Governor Deal to keynote GAC Annual Meeting on Feb 6.
Volume 27, No. 5   Published by the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc.   February 9, 2018
Lawmakers headed home Thursday afternoon having wrapped up the 18th legislative day. The session will pass the halfway point next week as legislators return Monday for another four-day sprint. As a reminder, here is a link to the schedule of the legislative session , which ends March 29.  

The list of bills we are tracking continues to grow each week. Many provide benefits to our industry through rural development initiatives, but that doesn't mean they can't be improved. Of particular note this week, the GATE bill was introduced and several bills of interest advanced from committees. We have updated the list of bills below to include key legislation impacting agribusiness. Please let us hear from you...and let lawmakers hear from you as well.
Thank you to all of the members and industry friends that joined us for the GAC Membership Supper & Annual Meeting and GAC State Legislative Breakfast earlier this week!

We were very pleased to have Governor Nathan Deal serve as our keynote speaker during this year's Membership Supper. GAC President Bryan Tolar presented the 2017 Annual Report highlighting membership growth, member services, legislative accomplishments, and the progress of the new Georgia AgPAC which provides financial support to aid the campaign efforts of elected officials that are friends of agriculture.
The 2018 Annual Meeting ushered in new leadership for the Council as Steve Crouch of Newton Crouch Inc. was named Chairman of the Board; Spencer Black of Triangle Chemical Co., was named 1st Vice Chairman; Barry Cronic of Columbia Farms was named 2nd Vice Chairman; Jerry Davis of Heart of Georgia Peanut & Gin Co. was named Treasurer; and Donna Stewart of HAYS~LTI joined the GAC officer team as Secretary.
Directors re-elected to the board include: Terry Hollifield of GA Crop Improvement Association; Jim Lovett with GA Power; Rodney Miller of Small Town Big Deal/Buford Corn Maze; Ken Morrow of The Turfgrass Group. In addition, Christy Manning of RW Griffin and Bill Brim of Lewis Taylor Farms were elected as new members of the board. Congratulations to all.
Christy Manning of R.W. Griffin in Douglas, GA.
Bill Brim of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, GA.
On Wednesday, more than 500 guests were in attendance again this year for the GAC State Legislative Breakfast. Those attending included Members of the Georgia General, Assembly, Constitutional Officers, GAC Members and other friends of the industry. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England did an outstanding job introducing this year's speakers including Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, House Speaker David Ralston, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom McCall , and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman John Wilkinson .

Many thanks to our 46 table sponsors and industry friends for hosting legislators and attending this event! Being present and making personal contact with legislators makes a difference for our industry. We appreciate everyone that was able to participate.
Lindy Savelle with GAC Board Secretary, Donna Stewart
UGA Dean Sam Pardue, Greg Leger, and Rep. Robert Dickey
House Majority Leader Jon Burns and Richard Royal
House Agriculture Chairman
Tom McCall
Senate Agriculture Chairman John Wilkinson
Attorney General
Chris Carr
Lieutenant Governor
Casey Cagle
Secretary of State
Brian Kemp
Speaker of the House
David Ralston
Agriculture Commissioner
Gary Black
GAC Chairman
Steve Crouch
GFB President
Gerald Long
Thanks for your responses last week. Here are the top poll results for:
"With regard to GATE card use, which component do you believe would best improve the program?"

Change the GATE card to a 3-year renewal and increase fee to $100 - $150. 42%
Revoke the GATE card of those abusing the program with improper purchases. 26%
Require tax documents to be filed with GATE application to prove farm income. 16%
Make ag retailers use an online database to validate consumer's card status. 16%
HB 778 by Rep. Terry England (Auburn) sought to move the control of ag education standards, administration, and money to the Technical College System of Georgia’s board. While we will never doubt the support Rep. England has for ag education, the response to the introduction of this bill created a stir of concern and consternation that led to a substantial change in course. While maintaining a desire to see the future of ag education and Career Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) to remain strong, Rep. England announced Thursday that he is withdrawing the bill. Instead, he will pursue the discussion when the actions of the House Rural Development Council (RDC) continue later in the year. This will give additional time to collect important input from education stakeholders and students. You can view the video of the announcement on the House floor below.
The much-anticipated GATE legislation arrived Thursday afternoon as HB 886 . GAC member Rep. Sam Watson (Moultrie) is the author of the bill that would make several changes to the GATE program. As introduced, it would do the following:

