Agriculture + Lifestyle
I Farm. I Vote.
Posted on September 13, 2018 12:00 AM
I Farm. I Vote. is an initiative to encourage Georgia’s farmers and rural communities to exercise their civic duty to vote and to provide education on candidates’ policy positions. Agriculture is our state’s largest economic sector and the lifeblood of rural communities, employing 1 in 7 Georgians supplying food and fiber for the nation. Those elected to govern impact all aspects of rural life and business, from taxes and environmental regulation to healthcare and education. It is vitally important that rural voices are represented, and the best way is to VOTE!
Issues Important to Agriculture
The Georgia Agriculture Tax Exemption (GATE) is one of the most important programs the state offers farmers. GATE provides a sales tax exemption for farm input costs, which includes seed, feed, fertilizer, chemicals, and more. Like other industries with sales tax exemptions for inputs, GATE helps Georgia’s farmers compete with neighboring states and in international markets. This program also provides benefits to consumers by eliminating excess taxes built into the price of the agricultural products they purchase.
The Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA) program was developed to provide property tax incentives for landowners as well as preserve greenspace and natural resources for the public. This program provides tax relief for agricultural lands, forest lands, and environmentally sensitive areas. Studies have shown that farmers and landowners often pay more in taxes than they receive in government benefits. The CUVA program corrects this inequity and allows farmers to invest more money back into their operations.
High school career and technical education programs for agriculture, 4-H, and FFA are vital programs for developing the skills needed for our agricultural service industries. Aside from practical applied skills, it is important for all students in the state to be exposed to the fundamentals of agriculture.
Private Property Rights
The protection and preservation of property rights is a core belief for farmers. These essential rights allow farmers to use their property and resources how they see fit, without fear of government intervention and condemnation through the use of eminent domain. Farmers are the best stewards of their land and resources; these rights must be preserved.
Water is the lifeblood of agriculture. Utilization of water resources is essential in the production of all commodities. Over the past two decades, the agricultural community has voluntarily adopted practices to conserve water resources. Practices like water withdrawal permits, mandatory irrigation efficiency standards, water meters, statewide water management planning, regional water councils, and the Flint River Drought Protection Act are examples of the proactive approach producers have taken to water management. Farmers must remain engaged on water issues moving forward.
Georgia’s economy has seen tremendous growth since the recession. Unfortunately, most of that growth has taken place in the urban areas of our state, while rural areas have struggled. Our state’s leaders must develop solutions that will spur growth and sustainability in these communities.
Every day, new and innovative agricultural technologies are hitting the market, and farmers are increasingly turning to social media as a means of disseminating accurate information about their farming operations and crops. Unfortunately, limited broadband access and slow connectivity are prohibiting farmers from taking full advantages of these important technological advances. Access to reliable broadband is a necessity for the production agriculture industry and also the education and development of individuals living in rural Georgia.
Rural Health Care
Access to quality health care is a critical issue in rural areas of our state. Rural hospitals are closing at an alarming rate, which means residents seeking treatment for injuries or illness must travel longer distances to access care. Steps must be taken to improve health care in rural Georgia.
Livestock and poultry production is the largest segment of Georgia’s agricultural economy. In order to remain global leaders in this production, we must limit regulations from government and baseless lawsuits from trail lawyers. These attacks, initiated by local zoning requirements and “right to farm” challenges, have increased uncertainty and instilled fear within the industry.
Nuisance wildlife, such as deer and feral hogs, cause millions of dollars in damage each year to farms. Coordination with regulatory agencies to implement effective control strategies to protect farmers’ crops and land from these destructive animals will continue to be a top priority of producers.