GFB News Magazine

Public Policy Update

by Adam Belflower
GFB Governmental Affairs Specialist

Posted on June 5, 2024 12:20 PM

By Adam Belflower

On March 28, the Georgia General Assembly marked the end of the 2024-2025 legislative biennium. This was a successful year for Georgia agriculture with the General Assembly passing multiple pieces of legislation promoting the continued success of our farmers. 

We were happy to see Georgia Farm Bureau’s priority issue House Bill (HB) 1172, by Rep. James Burchett, pass both the House and Senate. HB 1172 removes reference to the public trust doctrine as it applies to navigable waters and restores private property rights to landowners adjacent to navigable waters. 

This bill is important because it addresses unintended consequences from SB 115, legislation state legislators passed last year, while still allowing the public to pass, hunt, and fish on navigable waters, the bill’s original intent. 

Rep. Burchett’s work on this issue began last fall as he chaired the House Study Committee on Fishing Access to Freshwater Resources. HB 1172 came as a recommendation from the study committee. We are grateful for Rep. Burchett’s leadership on this issue. 

GFB also wants to recognize Sen. Sam Watson, who was also instrumental in passing this bill. He authored a similar bill in the Senate and was the bill sponsor of HB 1172 once it crossed over. Look for updates from your GFB Staff as we wait to see what action Gov. Brian Kemp will take on HB 1172. 

While HB 1172 addressed the rights of landowners and the ability of the public to access navigable waters, HR 1554 by Rep. Lynn Smith, continues the discussion of private property rights by creating the House Study Committee on Navigable Streams and Related Matters. The goal of this committee is to delineate and clarify which waters in Georgia are navigable and non-navigable. The work of this committee has significant impact for private property rights because it will recommend to the General Assembly which waterways in Georgia are open for public access. 

Two other important bills GFB helped pass this year were SB 420 and 340. SB 420 by Sen. Jason Anavitarte prohibits the foreign acquisition of farmland by foreign adversaries – protecting our domestic food supply and allowing Georgia farmers to feed our country. 

Working with Rep. Joe Campbell, we were able to get SB 340 passed, which makes diesel exhaust fluid an eligible purchase under the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE) program. 

On April 30 Gov. Kemp signed five ag-related bills at a ceremony in Valdosta. HB 827 by Rep. Tyler Paul Smith increases the penalties of livestock theft from two to 15 years of imprisonment with a fine of $10,000. SB 494 by Sen. Sam Watson, known as the “Georgia Hemp Farming Act,” creates regulations the Georgia Department of Agriculture needed to police Georgia’s hemp industry. SB 436, also by Watson, changes the definition of “Farm Use Vehicle” as it relates to road right-of-way to include any lawful operators of tractors or husbandry implement used primarily for agriculture. SB 340 and 420 were also signed during this ceremony.

Adam Belflower is a GFB Governmental Affairs Specialist. He may be reached at or 478-474-8411, ext. 5259.