Georgia lawmakers convened Jan. 11 under the Gold Dome in Atlanta for another historic legislative session. Strict COVID-19 protocols were in place, including frequent testing for legislators. This being the first year of a biennial session, newly elected lawmakers took the oath of office in small groups while wearing masks and social distancing.
Despite the slow start to a less than normal 40-day session, Georgia’s agricultural community had many important issues surface at the state capitol.
The state budget was among the bills affecting agriculture passed this session. The Amended FY21 budget restored the funding cuts made across the board last year due to the uncertainty of how the pandemic would affect state revenue. The FY22 budget included increased funding for important rural initiatives such as broadband infrastructure and other agricultural programs.
Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) is blessed to have legislators who are friends of agriculture and work to make life better for those who call farming a way of life.
Sen. Lee Anderson worked closely with GFB staff to pass Senate Bill 247 to modernize how Georgia Commodity Commissions notify producers, hold hearings, and vote on new commodity assessments. SB 247 allows notices to be published in the Farmers & Consumers Market Bulletin and online, and allows for online public comment periods, ensuring the target audience of these notices are reached. State statute previously required commodity commissions to advertise proposed changes in Georgia’s official legal organ - the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
This session, Rep. Sam Watson carried House Bill 498, which would allow individual family farms that qualify for an ad valorem tax exemption on farm equipment to maintain the exemption if they merge to form a single entity. The capital-intensive nature of agriculture often requires family farms to go into business together on the more costly purchases needed for their operations. This legislation requires changing the state constitution, so it will be put before Georgia voters on the 2022 ballot as a constitutional amendment.
In recent years, the state farmers markets throughout Georgia have experienced issues that lawmakers addressed in House Bill 676. Rep. Penny Houston carried this legislation that creates a legislative oversight committee and funds a third-party consultant that will make recommendations and create a plan to ensure our state’s farmers markets operate properly and profitably.
GFB Public Policy staff was present at the capitol each day of the session to monitor the issues important to our members and that affect Georgia agriculture. To learn more about other legislation favorable to Georgia’s No. 1 economic sector, such as right-of-way for farm equipment, designation of the pecan as our official state nut, and updates to Georgia’s hemp program, please read our archived weekly legislative reports at www.gfb.ag/legislativereports .
Jake Matthews is a governmental affairs specialist in the Georgia Farm Bureau Public Policy Department. He may be reached at 478-474-8411, ext. 5286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.