Ag News

GFB holds spring commodity meetings

by Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on Mar 11, 2020 at 0:00 AM

Georgia Farm Bureau members attending the organization's Spring Commodity Meetings March 4-5 heard from Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman, Georgia's state economist, UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CAES) Dean Sam Pardue, GFB President Gerald Long and GFB Public Policy Director Jeffrey Harvey.

Dorfman explained that while Georgia is doing well economically with record high employment numbers, the economy is only growing by a little bit overall, making it necessary to cut the state budget so that the state has adequate rainy-day funds in case a recession should hit.

“We can have numbers at record highs but still not be doing a whole lot better,” Dorfman said. “During the last two recessions the state went right through the rainy-day fund necessitating severe budget cuts, hence the governor’s proposed budget cuts. What the governor is encouraging agencies to do is increase their efficiency not cut services. He wants us to be prudent users of Georgia taxpayers’ money.”

The state currently has about $2.8 billion in its rainy-day fund, Dorfman said.

Georgia’s economy is dependent on international trade, so the state could experience a little bit of economic slowdown due to the coronavirus and the top trading partners of the U.S. being in recession (China, Japan, German and the United Kingdom), Dorfman said.

The service sector generates about 70% of the U.S. economy, Dorfman said. At some point in the future, Georgia may have to consider taxing services such as dry cleaning and haircuts to generate more state tax revenue, Dorfman said.

“As we buy fewer goods and more services, we may need to look at taxing services because we’re spending so much more of our money on services,” Dorfman said.

At the March 4 meeting, CAES Dean Pardue, who announced in January that he will retire June 30, outlined eight trends that will shape our world in coming years: high health care costs, U.S. national debt, climate variability, urbanization, declining birth rates, demographic shifts, emerging diseases and farm bankruptcies.

“We’ve seen a growth in farm bankruptcies of about twenty percent since 2014. From 2010 to 2019, Georgia ranked in the top three states for farm bankruptcies behind California and Wisconsin.” Pardue said.

Most farmers are filing Chapter 12, which protects the farm while its owners pay off debt, Pardue said.

GFB Public Policy Director Jeffrey Harvey encouraged Commodity Committee members to call Georgia state senators and ask them to vote for HB 545 to protect farmers against nuisance lawsuits.

“For decades, we have relied on Georgia’s current ‘Right to Farm’ law to protect our farms but recent cases in other states have demonstrated that Georgia’s laws are no longer adequate,” Harvey said.

Commodity advisory committee members attended their committee meetings before or after a lunch presentation each day with 10 committees convening each day to review GFB policy.

“Thank you for being willing to serve and give our input on our polices pertaining to your commodities,” GFB President Gerald Long said. “You’re not only representing your farm but you’re also representing farms in your counties.”

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