Volume 27, No. 6   Published by the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc.   February 16, 2018
We have hit the halfway point of the 2018 session after a fast, four-day week. Lawmakers headed home Thursday evening and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 20 for another four-day sprint. The very important “cross-over day” will be on Day 28 (February 28) . You’ll recall that this marks the deadline when bills have to have passed their chamber of origin (House bills have to pass the House and Senate bills have to pass the Senate) or they are dead for the year. As a reminder, here is a link to the schedule of the legislative session , which ends March 29.  

Even though the session is halfway over, bills impacting our industry are still being introduced and others could still be changed. Late Thursday afternoon, a much-anticipated ag irrigation bill (with the backing of Governor Deal) was introduced. We have included it in our list of bills below for your review and comment. We have updated the list of bills below to include key legislation impacting agribusiness that may impact you. There are many others on our list, but we only report those with noteworthy status changes. As always, please let us hear from you...and let lawmakers hear from you as well.
We met with Governor Deal’s staff to review the ag water permitting and metering legislation that was introduced late Thursday. Sen. Larry Walker (Perry) will carry SB 451 , which makes several changes impacting ag irrigation. You’ll recall an Ag Permitting Compliance Task Force was established by Governor Deal in late 2016. Much of the bill captures the recommendations of that task force. This includes formally transferring the ag metering program from the GA Soil & Water Conservation Commission to the GA Environmental Protection Division and setting parameters for irrigation metering installation and monitoring for the future. It also establishes a process that requires farms to self-report ag meter data once a year and a responsibility to make repairs to the meters that are not operating properly. The state has invested $20 million to implement much needed expansion and refining the metering program that has been in place the past 15 years. Much of our battle with neighboring states and proving our irrigation efficiencies relies on the installation and operation of this metering program. The ag sector has come a long way in managing our water resources, placing us far ahead of neighboring states. This bill establishes the process to keep that progress moving forward. We welcome your review of the bill and comments. It will likely be assigned to the Senate Natural Resources Committee next week and should advance quickly in the days ahead.
In considering broadband internet access across rural Georgia, which of the following do you prefer?
Select your top choice:
Create a sales tax on phone and television services to fund broadband expansion
Streamline regulations and eliminate sales tax on equipment inputs for broadband
Use public & private funds for state grants to incentivize broadband expansion
On Tuesday, the Capitol was overwhelmed with groups that represent the diversity of agriculture in our state. We also enjoyed seeing former Senate Ag Committee Chairman John Bulloch as he visited with many friends and former colleagues, including current Senate Ag Committee Chairman John Wilkinson .
Senator Tyler Harper (Ocilla) submitted SR 113 commending the Georgia Young Farmers Association and designating February 8th as Georgia Young Farmers Day at the capitol. Wednesday was a chance for those representing GYFA to meet Governor Nathan Deal and the General Assembly to be recognized for their leadership and commitment.
Georgia Farm Bureau's Day at the Capitol was also on Tuesday. GFB President, Gerald Long and his team led a large group of farm members around the Capitol and hosted a luncheon that was very well attended.
The day wrapped up with a Georgia Forestry Association reception that included many industry friends and a long list of legislators attending their event. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle was in attendance and spoke about the importance of forestry in our state and stated that he was committed to helping the industry grow and flourish. Congratulations to GFA President Andres Villegas and his team on a great event.
We look forward to more ag friends at the Capitol next week as 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.
HB 886, would bring several changes to the GATE program. It did not have a committee hearing this week as Rep. Sam Watson (Moultrie) is still collecting input and we offered some suggested changes as well.
This bill was assigned to the House Agriculture Committee and should advance next week. Please let us know if you have questions or suggestions.
HB 723 by Rep. Sam Watson passed out of the full House on Tuesday. This bill 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 . This bill is assigned to the Senate Finance Committee and should have no problem moving forward in the weeks ahead.
SB 332 would create an outdoor mentor program administered by the Department of Natural Resources. Submitted by Senate Natural Resources and Environment Chairman Tyler Harper (Ocilla) , this bill would develop a program where children and teenagers will have additional opportunities to learn responsible hunting practices, gun safety, and outdoor stewardship. This bill unanimously passed out of the full Senate on Tuesday and moves to the House Game, Fish & Parks Committee.
Rural broadband discussions continued this week, but much like rural internet speeds, progress is slow. Last week we mentioned HB 887 , which offers several benefits, but is weighted down with a shift in user fees to fund internet expansion. It also disadvantages the Georgia Electric Membership Cooperatives (EMCs) by slashing the fees they would receive from telecom service providers, such as cable and phone companies, utilizing their huge network of power poles across Georgia. Those are big hurdles to clear.
As for the Senate, there are three bills from Sen. Steve Gooch ( Dahlonega ) that advance the issue in a much different way. SB 232 is being adjusted next week to help clear the way for the EMCs to use their power poles and service team to advance their broadband internet services. SB 402 would provide statewide assessments of broadband services and develop a grant program through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to help expansions into unserved or underserved areas. SB 426 targets wireless services, which are growing in use in some areas. By streamlining permitting, regulating and establishing parameters on use, this should encourage swift expansion on such technologies. The House and Senate approaches have merit regarding achieving the rural broadband objective. This will be an interesting process to watch and we are happy to be engaged. Georgia lawmakers need to get this done, but the process won’t be easy. Stay tuned…

