Monthly Newsletter for Georgia Agribusiness Council Members
Volume 28, No. 12 Published by the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc.   April 4, 2019
SINE DIE!

Another 40 Legislative Days have come and gone and lawmakers now head back to their districts to fulfill their normal duties as citizen legislators. We appreciate the hard work of these individuals as they take time away from their families and homes to work under the Gold Dome each year. It’s not an easy job to make decisions on hundreds of bills that cover every topic imaginable. A special thanks to those legislators that serve on the House and Senate Agriculture as well as the Natural Resources Committees for their work this year. Many of the bills important to Agribusiness interests begin in these committees.

Governor Brian Kemp now has 40 consecutive days for “bill review” and to sign or veto legislation that was passed by the General Assembly. For the bills of importance to GAC that were tabled this year, we now begin work to address the concerns that delayed the bills and concentrate our efforts to get them across the finish line next year.

Thank you to each of our members for the impact that you have with your legislators in your districts. We also thank those of you that took the time to contact your elected officials when we needed your help. Your calls matter and were effective in moving the needle. It is an honor to represent you at the Capitol and we look forward to working with you throughout the remainder of the year.
THANK YOU!
We’d like to thank this group of friends for working together throughout the Legislative Session to help protect Georgia’s largest and best industry. Thank you to our partners at the Georgia Dept. Of Agriculture, Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia Forestry Association and the Georgia Poultry Federation for working on behalf of your organizations each and every day.
ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER FAILED VOTE FOR DISASTER RELIEF
Washington, DC. -- Senator Perdue and Senator Isakson watched over the vote on a massive emergency aid bill for victims of Hurricane Michael in the Southeast, and wildfires, flooding and other natural disasters across the country as it was defeated in the Senate on Monday amid a fight between Democrats and President Trump over relief for Puerto Rico.

Senate Democrats opposed the $13.45 billion legislation, saying the $600 million included for Puerto Rico’s food stamp program is inadequate to meet the U.S. territory’s needs as it attempts to recover from Hurricane Maria.

The vote on the GOP bill was 44 in favor and 49 against. Sixty votes were needed for the legislation to advance. At this time, it’s unclear how Congress and the administration will move forward to revive the emergency package as Georgia farmers continue to struggle as they plan for the 2019 growing season. While Georgians suffer, politicians in Washington continue to play political games in preparation for the 2020 election cycle.
GEORGIA RIGHT TO FARM BILL DELAYED
HB 545 by House Ag Chairman Tom McCall, and our largest priority issue for the session was unable to make it through the Senate this year, but remains available for consideration when we reconvene in 2020. The Senate substitute, carried by Senate Ag Chairman John Wilkinson , included amendments that attempted to address several concerns by a few rural Senators regarding specific issues that are ongoing in their districts. Now that session is over, our work will begin immediately to continue the discussion regarding the importance of Right to Farm legislation for Georgia farms and agribusinesses as opportunistic trial lawyers continue to “shop” nuisance cases around the state. These frivolous lawsuits have put farms out of business across the country and we need to close the loopholes in our Right to Farm laws to ensure that this does not take place in our state and force Georgia farmers out of the industry.

For over 40 years, the legislature has handled Ag nuisance laws differently than those in other industries and we want to make sure we maintain the original intent while closing some of the loopholes that have been exposed by changes in agriculture technology and updates to best practices on the farm.

