Nearly 500 visit Atlanta for GFB Day at the Capitol
By Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau
Georgia Farm Bureau’s strength in numbers was on full display at the 2022 GFB Day at the Capitol Feb. 8. A total of 480 members from around the state registered and carried messages to state legislators about the organization’s stances on issues related to agriculture.
GFB President Tom McCall welcomed an overflow crowd to the Blue Room at the Georgia Freight Depot, including dozens of FFA students from around the state who got early experience in the process of advocating for agriculture.
“These blue corduroy jackets are our future and we appreciate y’all coming today. I know you’re getting out of school, but the important part is y’all took time to come, and I hope you learn something,” McCall said.
McCall emphasized that GFB Day at the Capitol is a prime example of the organization fulfilling its mission.
“The purpose of Farm Bureau is to represent farmers in the legislative arena,” McCall said. “That’s what all of y’all are doing today. That’s why it’s so important to get this kind of crowd, grassroots people to go talk to the folks up yonder that make decisions about what we do.”
Members made legislators aware of GFB’s stance on the Freedom to Farm Act (House Bill 1150). The bill, submitted by Rep. Robert Dickey (R-Musella), would protect farmers against frivolous lawsuits. The legislation amends the state’s current Right to Farm law by eliminating language that leaves Georgia’s family farms open to lawsuits from neighbors who do not like the sights, sounds and smells of agriculture.
Members also discussed general agriculture issues, animal agriculture, natural resources and the environment, and taxes & budget – topics the GFB Board of Directors identified as priority issues.
After morning visits at the capitol, members and legislators heard from Gov. Brian Kemp, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Robert Dickey and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Walker III.
Rep. Rob Leverett (R-Elberton), elected to succeed McCall in Georgia House District 33, presented McCall with a proclamation thanking McCall for his 26-year run in the Georgia House of Representatives.
Kemp discussed the state’s accomplishments over the past year, noting that unemployment in Georgia is now at 2.6%, which the governor said was the lowest unemployment rate the state has ever had. He shared how many of the new economic development projects are located in places outside the 10-county Metro Atlanta region and talked about efforts to fend off federal government overreach.
Kemp also praised Georgia’s farmers for their perseverance through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We appreciate not only your advocacy but what you’re doing out there across the state every day helping feed millions of people all over the world, including our own. But also just keeping your hard-working family values in our communities around the state, which to me and my wife and our family are so important,” Kemp said. “We also just appreciate what you all have done to help us weather this pandemic that we’ve been going through. I believe because of people like you who refused to quit, didn’t listen to the critics and the naysayers, we all helped keep our economy open.”
Kemp noted the state’s access to $408 million in American Recovery Plan Act funds, paired with more than $300 million in private funds, is helping expand rural broadband in rural areas. To date, 15 broadband expansion projects around the state have been announced.
The governor talked about efforts to expand access to both health insurance and health care. He said that 98% of the state’s counties now have more than one healthcare insurance provider to choose from. Kemp’s budget proposal includes $2.5 million for 136 residency slots and $1 million for Mercer University to address specifically rural physician shortages. Ultimately the goal is to add 1,300 health care practitioners around the state.
The governor’s budget proposal also includes up to $1.6 billion for refunds to Georgia taxpayers. Under this plan every citizen filing income tax this April will receive a one-time income tax refund ranging from $250 for single filers to $500 for joint filers. He also asked the legislature to approve $1.8 million for the Georgia Agricultural Trust and $800,000 for the recently announced Georgia Grown Farm to Foodbank Program. Read more at https://gfb.ag/ggfoodbank .
“You already know that farmers are a big reason we’re the number 1 state for business. With more than $74 billion in annual economic impact, you are helping lead the way. And what is good for Georgia Farmers is good for all Georgians,” Kemp said.
Black told GFB members about two positive tests in migratory ducks in Georgia for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and asked for help publicizing the need for biosecurity measures in poultry flocks.
Visit www.ga-ai.org for the most recent updates on avian flu in Georgia and biosecurity recommendations for commercial and backyard flocks.
Black said the Georgia Department of Agriculture is converting leftover Hurricane Michael relief funds into a loan program to help farmers develop and market value-added products.