Governor Deal to keynote GAC Annual Meeting on Feb 6.
Volume 27, No. 4   Published by the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc.   February 2, 2018
The past four legislative days this week confirmed the 2018 session is running at full throttle. Many of the policy issues we have been anticipating surfaced, including the Georgia Ag Tax Exemption (GATE) program reforms and those stemming from the House Rural Development Council seeking to help spur rural prosperity. These are in the very early stages, but the wheels are turning and we expect many of these bills to advance in committees next week.

Lawmakers headed home Thursday afternoon having completed 14 of the 40 legislative days. Of particular note this week, the Senate passed the animal cruelty legislation we support and the House is poised to pass the FY 2018 amended budget early next week. The General Assembly will return Monday for another four-day workweek and we look forward to seeing many of them at our GAC State Legislative Breakfast on Wednesday morning.  We hope that you have made plans to join us.

We have provided a list of bills below to include those of interest and momentum. They change often, so stay tuned.
Click here to listen to our interview with Southeast AgNet as we discuss this week under the Gold Dome.
We are honored to have Governor Nathan Deal be our keynote speaker for the evening.

Please join us Tuesday evening as Governor Deal discusses issues important to our industry and reflects on his tenure as Georgia's 82nd Governor. The GAC Membership Supper & Annual Meeting will be held the evening of Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at The American Hotel (a DoubleTree by Hilton) in downtown Atlanta . Tickets are just $100. We will have a reception starting at 6:00 p.m. with supper being served at 6:30 p.m. This NEW venue is a beautifully remodeled facility and will serve as the host hotel. Call 404-688-8600 to see if hotel rooms are still available or call the GAC office at 706-336-6830 and ask for Maggie Wooten if you need assistance.
The GAC State Legislative Breakfast is set for Wednesday, February 7th at the Georgia Freight Depot in Atlanta. Food lines open at 7:15 a.m. and we will conclude by 8:30 a.m.

We are honored to have GAC member and House Appropriations Chairman Terry England introduce our great lineup of speakers!
2018 Legislative Breakfast Speakers
Lt. Governor Casey Cagle
Speaker of the House David Ralston
Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black
Attorney General Chris Carr
Secretary of State Brian Kemp
Senate Ag Chairman John Wilkinson
House Ag Chairman Tom McCall
If you would like to purchase tickets to the legislative breakfast,
 please call 706-336-6830. Thank you!
Thanks for your responses last week. Here are the top two poll results for:
"In the state budget, which program area would you most like to see additional funding?"