The bill was supported by every major agriculture group in the state as well as support from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce as they made this lawsuit reform bill a score-card issue for legislators. Governor Brian Kemp also offered his support for this legislation.
RURAL BROADBAND LEGISLATION FINALLY PASSES
SB 2 , which authorizes Georgia’s EMCs to provide broadband, finally crossed the finish line this legislative session. Several safeguards sought by competitors on prohibiting EMCs from cross subsidizing broadband from their electric or gas divisions and not being able to charge excessive amounts for other broadband providers to access EMC poles have been incorporated. Electric Membership Corporations around the state are great partners for agribusinesses and we hope this legislation allows for new options to hit the market place for rural Georgian’s who struggle to obtain high speed internet connections.
GOVERNOR KEMPS FIRST BUDGET INCLUDES SUPPORT FOR AG
The House and Senate conference committee were able to work through each chamber’s budget proposals and pass the first budget under Governor Brian Kemp . Thanks to the efforts of Senate Finance Chairman Jack Hill and the House Appropriations Chairman, and GAC member, Terry England , the budget process moved smoothly all session. For full details of the budget , click here . The budget included several items of importance to Georgia agribusiness interests including:
  • Increased funding for the GATE program
  • Money for Soil and Water Conservation Commission
  • Support for the Poultry Diagnostic Lab
  • Funding for UGA Extension and CAES
  • Funding for UGA College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Partial funding for UGA Greenhouse complex
  • EPD money for Ag irrigation metering program
GAC BOARD MEMBER TESTIFIES TO CONGRESS ON LABOR ISSUES
South Georgia farmer, Bill Brim , traveled to Washington this week to speak in front of the House Judiciary Committee about the need for improvements to the H2A program. Bill is considered a leading expert on ag labor and is a great advocate for our industry. Congressman Doug Collins o ffered the following statement during the meeting and included a shout out to another Georgia farmer, GAC member and ag labor leader, Drew Echols of Jaemor Farms .

WASHINGTON –  “Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. Before we begin, I must again note the humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border worsens every day, and this committee – which enjoys jurisdiction over immigration – has ignored the problem. So many family units are crossing the border that border patrol is being forced to simply release them into America’s interior. House Democrats deny there’s a humanitarian or security crisis while blaming President Trump for conditions at the border. In both cases, their response is to take no action.

We’re here today to consider another important issue, the nexus of immigration and agriculture. My Congressional district in northeast Georgia is home to a vast agriculture industry and hardworking farmers, ranchers, growers and processors who contribute to America’s economy and our communities every day. In our corner of the state, more than 10,000 farm operators grow everything from peaches to cattle and from chicken to strawberries. I’m pleased a grower from south Georgia, Bill Brim, is here today to explain why Congress needs to provide a workable solution to the labor needs of the agriculture industry.

I know firsthand what farmers face when they try to assemble an adequate workforce. Farmers, like Drew Echols of  Jaemor Farms , need help harvesting crops. Georgia peaches are fickle, so timing is everything — but the H2A system offers almost no flexibility. This means extra hands may arrive too early or too late to get fruit off the tree and into that homemade pie. Workers who arrive before crops have ripened aren’t allowed to find work on other farms while they wait.

At the same time, family operations, like Jaemor, invest a lot of time and money applying for H2A workers, knowing those applications aren’t always processed in time to get workers onto American farms. Farmers need a more flexible and less bureaucratic system as the agricultural industry — including meat processors — strives to put food on American tables.

Right now, to secure an H2A employee, growers must start with the Labor Department’s certification process. By law, the department must certify there are not sufficient “able, willing, and qualified” U.S. workers to fill the job and employing an H2A worker “will not adversely affect the wage or working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.”
While I believe these requirements were well-intentioned, we should revisit their implementation since they have expensive and time-consuming side effects, even though we all know that growers simply cannot find U.S. workers. Most Americans would prefer to work less labor-intensive jobs, preferably with air conditioning. Even in rural areas with a long, rich agricultural tradition, farmers often raise their children to pursue other lines of work.

Using the H2A program is also cost prohibitive. Many times, growers must pay over a thousand dollars in fees per worker to the government and to a recruiter. In many states, agriculture employers are required to pay artificially high wage rates. The Adverse Effect Wage Rate is over $11 per hour at its lowest and over $15 an hour at its highest, depending on the state. On top of these costs, growers must provide transportation and housing to H2A workers once they arrive in the U.S. 

These H2A employers, who are doing their best to follow the law, are routinely undercut by growers who pay lower wages because they use laborers who are not authorized to work.

