Ag News

GFB members visit state capitol en masse

by Jay Stone

Posted on Feb 16, 2024 at 7:58 AM

Bearing messages on nuisance wildlife, private property and water rights, relief from frivolous lawsuits and farm labor, approximately 600 Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) members visited the Georgia Capitol on Feb. 13 as part of the annual GFB Day at the Capitol event.
The day was the 20th day of the 40-day legislative session, and in observance of Mardi Gras, general assembly staff members handed out slices of King Cake to visitors.

The GFB group heard briefings from Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Russ Goodman (R-Homer) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Robert Dickey (R-Musella) during the pre-visit orientation at the Georgia Depot, then walked to the capitol, where they talked over farm issues with elected members of the Georgia General Assembly. Back at the Georgia Depot, GFB hosted members and legislators for lunch, during which they heard remarks from Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper and House Speaker Jon Burns.

GFB President Tom McCall encouraged members to interact with their representatives and speakers.

“I also want you to tell them thank you,” said McCall, a former long-time state representative and House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman. “They get a lot of requests and it’s not often they hear thank you. Let them know you appreciate what they’re doing for you.”

GFB shared key issues with legislators: Seeking ways to mitigate the effects of wildlife damage to crop production; defending the historical understanding of private property and water rights in the state; reforming the current legal environment to better support farmers and small business owners and provide relief from frivolous lawsuits; maintain access to and availability of an affordable and legal workforce.

Sen. Goodman pointed out that Chinese ownership of U.S. agricultural land has increased from 10,000 acres to 400,000 acres since 2010 and mentioned legislation to prohibit foreign ownership of ag land.  

Goodman noted that the proposed state budget includes $2 million in seed money for the Georgia Farmland Conservation Act, which passed in 2023, saying the state has lost 20% of its farmland since 1974. The U.S., he said, is losing 2,000 farmland acres a day.

Dickey thanked Farm Bureau for its support and pointed out that GFB members’ efforts to interact with state legislators has made quite an impression on the state’s elected officials.

“I remember we were about to vote on the Right to Farm bill, and I stood up there with the cards you all had sent in,” Dickey said. “It was a really thick stack. I think you changed some votes on that bill.”

During the lunch, Lt. Gov. Jones discussed a bill to reform liability limits in lawsuits against small businesses, and said the state is moving toward relaxing water permit moratoriums in the southern part of the state.

“There’s a lot of folks from small communities representing you in the capitol and we are focused on things pertaining to Farm Bureau, forestry and the Agribusiness Council.”

Harper celebrated the data presented in the 2024 Ag Snapshots produced by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, which revealed agriculture’s value in the state at nearly $84 billion, and that as an economic sector it supports more than 323,000 jobs.

“Agriculture is truly the backbone of who we are,” Harper said. “It’s the backbone of our [overall] economy and our rural economy.”

Harper noted some points of concern, including increasing labor costs under the H-2A program, a court decision that bans the use of dicamba to protect crops from pests, and a USDA forecast that net farm income will decline by 25% in 2024. He also noted farmers’ protests in Europe over government farm policy limiting farmers’ income.

“We’ll be pushing back,” Harper said. “We don’t need that in American agriculture. If we can’t feed and clothe ourselves, we can’t defend ourselves.”

Sen. Burns said the state’s budget surplus is being put to good use, noting that the legislature is working on bills that would raise the homestead tax exemption and the amount individuals can deduct for childcare expenses, as well as trimming the state income tax rate.

GFB Advocacy and Policy Development Specialist Keaton Walker shared information about the GFB Cookbook project, for which recipes and book orders are being accepted through March 18. Proceeds from the book sales will benefit the GFB Federal ImPACt Fund.

Click here to submit a recipe, pre-order your books and to learn more about the GFB Policy Department Fundraiser.

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