  • Provide a three-year card and carries a $150 fee.
  • Issue new plastic GATE cards each year along with GATE usage guidance information.
  • Move the minimum revenue threshold to qualify for a GATE card to $7,500.
  • Strengthen the GATE application process to improve qualifying documentation.
  • Improve the sharing of data by the Department of Revenue when GATE purchases are audited. 
  • Establish parameters for GATE card use to be revoked for abuse.

After reviewing the first draft last week, we offered suggestions to help soften retail management of GATE transactions and we appreciate Rep. Watson and the Dept of Agriculture for incorporating many of our suggestions. The bill will start to move through the House Ways & Means Committee next week.
HB 723 by Rep. Sam Watson would provide an exemption from sales tax for those non-profit organizations which, as their primary purpose, provide poultry related diagnostic and disease monitoring services . There is no controversy on this issue, but it must still clear all the hurdles. It is slated for a vote by the full House on Monday.
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. HB 735 by Rep. Patty Bentley (Butler) would provide needed tax credits for the short-line rail system to make repairs, thus enhancing service. It passed unanimously out of the House Ways & Means Committee on Thursday . Improving these rail systems would benefit the state transportation system by moving more loads to rail.
SB 338 would improve the process of having lawmakers intervene on certain state regulations during their rulemaking process changes, should such actions be needed. Even if not utilized, we believe the ability for such actions to be initiated is beneficial to the rulemaking process. Simply put, if regulations are passed by a state agency that create excessive concern by the regulated industry/stakeholders, the committees in the House and Senate that oversee such issues have a chance to vote and halt the process temporarily. It is an additional check on regulatory development that has served us well and these changes would make this process even stronger moving forward. It passed the Senate on Thursday and now heads to the House where the battle will intensify to get it signed into law. 
The House passed the FY2018 Amended Budget earlier this week with no changes impacting ag programs. It is common for the amended budget to have only a few changes as most of the money is moved around in the big budget for FY 2019. The Senate started hearing from the various state agencies this week. Click here to view the FY 2018 amended budget proposal that advanced to the Senate. Senator Jack Hill and Rep. Terry England serve as chairmen of their respective Appropriations Committees.
The term broadband means different things to different folks, but HB 887 would establish 'broadband services' to mean wired or wireless access to the internet, etc. It states that on or before July 1, 2019, the director of emergency management and homeland security develop a program to provide funding to providers of broadband services who request the least amount of money to offer broadband services in unserved areas or underserved areas of the state. The goal of course is to provide broadband services coverage throughout the entire state with a modest 10 megabits per second minimum for downloads and at least 1 megabit per second upload speed. It is a 45-page bill with a laundry list of nuances…we hope you have enough broadband service to download the file. Regardless, as a product of the House Rural Development Council's efforts to revitalize rural Georgia, and under the leadership of Rep. Jay Powell (Camilla) , it should advance quickly in the coming days. 
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
Special thanks to our 2018 Star Sponsors. We welcome having GAC member companies be a part of this initiative.
Please call our office at 706-336-6830 or   click here for details . Thank you!
* GAC is pleased to partner with the Asmark Institute and to announce their 2018 Applicator Manual is now available. These manuals have become the industry standard in helping comply with EPA’s requirements to have label information available for applicators while handling or applying pesticides. Click here for more information or to purchase online.
* 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 .
* The Georgia Cattlemen's Association will be hosting their annual Legislative Steak Biscuit Day at the Capitol on March 1. Great opportunity to meet with your elected official and discuss issues related to the livestock industry.
* 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.
* The Georgia Peanut Commission and National Peanut Buying Points Assn. will be hosting Peanut Butter & Jelly Day at the State Capitol in the South Wing, Monday, March 12 , 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to noon. 
* 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 quick 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