This, combined with the lower cost of fruits, vegetables and other agriculture products grown in other countries and shipped to the U.S., are driving America’s farmers out of business. Their current position, and, by extension, the current H2A program, is simply unsustainable.

Congress has the ability, and the responsibility, to enact a reasonable agricultural guest-worker program so growers can pay legal workers a fair wage and also make a fair living themselves.

What does such a program look like? That’s a topic we’ll discuss today. I know the subcommittee chair has an agricultural worker bill. I don’t believe it’s a viable solution since it legalizes the current agricultural workforce without providing for a future flow of legal workers. We’ll need those workers down the road once the current workers realize their employment authorization also allows them to trade agricultural work for less labor-intensive industries. 

That said, I take the chair at her word: she wants to find a workable solution for growers, and I hope to work with her toward that goal. The repercussions of not fixing this problem – a country whose produce aisles offer nothing “grown in the USA” – are unacceptable. 

I look forward to the witnesses’ testimony, and yield back the balance of my time.”
FINAL RECAP FOR BILLS OF INTEREST
PASSED

The poultry lab has a non-typical set up within the state agencies which has caused the state to essentially be taxing itself. It will provide an exemption from state sales and use tax for certain poultry diagnostic and disease monitoring services. This bill will work to make the relationship less complicated.  HB 35 was passed through the House on 2/21 and passed Senate vote on 3/18 with the help of Sen. John Wilkinson .

HB 183 - Landowner Appeals
This bill by Rep. Brett Harrell provides protection to the tax appeal rights of Georgia land owners and Georgia’s 450,000 forest owners

HB 213 - Industiral Hemp
Rep. John Corbett and his HB 213 Hemp Bill passed through the Senate being carried by Senator Tyler Harper . The main focus of this bill is an attempt to set the groundwork for how the Department of Agriculture will regulate Hemp. It looks to put parameters on who can develop the seeds, grow the hemp and process the valuable CBD oil from the finished product. Very tight definitions of hemp are included to ensure that the general public can be assured that this is not a slippery slope towards medical marijuana production. We feel that if hemp is regulated correctly, this could be another opportunity for agribusiness to grow in the state. All of our neighboring states have already taken advantage of the changes made in the last Farm Bill to establish their hemp industry.

HR 214 - Rural Development Council
This resolution by Rep. Sam Watson, who is the Chairman of the Rural Caucus, reauthorizes the Rural Development Council for another 2 years .

HB 223 - Animal Waste, Pesticide And Other Hazardous Reporting
 HB 223 looks to line up state law with federal legislation around the handling of pesticides, animal waste and other hazardous materials. The bill would ensure that routine farm practices regarding animal waste, pesticides and other hazardous material would not require reporting to the EPD when a catastrophic event has not occurred.

HB 332 - Commodity Commission Ex Officio
State Rep. Steven Meeks presented HB 332 to address how the Commissioner of Agriculture and the President of Georgia Farm Bureau are represented when they are unable to attend commodity meetings. HB 332 was passed through the House and Senate and adopted.

HB 446 - Hurricane Michael Tax Credit Transfers
Reps. Knight's bill clarifies language in the income tax credit for timber producers from the special session in November. The timber income tax credits are refundable and transferable for those who can claim them, but if sold shall not be refundable to the transferee. HB 446 substitute was passed through the House and Senate on Sine Die.

Rep. Petrea proposed this bill seeks to establish oyster farming and develop mariculture in the state. HB 501 also creates rules and regulations for commercial shellfish farming in the state of Georgia through work between the Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources. HB 501 has passed the House and Senate.

HB 512 - Propane Commodity Commission
Rep. Sam Watson is working to add a commodity commission for propane under the same jurisdiction as other agriculture commodities. The propane industry is looking to increase their self-funding marketing and safety education programs. HB 512 passed through the House and Senate.

SB 75 - State Board of Veterinary Medicine
This bill looks to provide for a professional health program for impaired veterinarians. SB 75 was passed through the Senate and House of Representatives.