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
Swainsboro Stockyard
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!
A handful of local municipalities in the Atlanta area have recently implemented a ban on using wood and lumber in construction projects where a structure exceeds three stories. Such actions fly in the face of the productivity and importance on one of Georgia's key assets, our forests. Rep. John Corbett (Lake Park) introduced HB 876 which eliminates such local prohibitions and builders will be able to use any material they see fit as long as it meets the required building and safety measures set forth by the state and the State Fire Code . Following good discussion, it passed the committee. It is an issue that surfaced during the House Rural Development Council and we hope to see it advance to the House floor soon.
HB 859 would allow for a cash incentive, up to $200 per day, to those who return their secondary metals to a recycler. This is a major concern because of potential theft of copper metals on many irrigation pivots and other ag equipment that is all too common. The ag industry has long fought for and protected the prohibition of cash payments for metal recycling because of the many theft challenges it creates. We don't support any form of cash reimbursement for recycled metal for this reason. It is assigned to the House Regulated Industries Committee.
The Senate passed the FY2018 Amended Budget on Thursday 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. Click here to view the FY 2018 amended budget proposal that advanced through the Senate. Final details will be worked out in the coming weeks before it is sent to Governor Deal for his signature.
Three weeks ago, GAC and six other ag organizations provided a letter to Members of the Georgia congressional delegation asking for the inclusion of ag labor reform as a part of any federal immigration proposal . Click here to see the letter . Since that time, there has been much discussion of needed changes to the AG Act to advance the new ag workforce program, called H-2C. We are encouraged by some of the changes being made and look forward to continuing these discussions in the weeks ahead. In addition, Congresswoman Karen Handel will be in Atlanta next week to meet with a round table of ag interests to further these discussions. Rep. Handel and Rep. Doug Collins play key roles on the House Judiciary Committee where these issues are debated. All of the ag organizations are working together to get needed visa labor reforms. Stay tuned...
The Council is working with the Georgia Chamber to share the following Georgia Department of Natural Resources survey for businesses around the state to learn specific details of their experiences, needs and knowledge regarding the impact of natural disaster , such as a hurricane, flood, fire, ice storm or tornado impacting our state and communities. 

It is especially important for DNR to understand what kind of support, information, or resources business owners will need in order to re-open after such a natural disaster. The following brief survey will prove helpful in post disaster recovery assistance. We hope you will participate and share with others that may have experience to share. The survey closes on March, 31. Thank you. 

* 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.
* 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.
* 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 are pleased to be a sponsor of this much heralded event.
* 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.
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