Georgia Farm Bureau starts policy process with commodity conference
Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) Commodity Advisory Committee members received information on a variety of topics related to agriculture during the 2018 GFB Commodity Conference, held Aug. 9 at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center.
More than 250 GFB members, staff, and agricultural stakeholders attended the event, which is the official start of GFB’s policy development process. It’s one event designed for all of the organization’s 20 commodity advisory committees to meet in the same place at the same time. Through policy development, GFB determines its position on issues affecting agriculture.
“In order to accomplish our goals in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., we must understand what’s going on back on the farm,” said GFB President Gerald Long. “That is the purpose of the Commodity Conference. If there are things that need to be put into our policy, today is the day to start that.”
GFB’s Bradford reviews 2018 Georgia Legislature session
GFB Public Policy Department staffers Alex Bradford and Tripp Cofield gave reviews of legislative and regulatory activity at the state and federal levels.
Bradford noted the department’s work for regulatory change, particularly on the subject of deer depredation permits, which the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will now grant or issue prior to deer causing crop damage. DNR is lowering the allowed age for farm employees allowed to kill nuisance deer (referred to as assistants) to 16. People charged with game violations were previously prohibited from participating as assistants; now they won’t be prohibited unless they have been convicted of game violations.
Bradford provided highlights of the state’s budget relating to agriculture, including nearly $1.5 million for marketing by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and a new rural economic development program under the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Bradford also noted that the legislature strengthened farmers’ protections against local restrictions or penalties in the Conservation Use Value Assessment tax exemption program
GFB’s Cofield talks trade
Cofield discussed trade and tariffs, saying that while the United States and China continue to issue sparring tariffs, progress is being made with the U.S.’ other trading partners.
“I think there is reason to be optimistic,” Cofield said, noting that the U.S. is close to an agreement with Mexico, which could lead to Canada joining in. Negotiations with the European Union, India and Turkey are moving toward resolution, Cofield said. The tariffs the U.S. imposed on those countries were under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which calls for the secretary of commerce to review imports to assess national security implications.
U.S. tariffs against China are under the Trade Act of 1974 Section 301, which authorizes the U.S. to impose trade sanctions on countries that violate trade agreements or engage in unfair trade practices.
If the U.S. can work out deals with the Section 232 countries, China would be under pressure to come to the negotiating table, Cofield said.
“Some of our commodities guys are telling me that China may have to come to the table anyway to get their soybeans and other items,” Cofield said.
Transportation officials review highway rules for ag transportation
Clinton Seymour and Clay Greene of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Georgia Division and Lt. Brent Moore of the Georgia Department of Public Safety’s Motor Carrier Compliance Division (MCCD) reviewed how highway rules apply to agricultural transportation. The three officials demonstrated their agencies’ websites (www.dps.georgia.gov and www.fmcsa.dot.gov) and encouraged farmers to use the sites as resources of information on requirements for ag transport. The phone number for the Georgia section of the FMCSA is 678-284-5130. The phone number for the Georgia MCCD is 404-624-7211.
AFBF’s Walmsley gives farm bill update
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Director of Congressional Relations Andrew Walmsley provided analysis of progress on the next farm bill and noted some of AFBF’s successful efforts during remarks at lunch.
Walmsley reviewed key differences between the House and Senate farm bills. A conference committee has been appointed to reconcile the two bills. In the commodity programs, the House bill focuses on improvements to Price Loss Coverage (PLC), while the Senate bill makes small changes to Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and includes language relating to adjusted gross income payment limits and the definition of “actively engaged,” both of which AFBF opposes. The differences between the bills are minor with respect to commodity programs. Walmsley predicted that the biggest challenge would be overcoming differences in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) program. The House bill included work requirements for SNAP recipients, while the Senate bill made no significant changes in the SNAP program.
Walmsley emphasized that with a struggling farm economy it remains crucial that Farm Bureau members maintain relationship with congressmen and their staff.
“With Mother Nature as your business partner, with markets where they are and uncertainty around trade, the one thing Washington can do is provide some certainty,” Walmsley said. “It’s going to be up to us to make sure they hear that. It’s a poor frog that won’t croak for its own pond. It’s on us as Farm Bureau and folks like y’all in this room to continue to communicate and respond to action requests when you get them from GFB. Make sure we’re pushing that needle in the right direction.”
For a side-by-side comparison between the House and Senate farm bills, visit https://gfb.ag/AFBFfarmbillsidebyside.
ABAC welcomes Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation
Dr. David Bridges, president of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC), introduced conference attendees to the new Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation which opened in July at ABAC.
The center, created when the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 951 during the 2018 session, will serve as a central information and research hub for rural leadership training. It will also partner with public and private community stakeholders to identify and support projects that will foster entrepreneurship, job creation, community engagement and cultural enhancement in rural Georgia.
Bridges applauded Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and the House Rural Development Council for acknowledging that while Georgia is doing well overall economically some rural areas of the state are struggling.
“The non-metro areas of Georgia didn’t recover as fast as urban areas from the Great Recession,” Bridges said. “It’s not good for anyone that rural Georgia is lagging behind Atlanta.”
Bridges is serving as interim director of the center until a director is named. Scott Blount has been named associate director of the center. Bridgett Mobley is the center’s logistics and operations manager.
“Our mission is to foster innovation and economic development,” Bridges said. Progress is what we’re looking for. We’re not necessarily looking to bring 1,200 new jobs to a community but to help existing businesses expand and add jobs. If you’re a business with six employees and you want to go to twelve, we want to help you connect with the resources you need to make it happen.”
Bridges said another goal the center has is to keep talented youth from leaving their rural communities after they graduate high school.
“We have to put educated, energetic and enlightened young people in rural communities.
GFB’s Policy Development Committee will meet in October and November to review submissions from county Farm Bureaus. Voting delegates will approve the 2019 policy during the GFB Convention in December.