SR 460 - Senate AG Labor Study Committee
SR 460 by Senator Wilkinson creates a study committee to look at issues facing the agriculture, forestry and landscape industries regarding labor.

DID NOT CROSSOVER

This bill will provide an exemption from sales tax on the registration fee and admission fees in non-profit livestock, horse shows, or rodeo events and exhibits.

House Bill 49 could have large impacts on water access and storage and the water conservation plan for Metropolitan Georgia Water Planning District. The bill would allow for certain interbasin transfers on rivers with an annual flow of at least 15 billion gallons per day at the withdrawal point.

HB 177 - Statute of Limitations for Buried Waste
Rep. Michael Caldwell proposed a change in the statute of limitations shall accrue for certain actions arising from burial of construction waste or materials. The House Judiciary committee favorably reported HB 177 by substitute.

HB 204 - No sales tax for Veterinary Medicines
House Bill 204 could provide relief for animal owners across the state. HB 204 creates an exemption from state sales and use tax for veterinary medications.

HB 286 Electronic Repair/Modification
HB 286 , a bill dealing with "right to repair" in the House was assigned to the House Ag Committee and the sub-committee on consumer affairs. A hearing was held with the Sub-committee taking no further action. The bill will still be eligible for debate next year, but without making it through the necessary process, it will remain dormant this year. We will be heavily involved in working to improve this legislation as it is sure to be discussed throughout the off-season.

HB 450: Commercial Shellfish Farming
Rep. Jeff Jones creates rules and regulations for commercial shellfish farming in the state of Georgia through work between the Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources.

SB 76 - Veterinary Technicians
Attempting to address the concerns brought up by the American Vet Tech Association and GVMA regarding how veterinary technicians are defined within the State Board of Veterinary Medicine. The organization would like for them to be professionally recognized as nurses instead of "vet technicians".

SB 84 - No Renewal fees for Carry Licenses
Senate Bill 84 will be well liked by gun carry proponents. In the State of Georgia gun carry licenses are valid for 5 years and required renewal for continued carrying privileges . SB 84 would remove the mandatory $30 renewal fee. SB 84 was referred to the Public Safety.

TABLED

HB 23 - Authorization for EMC's To Provide Broadband Internet Service
Allows EMC companies to provide broadband service to their rural consumers. HB 23 ensures there will be numerous competitors offering broadband service. This bill will also allow for EMC's to apply for federal grants to provide broadband. The House unanimously passed HB 23 and it has now been referred to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities committee.

Rep. Sam Watson  has presented  HB 105  in an effort to provide additional relief for farmers affected by Hurricane Michael. The bill exempts payments from USDA as part of a disaster relief payment in connection to Hurricane Michael from state income tax. As the federal government has yet to act on relief funding, we are not sure of the fiscal impact but we support any efforts to provide help to our agribusinesses in South Georgia affected by the storm.  HB 105 passed the House but was held in the Senate Finance committee.

HB 184 - Streamlining the Deployment of Broadband
Rep. Brett Harrell has initiated a bill that would authorize wireless providers to collocate small wireless facilities on authority poles and decorative poles and provide that an authority may propose alternative locations for new poles in residential areas. HB 184 would allow for greater ease in installing broadband service. HB 184 was passed through the House on Valentine's Day but was held up in the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities committee.

HB 302 - Local Building Ordinances
HB 302 looks to stop local governments from regulating building materials and other specific choices used in construction and remodels . House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs committee favorably reported on HB 302 substitute after having been recommitted for further work. However, HB 302 didn't make it out of the House.

HB 455: Georgia Agriculture Marketing Authority
Representative Houston creates the Georgia Agriculture Marketing Authority, the purpose of the authority is to provide unified and consolidated management of facilities and activities of the state's farmers markets. The Authority will market and promote agricultural products to agribusinesses and the public in an effort to boost the state's economy. HB 455 was passed through the House and held in the Senate Ag committee to form a study committee around HB 455.

