GFB leaders to Congress: farmers need disaster aid
by Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau
Georgia’s farmers are hurting and need help, a group of Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) leaders told federal lawmakers during the 2019 County Presidents’ Trip to D.C., making sure to express concerns about federal disaster aid, implementation of the 2018 farm bill, agricultural labor, international trade and regulatory reform.
Almost 100 GFB members and staff made the trip, which took place April 30-May 2.
“In order to fulfill our mission, we need to go and meet with our legislators, find out the issues, carry our wishes and let our voices be heard,” GFB President Gerald Long said. “It’s still as true today as it was in 1937. We had great meetings. We’ve got a lot of issues facing us, but I guess the key thing was the disaster aid.”
The GFB group also presented Friend of Farm Bureau awards to 11 members of the Georgia congressional delegation – both senators and nine of the state’s 14 members of the House of Representatives.
The annual trip, planned by the GFB Public Policy Department, gave members a chance to meet with Georgia’s members of Congress and featured policy briefings with American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) staff members, remarks from Sen. David Perdue and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and visits to Capitol Hill, where GFB members urged their representatives to pass disaster assistance funding legislation to help farmers recover from Hurricane Michael. The October storm left approximately $2.5 billion in farm damage in Georgia. Many farmers in the storm’s path are struggling, with Michael’s damage compounding the effects of years of low commodity prices.
“Sometimes Mother Nature deals you a tough hand, and we had one last year,” Sen. David Perdue told the GFB group on May 1. “This is a generational issue. If somebody loses the farm, it’s hard for the next generation to come back and get it back.”
Perdue and other members of the Georgia congressional delegation expressed frustration that bills to provide disaster assistance funding had failed to get through Congress.
GFB members asked their congressmen to monitor the USDA’s implementation of the 2018 farm bill to ensure it is completed appropriately and in a timely manner.
Immigration reform as it relates to agricultural labor was another key topic. GFB members asked Congress to develop a new ag guestworker program or enact reforms to the current H-2A program.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released a new definition of “Waters of the U.S.’ in December, and public comments were accepted from Feb. 14 to April 15. The GFB group asked members of Congress to evaluate the new rule and its potential impact on Georgia farmers.
The GFB members also asked representatives to work toward a permanent solution on the Department of Transportation’s rules regarding the number of hours drivers can be on the road and use of electronic devices to track hours driven. Transporters of livestock and insects were granted a temporary exemption from the rules, but farmers have an urgent need for a permanent solution that balances the need for road safety with the unique needs of agricultural transportation.