GFB News Magazine
Georgia farmers weigh in on Daylight Saving Time
Posted on May 26, 2021 12:00 AM
By Jay Stone
The Georgia General Assembly addressed twice-yearly time changes by passing Senate Bill (SB) 100 in its 2021 session. Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law on April 21.
The bill, which would make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent, is a contingency. While states can establish permanent standard time, they cannot make DST permanent unless Congress enacts legislation authorizing it. Until Congress acts, Georgia will continue the current practice of changing clocks twice a year.
Neither Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) nor the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has policy addressing DST.
An informal poll of a dozen farmers around the state asked for their views on DST and the practice of changing clocks twice a year.
Eight of the 12 said they preferred DST over standard time.
“The hardest thing for a dairy farmer is to develop a life,” said Troup County dairyman Joel Keith. “There’s a routine there that the dairy has got to run. Extra daylight in the afternoons enables the dairyman and his family to have a life outside the farm.”
Berrien County fruit and row-crop farmer Tim McMillan disagrees.
“I’ve always hated daylight saving time in the summer, because it put me coming in so late,” said McMillan. “I felt like I missed out on some things with my children. It was my choice. I could have quit at 8 o’clock and still had daylight outside, but I felt an obligation to the farm.”
McMillan’s wife, Margaret, echoed his sentiments.
“Tim and I have been married 40 years and for 40 years I have hated daylight saving time. From a farm wife standpoint of never getting to see your husband, it is the worst thing imaginable. I’ve always hated it, because he was always working later in the summertime,” she said. “There’s nothing good about eating supper at 9:30 at night.”
Eight of those interviewed said they do not like changing clocks twice a year.
“Having children, having to adjust their schedules and bedtimes, I kind of see it as nonsense,” said Washington County farmer Bridget Hitchcock.
Where clocks and sunshine are concerned, most of the farmers GFB interviewed mentioned family considerations before farm productivity.
“Even though we are farmers who care about our crops, we care about our families too,” said Jake Carter of Henry County. “I think that’s one of the things that would allow us to have that quality time with our families.”
While the majority fell on the side of DST and not changing clocks, Grady County’s John Harrell offered a cautionary tale on sticking to one time year-round. Harrell, who said he would rather keep the clock-setting schedule the way it is currently, noted that the U.S. went to year-round DST in 1973 and 1974 as the U.S. grappled with oil and gas shortages.
“It didn’t get daylight until about eight-something in the morning in January that year,” said Harrell, who was a student at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College at the time. “It was weird. If you ate breakfast before class, you ate in the dark. If you had an 8 o’clock class, you went in the dark. If school started at 8 o’clock for young’uns, they caught the bus in the dark and they went to class in the dark. They saw the sun come up after they got to school.”
Georgia is one of at least 28 states that considered DST legislation in 2021, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which also notes Georgia is among 15 states to pass DST bills or resolutions since 2018. Since 2015, at least 350 bills have been introduced in state legislatures.
“I’ve heard it said farmers need longer hours to gather things like fruit. Here’s the thing: I’m starting at 11 o’clock in the morning because I have to wait until the dew dries, and then I’ll work until 9 o’clock at night picking them. The dew will dry under standard time at 10 o’clock, and I can be at it from 10 til 8.”
“I guess I like daylight saving time better. The main thing is just keep something the same year round. That’s what I would like to see them do. I like to go to work when it’s daylight. I don’t like to start when it’s dark. It’s not that big a deal to me. I guess we might get a little bit more done with the late sunlight.”
“[Changing clocks] doesn’t really matter to me. I typically work from daylight til dark, so what the clock says doesn’t matter that much. There are bigger fish in the sea.”
In Congress, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Florida) introduced the Sunshine Protection Act (H.R. 69) on Feb. 2, which would establish DST year-round. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) introduced S. 263 (which is also titled the Sunshine Protection Act) on March 9. The two bills were referred to their chambers’ respective commerce committees.
Currently, Hawaii and Arizona (except for the Navajo Reservation within Arizona) maintain standard time year-round.
The other 48 states employ the “spring forward, fall backward” practice of changing clocks. This current model for changing clocks has been in place since 1966, when Congress passed the Uniform Time Act based on the idea time changes would conserve energy. The dates for resetting clocks have changed, but one thing we can all set our clocks by is that twice a year there is much discussion about the wisdom, or lack of it, in doing so.
A history of time change
Sundials estimated to be around 5,500 years old have been discovered in ancient Egyptian ruins. So, humans have been measuring time at least that long.
Once we realized time could be measured, it may have been inevitable we’d also try to manipulate it. For the last 100 years, that’s essentially what we’ve done using Daylight Saving Time (DST). Setting our clocks an hour ahead in March means daylight ends later.
According to a 2018 article in Smithsonian Magazine, DST was debated in the British Parliament at least as early as the 1880s. In 1916, Germany established DST as a means of conserving energy to support its war effort. Soon after, England adopted DST.
The United States established DST and time changes in 1918, but it was soon repealed after a national outcry.
Various cities and states across the country began establishing their own DST policies. By 1965, 18 states had established six months of DST and six months standard time. The next year, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which is still in effect, though there have been changes to the months designated for changing clocks.