HB 545 - Right to Farm
For more see above written piece.
Barrington Dairy, LLC
Berrien Peanut Co.
Bill Hembree & Associates / Nationwide
Boddiford Farm Services Inc.
Coley Gin & Fertilizer Co. Inc.
CSA Farms, Inc.
Curry Farm Supply Inc.
Docia Farms Ptn.
Emanuel Peanut & Grain
GA Agricultural Commodity for Tobacco
Georgia Christmas Tree Association
Georgia Seed Association Inc.
Holder Ag Consulting
Israel Farm Supply, Inc.
KAKEGA LLC
Leatherbrook Holsteins LLC
Nut Tree Pecan Nursery
Patrick Family Farms, LLC
Pineland Plantation
Quality Feedstuffs, Inc.
Quality Gin, Inc.
Redmond's Shiloh Farms, Inc.
South Georgia Produce Inc.
Southern Seed Co.
Swainsboro Stockyard
The Dairy Alliance, Inc.
Turner County Stockyard, Inc.
U.S. Poultry & Egg Association
Vidalia Onion Business Council
Walter J. Turner Farms
West Georgia Processing, Inc.
Wilkes County Stockyard
Special thanks to all of our Star Sponsors. Please call our office at 706-336-6830 for details. Thank you!

HB 592 - Short-term Mineral Surface Mining
Rep. Steven Meeks  is trying to address a potential flaw in the breaching of Georgia forest land use covenants. HB 592 provides that short-term mineral surface mining would not constitute a breach in a covenant for a forest land conservation use property. This would enable timberland owners to harvest surface minerals for a brief amount of time without losing the forest land covenant, so long as the portion of land used for mining is returned to its previous conditioning within three years of mining completion. HB 592 was held in the House.

 SB 182 - Commercial Shellfish Farming
Senate Natural Resources and Environment committee noticed significant economic potential in farming Georgia's marine areas. SB 182 encourages the development of the commercial shellfish industry and will allow the harvesting of marine shellfish areas. SB 182 was passed through the Senate but was held up in the Game, Fish, and Parks committee.

SB 211 - Fake Meat Labeling
SB 211 from Senator Tyler Harper has been delayed in the House as agriculture groups work with interests representing grocery stores and other food industry partners regarding how quickly these potential changes could be enacted. We will continue to work on this protection over the next year and attempt to bring something to the next session that protects farmers and allows the food industry to meet the requirements. The bill addresses the emerging field of lab grown protein products as well as plant-based products that have been mislabeling their packages for years. The companies that have developed this new technology have been insistent that their products should be able to use the term meat, even though their products do not meet the definition provided by the federal government and their products do not come from a real, harvested food animals. SB 211 is a huge priority for GAC as well as our partners across all of agriculture.
WE NEED YOU -
2019 STAR SPONSORSHIP'S
Many thanks to those who have already signed up this year , but it is not too late to join us. This program helps with events during the legislative session along with building support for a variety of projects and initiatives that cannot take place without the added participation. Star Sponsors are reflected in each of our newsletters, as posted on this page, along with the weekly legislative reports throughout each session of the Georgia General Assembly, monthly newsletters, and more.   Click here   for 2019 Star Sponsor registration information, email Jill Hansard or call the GAC office at 706-336-6830. Thank you!
GEORGIA AgPAC
In a political environment that is rapidly changing, supporting leaders that understand and support Agribusiness has never been more important than it is today. You only have to watch the current activity under the Gold Dome for a few minutes to understand that the list of people that don't understand agribusiness and how their food is produced continues to grow year after year.
The Georgia Agribusiness Council was created for the purpose of advocating for agribusiness interests in the legislative and regulatory arenas. This lofty initiative continues to get harder and harder. In our efforts to advance these activities, the Council formed the Georgia AgPAC several years ago that has several functions, including:
* Financially supporting the campaigns of political candidates friendly to our initiatives;
* Educating elected officials and key decision makers on issues important to agribusiness;
* Advocacy of issues that advance our industry and communities

We ask for your support so that we can continue to fight on behalf of Georgia agribusiness interests. Campaign contributions from Georgia AgPAC is restricted to non-federal candidates in races for legislative and statewide offices.  Georgia AgPAC needs your contribution to advance this initiative. 

