Volume 27, No. 10   Published by the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc.   March 16, 2018
Ten weeks have now passed in this legislative session and only 5 days remain in the 40-day marathon as lawmakers headed home Thursday afternoon . “Organized chaos” is probably the best terminology to describe the final weeks of each legislative session and this year is certainly living up to that potential.  The pace is beginning to slow as committees have just about wrapped up the meat-grinding part of the sausage making process and a large logjam is building for bills to make it to the floor for votes in these remaining days. 
We applaud the news that our AgriTrust of Georgia workers’ compensation insurance program as a new $600,000 dividend was just issued! This is the 26th such dividend, totaling $7,225,000.00 paid to qualified AgriTrust participants. If you would like to learn more about how this program can serve your workers compensation insurance needs, please go to www.agritrust.biz or call 855-753-0016.
GAC was pleased to coordinate with a small group of ag interests to craft a survey to help collect data on forecasting the future workforce needs of Georgia agriculture and forestry. This took months of work and now we need your insight to be used by key stakeholders and academic partners to meet demands of our industry. Participants will get a first look at the results and you’ll also be entered in a drawing to win one of two Yeti coolers. Plus, the first 150 respondents will also receive a $25 Amazon gift card.
AgCareers.com is conducting this survey. All results will be held confidential with only aggregate results shared with participating organizations. Please click here to complete the short survey . Thanks in advance for your help.
Lawmakers will return on Monday for Day 36 and we expect to see several important ag bills move to the House or Senate floor. There was no action on the GATE bill this week, but here is an updated list of bills that saw action this week. Please let us contact us if you have any questions.
SB 451 , dealing with ag irrigation permitting and metering, bounced all over the State Capitol this week as we worked to resolve concerns and help clarify language in the bill. The story of the trials and tribulations of how this bill took shape this week are not suitable for this report. Suffice to say, much progress was made as it cleared two committee meetings and is now available for a House vote in the remaining days. In the end, we believe this bill will put Georgia ag irrigation on even firmer footing for water data collection and metering moving forward…which was the goal since day one. Getting this close to the finish line was no walk in the park, but we believe the mission has been accomplished. Click here to access our irrigation metering comments on Southeast AgNet .

House Ag Chairman Tom McCall (Elberton) helped lead the charge with many of the bill improvements. We also appreciate Reps. Sam Watson (Moultrie) and Buddy Harden (Cordele) for their hours of hard work on the bill as well. Here are three key points of interest as it moves to into the final stages:

  • Formally moves the ag metering program from the GA Soil & Water Conservation Commission to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. 
  • Irrigation permits in the Flint Basin will no longer have a $250 fee and shall be automatically renewed after the 25-year term.
  • Georgia EPD will contract the reading of all irrigation meters. It also requires them to contract out irrigation metering installation, maintenance and repairs. 

Thank you for your responses last week in our irrigation permit poll. This data is helpful as we relay the interests of our members to lawmakers. Last week we asked:
"In current law, all surface and groundwater irrigation permits in the Flint River basin are subject to a 25 year term. All other such irrigation permits in the state do not have a term. Should this 25 year term be removed?"

Ag irrigation withdrawals should be equal & not limited to a 25 year term. 42%
Yes, for deep well irrigation permits. They do not impact surface water flows. 32% 
The 25 year term is fine IF it is automatically renewed by the state.
No, if it helps protect the long-term management of the water resources. 13% 
GAC will be working Members of the Senate on Monday as this important lumber industry bill is discussed on the floor - You Can Help! Contact your Senator and anyone else you may know a nd ask them to support HB 876 . A simple email from you asking for their support of HB 876 that helps keep wood products on a level playing field with other building materials would be very helpful. This is clearly a case of Atlanta vs. Rural Jobs ...help us deliver a victory by telling senators that "wood is good."

Several municipalities in metro Atlanta have passed ordinances prohibiting the use of lumber in construction of structures over three stories. State and national building codes allow for wood-frame construction up to five stories in height. Sadly, local building ordinances are being put in place to drive up the cost of construction, thus limiting affordable housing. HB 876 by Rep. John Corbett (Lake Park) seeks to correct that problem. This bill would eliminate such local prohibitions and builders will then 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.
The broadband initiatives submitted by the two chambers are starting to align. HB 887 and SB 426 are now combined into one bill after much discussion between the House and Senate committees.
Rep. Jay Powell (Camilla) and Sen. Steve Gooch (Dahlonega) have been the main legislative champions for advancing broadband in the rural parts of our state and understand its importance. The specific challenges of delivering fast internet to rural communities are complicated, but the gist is simple: Installing broadband is expensive . Companies won't invest in infrastructure if they don't have enough customers to make the numbers work. Lawmakers believe grant money to companies that install broadband in rural areas is the way forward. The journey continues...
Another big issue being addressed in rural Georgia is that of healthcare. HB 769 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (Jasper) establishes the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation, it encourages physicians to practice in rural areas, and takes a number of other actions aimed at improving rural healthcare in Georgia. This is one of the bills looking to improve rural healthcare and passed the Senate on Thursday 48 - 3. It is close to the finish line.
Lastly, HB 735 by Rep. Patty Bentley (Butler) would provide needed tax credits for the 29 short-line rail systems across the state in order to make repairs, thus enhancing service. Improving these rail systems would benefit the state transportation system by moving more loads to rail . It passed unanimously out of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday and now awaits a vote in the Senate.
We appreciate Senate Ag Chairman John Wilkinson (Toccoa) presenting SR 989 in the Senate Ag Committee on Thursday afternoon ( click here to view the meeting video ). This resolution highlights the pitfalls of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate on agricultural haulers and sends a strong message to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Division that the current requirements are unacceptable. We joined Georgia Farm Bureau in walking through the pitfalls of the ELD requirements on our industry, especially with livestock, fruit, vegetable, turfgrass, and other ag sectors. Rep. Robert Dickey (Musella) passed a similar resolution with HR 1397 .
Thank you for your response in last week's poll. Here are the top results for:
"What do you think is the best remedy to the federal Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate for the trucking industry?"