1. Control of whiteflies in vegetable and row crops. 52.5%
2. Repairs and improvements to state farmers markets. 17.5%
3. Purchase of equipment to help fight forest fires. 17.5%
4. Improvements to poultry lab emergency response services. 12.5%
With regard to GATE card use, which component do you believe would best improve the program?
Please choose one:
Change the GATE card to a 3-year renewal and increase fee to $100 - $150
Revoke the GATE card of those abusing the program with improper purchases
Require tax documents to be filed with GATE application to prove farm income
Make ag retailers use an online database to validate consumer's GATE card status
HB 723 by Rep. Sam Watson (Moultrie) creates an exemption from state sales tax on equipment for nonprofit organizations that offer certain poultry diagnostic and disease monitoring services. Poultry industry champion Abit Massey highlighted the importance of this exemption in the committee hearing and it passed the House Ways & Means committee on Thursday. It should pass the House in the weeks ahead.
Early in the week, we reviewed a first-draft of a bill that would make several changes to the GATE program. It includes moving to a multi-year card, increasing the card fee, strengthening the application process, and improving the sharing of data by the Department of Revenue when GATE purchases are audited. It also establishes parameters for GATE card use to be revoked for a long term if fraud is detected. We have offered several suggestions as the bill continues to be crafted. We expect to see a final bill introduced in the next few days.
SB 257 by Senator Bill Heath (Bremen) passed the Senate 38 - 14 on Wednesday. It would provide better protection for farm operations from false animal cruelty and husbandry charges. Law enforcement officials would have to consult a Department of Agriculture veterinarian or an approved veterinarian before charges are filed in an alleged case of animal cruelty. It now moves to the House for consideration.
On Thursday, SB 330 passed the Senate Ag Committee. This bill by Ag Committee Chairman Sen. John Wilkinson (Toccoa) would have the Georgia Department of Education establish an agricultural education pilot program for elementary schools. The pilot program would help determine if such an elementary agricultural education program would be beneficial statewide. Six or more public elementary schools would be selected for the pilot program and it would be initiated in the 2019-2020 school year. We proudly voiced our support in committee along with Ag Commissioner Gary Black and others. Click here to view the video of the Senate Ag Committee discussion and vote.
Last year, the House created a council to delve into the problems and issues facing the rural parts of our state. A full report of their findings was submitted in December and we are starting to see legislation introduced in order to address these issues.
Tax Credits for Class III Railroads
HB 735 by Rep. Patty Bentley (Butler) would provide needed tax credits for the short-line rail system to make repairs, thus enhancing service. There are 29 short-line railroads across the state, many of which are limited in speed and load weight due to poor track conditions and limits on the capacity of existing bridges. Improving these rail systems would benefit the state transportation system by moving more loads to rail. We also see this as an opportunity to see investment in track expansion for a variety of businesses, especially those moving grain. It is expected to receive more discussion in the House Ways & Means Committee and hopefully advance in the weeks ahead.
HB 778 by Rep. Terry England (Auburn) is the start of a discussion about moving the control of ag education standards, administration and funds to the Technical College System of Georgia. This would include the transferring of extended day grant programs, extended year technology and career education, young farmer programs, and more. Teachers would continue as local school system employees and remain in the teacher retirement system. The bill was just introduced and will undergo much discussion in the weeks ahead. There are some strong feelings about the changes this bill would deliver, but it is important to remember that Rep. England has long been a champion of ag education initiatives and we know he is dedicated to the long-term success of these programs. We encourage patience as the legislative process takes shape.
With labor challenges for our industries reaching a critical level, we believe now is the time to deliver a reasonable, cost-effective, viable visa workforce program that will benefit agriculture in Georgia and across the nation. This week GAC, along with several key industry groups, submitted a letter to the Georgia Congressional Delegation urging them to include key elements of the Agricultural Guestworker Act of 2017 (Ag Act) as a part of any immigration reform bill initiative or as a stand-alone bill. Congress must act to fix these ag workforce challenges. Click here to read the letter.
Thursday was Georgia 4-H Day at the Capitol and we are proud of what the 4-H organization does for these young leaders. SR 672 commends the 4-H Clubs of Georgia and Mr. Mason McClintock , Mr. Arch D. Smith , and the 2017-2018 4-H Leadership Team and recognizes this special day. This was a chance for members and legislators alike to show their support and brighten up the capitol with their green jackets.
Special thanks to our 2018 Star Sponsors listed below. We welcome having GAC member companies be a part of this initiative. Click here for a full list of our 2017 Star Sponsors.
Please call our office at 706-336-6830 or   click here for details . Thank you!
Bay Branch Farms Inc.
Cochran Oil Mill & Ginnery
Coley Gin & Fertilizer Co.
CSA Farms, Inc.
Curry Farm Supply Inc.
Embry Transport Inc.
Georgia Tobacco Commission
Georgia Seed Association Inc.
Hattaway Farms Partnership
Hazel Creek Cider, Inc. / Yearwood Farms, Inc.
Israel Farm Supply Inc.
J & B Irrigation Inc.
Lyle Farms, LLC
Pineland Plantation
Pitts Insurance Agency Inc.
Shellman Carriers, LLC
Vidalia Onion Business Council
It was great to be reunited with Secretary Perdue on Wednesday as he returned to Georgia to speak at the International Production & Processing Expo. He was able to see many ag industry friends and announce the launch of the USDA's website. This interactive, mobile-friendly site is designed to help producers file paperwork, apply for USDA programs, check eligibility, and much more.
Last week, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board of Directors elected GAC member Aaron McWhorter as their new chairman and he will serve for one year. The Board is responsible for setting rules and regulations ranging from air and water quality to hunting seasons and provides input into issues such as the agency’s budget recommendations and legislative initiatives. Aaron is the owner and president of North Georgia Turf, Inc.
We are proud of GAC member Jaemor Farms for being awarded "Business of the Year" by the Banks County Chamber of Commerce. Drew & Shelly Echols and their family do an excellent job bringing farm products, information, and a great customer experience to all. Congratulations!
The  UGA CAES 2018 Ag Forecast Seminars are drawing to a close. GAC is proud to be a partner in promoting these informative events. Follow the links to register.
  • Monday, February 5: Macon (GA Farm Bureau) Click Here.
  • Tuesday, February 6: Cartersville (Clarence Brown Conference Center) Click Here.
  • Wednesday, February 7: Athens (The Classic Center) Click Here.
* Forestry Day at the Capitol will be February 13. It provides an opportunity to network with legislators, public officials and decision makers while catching up Georgia Forestry Association friends, fellow forestry professionals, and landowners. Register here .
* We hope you will attend the Georgia Farm Bureau's Day at the Capitol on February 13th. Get to know your elected officials and mingle with those in the industry to "grow" your network!
* FFA Day at the Capitol will take place on Tuesday, February 20. It starts off with a breakfast and last the whole day while students are able to come and interact with their legislators.
* The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division will host a free compliance assistance seminar for Georgia agricultural employers and farm labor contractors to promote compliance with the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and the labor provisions of the H-2A temporary worker program. The session will take place Thursday, February 22 . Click here to register.
* Southwest Georgia Farm Credit is encouraging all high school seniors looking to go to college to pursue a career in an agriculture-related field or to benefit rural Georgia to apply for their scholarship program. Application deadline is February 28 . Click here to apply .
* Save the date for "An Evening for ABAC" on March 2 at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. This annual scholarship benefit helps students pursue their dreams in the various ag fields . Click here to RSVP .
* The 2018 Georgia Agritourism Association’s Annual Conference will be held March 5 and 6. This is a great opportunity for people to tour Georgia Agritourism operations, network, and learn about the latest in effective marketing strategies, on-farm activities that work, and hear first-hand testimonials from agritourism operators about their success. Call 706-845-9085 or click here for more info and to register.
* We hope you will make plans to join us at the Georgia FFA Foundation Blue & Gold Gala slated for Friday, March 9 at the St. Regis Buckhead hotel in Atlanta. Click here for details.
Committee meetings, videos of past meetings, and full session debates for the House and Senate are all available online.

Follow these links to access the daily schedule of:
This information is intended for members of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc. No part of this document shall be copied, edited, or redistributed in any form without express written consent from the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc.
Georgia Agribusiness Council | 706-336-6830 | WWW.GA-AGRIBUSINESS.ORG