Your corporate or personal commitment will help us prepare today. All donations are welcome. Please call our office at 706-336-6830 or  click here to download the donation form  to be a partner in this effort. 
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AgGeorgia Farm Credit to Distribute Over $13 Million to Membership
Perry, Ga. (April 1, 2019) – AgGeorgia Farm Credit, a Georgia based agricultural lending cooperative, has announced that dividends totaling $13,572,002 have been declared by its Board of Directors, with receipt by members anticipated the first week of April.

“With so many of our members still recovering from the weather events of last year, it is a great pleasure for our board and staff to be able to return our profits to our membership,” said AgGeorgia CEO Jack Drew. To read the full press release click here .
FOUNDATION DONATIONS
The Georgia Agribusiness Council Foundation, is a 501(c)(3) organization that was created to help grow funding initiatives to help support agriculture education. 

GAC is a proud sponsor of agribusiness awards and programs for FFA and 4-H, in addition to many other education projects. The Council created the Dr. Joe Crane Memorial Classroom Grant program for Georgia teachers interested in promoting agricultural literacy; provides William C. “Bill” Baisley “Sumpin Big” Scholarships to Georgia college students demonstrating a need for financial assistance while seeking an agricultural degree; and sponsors the UGA CAES Congressional Fellowship Program. 

Through generous support to the GAC Foundation, the Council will continue to invest in these programs and others to expand opportunities available to young people. Please click here for donation information.
AMERICAN PEANUT SHELLERS ASSOCIATION CELEBRATES 100TH ANNIVERSARY
The American Peanut Shellers Association has spent the last twelve months celebrating its upcoming 100th Anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, the Association has developed a video series, titled “ A Century of Success ”, highlighting past accomplishments and future endeavors. The first video, titled “ Heritage I ”, made its debut at the 2018 USA Peanut Congress in Amelia Island, Florida, and the second video, “ Heritage II ”, was presented in August at the Association’s Industry Pre-Harvest Meeting in Cordele, Georgia. The third video, “ Future I ”, was shown at the American Peanut Council Winter Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Most recently, the fourth video of the series, titled “ Future II ”, was released at the National Peanut Buying Points Association Winter Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. All four videos are available to view on the Association’s website, www.peanut-shellers.org . A final video, “ Commemoration ”, will conclude the series and is scheduled to make its premier at the Association’s Industry Spring Conference on April 5, 2019 in Albany, Georgia.

The celebration will culminate with events on Thursday and Friday, April 4-5, 2019, in Albany, Georgia, where hundreds of industry and government officials will join in saluting the American Peanut Shellers Association in this historic milestone.

Guests include U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Senator Saxby Chambliss, Congressman Sanford Bishop, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black, City of Albany Commissioner Roger B. Marietta , and over 300 officials representing all segments of the peanut
industry- growers, buying points, shellers, and manufacturers. National guests include representatives from the National Peanut Board and the Peanut Leadership Academy. Eighteen of the Association’s Past Presidents will also be in attendance.
QUICK NOTES
*The 58th Annual Georgia Cattlemen's Association Convention, Expo & Trade Show will be held on April 4-6, 2019 at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry . The schedule will include educational seminars & booths, a trade show luncheon, workshops, youth activities and entertainment designed to meet the needs of this changing industry, Click Here for more information.
*2019 Ham & Egg Legislative Breakfast & Georgia Agricultural Showcase is scheduled for Friday, April 5th at Fort Valley State University . The Breakfast will be held at our C.W. Pettigrew Farm & Community Life Center. Click here for more information.
*The 21st Annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference will be held  July 18-20, 2019  at the  Edgewater Beach Resort , Panama City Beach, Florida. The three-day event provides farmers with information about peanut production, legislative issues, marketing and promotions. For more information and registration click here .
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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