Issue an exemption covering those hauling agricultural products. - 48%
Pass a federal law repealing the ELD mandate for everyone. - 37%
Provide a 1 yr. delay to craft more specific regulations for various industries. - 15%
Big news this week was the FMCSA announcement of an additional 90-day temporary waiver from the ELD rule for agriculture related transportation . During this time period, FMCSA will publish final guidance on both the agricultural 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption, which is something we have been advocating as well.  Click here to access the FMCSA press release .
Bay Branch Farms Inc.
Cochran Oil Mill & Ginnery
Coley Gin & Fertilizer Co.
CSA Farms, Inc.
Curry Farm Supply Inc.
Emanuel Peanut & Grain LLC
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!
Tom McCall's HB 885 would prohibit the Environmental Protection Division from restricting agricultural burning on a parcel of land over five acres. The burning must abide by the requirements in federal law and is limited to vegetative material. This bill continues to move quickly and passed out of the full Senate unanimously on Monday. It just needs a signature by Governor Deal to become law. We appreciate Chairman McCall tackling this important issue for Georgia farmers.
SB 330, also by Sen. Wilkinson , 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. Educating our children on the impact, importance, and reach of agriculture is vital if our industry is going to continue to flourish. This bill passed unanimously out of the full House. Since it had a few changes, it must now go back the Senate before heading to the governor for signature.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill that creates a special license plate to benefit the Georgia Forestry Foundation. Thanks to the great work of our Georgia Forestry Association friends, it is getting close to the finish line. Georgia is #1 in the nation in forestry and we are pleased to see this initiative help keep it that way.
SB 458 is a follow-up from a change made last year allowing farm entities (LLC's and LLP's) to be treated as an individual when entering CUVA covenants. This bill clarifies that the same provision allowing individuals 65 and older to break a covenant at a reduced penalty to apply to farm entities who have a 65+ age partner, provided this person has been enrolled in the program for a minimum of thirteen years . It will also clarify that a residential area on the CUVA property shall not require a plat or survey and it would establish a mechanism to recover attorney's fees should a court reverse a covenant breach ruling. This bill will be up for a full House vote on Monday.
HB 723 by Rep. Sam Watson creates an exemption from state sales tax on equipment for nonprofit organizations that offer certain veterinary diagnostic and disease monitoring services, which is primarily needed in the poultry industry. This would be a big benefit to the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network that provides a variety of essential services for poultry producers. This passed out of the Senate Finance Committee on Monday and is now available for a full Senate vote.
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. It passed the House Game, Fish and Parks Committee on Thursday.
* The Georgia Department of Agriculture presents the second annual Agriculture Awareness Week in Georgia, March 19 - 23, 2018. There will be a themed event each day of the week, all designed to better communicate the important role of agriculture. Click here for more info.
* On Monday, we had a great time celebrating one of Georgia's famous commodities - the peanut! Special thank you to the Georgia Peanut Commission and National Peanut Buying Points Assn . for hosting their annual Peanut Butter Jelly Day at the Capitol . We were proud to sponsor this even along with many industry leaders and organizations as visitors and legislators alike gathered to enjoyed delicious, grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with many other products that contain peanuts.

The Georgia Peanut Commission and Peanut Proud also donated 10,080 jars of peanut butter to the Atlanta Community Food Bank during the event.
* We were pleased to have UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Science student and former Congressional Ag Fellow, Ashley Smith , join us at the State Capitol on Wednesday. She shadowed us as we testified before committee meetings, watched live debates from the galleries, and interacted with legislators. Ashley is a senior at the college and will be graduating in May with a degree in Animal Science and Agribusiness.
* The spring GAC board meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 and we are thankful that Dr. Lew Hunnicut and UGA Griffin will be hosting us at their brand new turfgrass facility .
Committee meetings, videos of past meetings, and full session debates for the House and Senate are all available online.

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2018 Inside Agriculture

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