Volume 27, No. 7   Published by the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc.   February 23, 2018
Reverend Billy Graham was an amazing man and a blessing to so many. We mourn the loss of such a great man, but we rejoice in what he delivered. May he rest in peace.
The inscription to be placed on his grave marker will read:  Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ .
“There were a few times when I thought I was dying, and I saw my whole life come before me…”  said Graham at his Cincinnati Crusade on June 24, 2002.  “I didn’t say to the Lord, ‘I’m a preacher, and I’ve preached to many people.’ I said, ‘Oh Lord, I’m a sinner, and I still need Your forgiveness. I still need the cross.’ And I asked the Lord to give me peace in my heart, and He did—a wonderful peace that hasn’t left me.”
Lawmakers are still active on this Friday morning as they wrap up Day 26. There was a lot of activity this week during a four-day sprint. The stage is set for a critical week when lawmakers return on Monday. As we have noted, a key hurdle in this legislative process takes place Wednesday, Feb. 28, as “Crossover Day” finally arrives. This will give us a clearer picture of what bills are on the move as the session draws to a close at the end of March.  
This was a very busy week for bills impacting ag interests. GATE, ag water metering, rural development issues and education bills were among those that took big steps. We have updated the list of bills below to include these issues among others that saw action this week. 
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?"

Use public & private funds for state grants to incentivize broadband expansion - 44%
Streamline regulations and eliminate sales tax on equipment inputs for broadband - 33%
Create a sales tax on phone and television services to fund broadband expansion - 23%
Regarding Georgia farm irrigation metering, which of the following do you prefer?
Please select one:
1. Keep state government reading the water meters on farms.
2. Get farmers/permit holders to read the water meter each year.
3. I’ll email [email protected] with a suggestion.
The state may stop paying for farm irrigation meter installation and maintenance. What do you suggest?
Please choose one:
1. The state should continue to provide these services as they always have.
2. The farmer/permittee should share in the expense with the state.
3. Let farmer/permittee take it over and get the state out of it.
Thank you for the response to the  Georgia AgPac  created last year by the  Georgia Agribusiness Council. We are grateful for the contributions submitted by more than 70 agribusinesses last year. We put these funds to work by issuing 47 checks totaling over $17,000 to elected officials that have earned agribusiness support. As you know, 2018 is a big election year. and we need your help.  Please call our office at 706-336-6830 or  click here to download the donation form  to be a partner in this effort.  We are stronger together! THANK YOU!
We enjoyed having more ag friends at the Capitol this week as FFA Day at the Capitol was held Tuesday. It started off with a breakfast and lasted the whole day while students were able to interact with legislators and state leaders.
It was fitting that these students were able to enjoy their Capitol on this day because, while they were here, Sen. John Wilkinson (Toccoa) presented SB 330 to the full Senate body. This bill is the "Georgia Agricultural Education Act" which will incorporate and implement a pilot ag curriculum over six schools in the 2019 - 2020 school years. The agricultural education program provided in this state shall be based on the nationally recognized three-component model of school based agricultural education: daily instruction in an organized classroom and lab environment; hands-on, real-world learning opportunities through the supervised agriculture experience (SAE) program; and leadership and learning opportunities through participation in FFA.
The GATE bill by GAC member Rep. Sam Watson (Moultrie) was on the agenda Wednesday for House Agriculture Committee debate . Click here to see the meeting video. We appreciate the help of Rep. Watson to include changes we suggested to help clear the role of ag retailers. With these changes, we spoke in favor of the bill, which passed the committee and should be on the House floor next week. As written, it would do the following:

  • Prohibit retailers from providing the sales tax exemption if the GATE card is not current. 
  • Provide a three-year card that carries a $150 fee and issue new plastic GATE cards each year along with GATE usage guidance information.
  • Require the GATE applicant to obtain a state taxpayer identification number through the Department of Revenue's Georgia Tax Center.
  • Strengthen the GATE application process to improve qualifying tax documentation.
  • Move the minimum revenue threshold to qualify for a GATE card to $5,000. 
  • 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.
Governor Deal’s SB 451 ag irrigation permitting and metering legislation took its first steps this week as it moved through the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday afternoon. It was an active week on this legislation as GAC and GA Farm Bureau met wit h the Governor’s staff and Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) on several occasions to offer changes to the bill. Some of our suggestions were included, but there is still much work to be done. During the committee hearing ( which can be viewed here ), we stated our support for the objectives of the legislation, however, the issues of meter management and meter reading are still hanging in the balance. We stated t hat if the state is going to shift the responsibility of water meter replacement and repairs to farmers/permittees, the creation of a cost-share funding program is a must.
Sen. Larry Walker (Perry) serves as a Floor Leader for Governor Deal and is carrying the bill in the Senate, which makes several changes impacting ag irrigation meter reading and meter management responsibilities. It also formally transfers the ag metering program from the GA Soil & Water Conservation Commission to EPD. Sen. Tyler Harper (Ocilla) and Sen. Dean Burke (Bainbridge) worked to make substantial amendments to the bill in committee, but this process is far from over and we expect many more changes in the weeks ahead. This bill is sure to pass the Senate next week and we’ll keep working to make needed changes when the House takes action. Please take time to read the bill and let us know what questions/concerns you have. We need your input.
Last session, House Ways & Means Chairman Jay Powell (Camilla) introduced HR 51 and  HB 85 and they passed the House. This constitutional amendment and its en abling legislation seek to create more uniform and fair method for assessing forestland, fix the formula for reimbursing counties for tax revenue losses from the FLPA program, and create a new category of taxable property for timberland . These bills passed out of the Senate Finance committee on Wednesday and should get a full Senate vote in March.
HB 876 sponsored by Rep. John Corbett (Lake Park) would prohibit localities from issuing lumber bans that have been implemented in several cities around metro Atlanta.  Builders would 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. This bill passed the full House on Thursday.
Also passing out of the full House was a bill that creates a forestry license plate that will generate funding for the  Georgia Forestry Foundation ’s education initiatives. These special license plates will have the words "#1 in Forestry" displayed across the bottom. It should be discussed in committee next week.
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!
RAILROADS: Bills looking to help the rural parts of our state are picking up steam. HB 735 by Rep. Patty Bentley (Butler) wil l provide an income tax credit for investment in maintenance of railroad “short lines." It passed the House this week and now moves to the Senate Finance Committee.
HEALTHCARE: Inadequacies on the healthcare front are an increasing problem for rural areas, but these initiatives could go a long way to help provide relief. HB 769 establishes the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation , encourages physicians to practice in rural areas, and takes a number of other actions aimed at improving rural healthcare in Georgia. Another big move is HB 827 , which seeks to promote funding of hospitals in rural areas of our state by expanding the current income tax credit from 90% all the way to 100% . This is a bold move that should help direct much needed funds for these facilities.
Both of these bills passed out of the full House on Wednesday with overwhelming support.
INTERNET: Another well-known challenge facing rural Georgia is the lack of broadband internet access. Sen. Steve Gooch (Dahlonega) has been working diligently over the past two years and has submitted three bills to address these concerns.
SB 232 is called the “ Facilitating Internet Broadband Rural Expansion (FIBRE) Act ." It would create incentives for public and/or private entities to expand services to areas within the state where such services are not currently available.
SB 402 , also called the "Achieving Connectivity Everywhere (ACE) Act" , would have Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) create and implement a long-term policy for right-of-ways in Georgia for broadband services and other communication technologies. This bill is being voted on in the full Senate today.
SB 426 is the “Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development Act” (BILD Act) , which would limit the ability of local governing authorities to prohibit, regulate, or charge for use of public right-of-ways to wireless providers.
HB 885 by Rep. Tom McCall (Elberton) would limit restrictions the state EPD can put on outdoor burning for landowners when their property is being utilized for farm production. It passed unanimously out of the House Natural Resources and Environment committee on Wednesday.
Last year, a U.S. District Court of Georgia ordered Bland Farms Production and Packing LLC to pay a hefty fine for back wages and damages following a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation that alleged they violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, employers must pay workers time-and-a-half when they exceed 40 hours in a work week, but the overtime rules are not valid because Bland Farms is an agricultural operation …and we agree. The violation was reported because they failed to pay overtime wages to packing-shed employees involved in handling their own onions, but they also packed onions for other neighboring farms that were contracted to grow onions to be sold by Bland. In response, Bland filed an appeal and the Georgia Agribusiness Council joined Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, Georgia Farm Bureau and Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in submitting an amicus brief to state our support of Bland Farms and the actions they took regarding overtime wages. Click here to access the brief . If this case is not overturned, it sets a dangerous precedence for the operation of all packing facilities across Georgia and the country. Stay tuned…
GAC was pleased to join a large group of friends and family in Madison recently to celebrate the retirement of Pennington Seed Company’s Ronnie Stapp . Many members of the Pennington family were on hand, along with a long list of colleagues, to honor Ronnie’s service to Pennington, which began in 1972. Now serving as Executive Vice President of Seed Operations, Ronnie is working toward retirement in the months ahead. His service in the seed industry is recognized by industry leaders across the globe. GAC President Bryan Tolar stated, “Ronnie Stapp has served as a mentor to many in our industry, always conducting his business activities in a service-oriented and honorable manner. We are fortunate to have his leadership in agriculture and we are thankful to have Ronnie as a key leader at the Council for these many years.” Ronnie continues to serve as a vital member of the Georgia Agribusiness Council’s board of directors, a position he has held since 2004. We wish Ronnie and his wife Cindy all the best!
Hosted by AgGeorgia and AgSouth Farm Credit, these workshops educate attendees on all aspects of their operation ranging from budgeting finances to risk management. The classes are all from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm with lunch provided and there is no charge at all to attend. The workshops are certified for FSA borrower credits as well. 
Jackson EMC Office
Hull, GA

Thornton Recreation Center
Rome, GA

Presbyterian College
Harrington-Peachtree Amphitheater
Clinton, SC

Blueberry Plantation Inn
Alma, GA

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.  

* 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 .
* 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 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.
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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