavitarte, and Brass

Senate Bill 89 would create within the Secretary of State's office a "Chief Elections Assistance" officer to work under the supervision of the director of the Elections Division. The Chief Elections Assistance officer shall be appointed by the State Election Board. The officer would be responsible for overseeing and training county election superintendents, establishing a list of third-party vendors to perform routine audits and evaluations of election management practices, and provide support to those lowest-performing election superintendents in need of assistance.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Committee Substitute on 2/24/2021. Assigned to House Special Committee on Election Integrity on 2/25/2021.


SB 202:
Sens. Burns, Miller, Dugan, Ginn, Anderson, and Robertson

SB 202, which originally passed out of the Senate as a two-page bill focused on outside groups sending applications for mail-in absentee ballots, was rewritten prior to being heard in its House Committee to encompass 93-pages of election reform text containing proposals from bills such as HB 531 and SB 241. For a detailed outline of new measures, you can view the substitute language here.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Committee Substitute on 3/8/2021. House Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/25/2021. 


SB 241:
Sens. Dugan, Miller, Gooch, Kennedy, Cowsert, and Anderson

Similar to HB 531, SB 241 is an omnibus bill that covers a variety of issues including requiring state-issued ID with absentee ballots, under oath submission of absentee ballots, elimination of no-excuse absentee ballots, limited usage of mobile voting units, succinct ballot-counting guidelines, and creation of a voter intimidation and illegal election activity hotline run by the Attorney General’s office, among other things.
Senate Passed/Adopted by Substitute on 3/8/2021. Assigned to House Special Committee on Election Integrity on 3/9/2021.



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.

Membership in Georgia Farm Bureau is open to everyone. You don't need to be a farmer or have insurance with us to join Farm Bureau!

If you would like to become a member of Georgia Farm Bureau, you can start your membership online right now! We have a simple application process, and you can be our newest member in just a couple of minutes. Click the button below or use our County Office Locator to find the office nearest you.



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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
Jake Matthews, Governmental Affairs Specialist
Jeremy Taylor, Agricultural Programs Specialist