Volume 27, No. 9   Published by the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc.   March 9, 2018
It was a wild ride at the State Capitol this week as committee meetings were running at full speed . This fast pace will continue into next week as lawmakers work to advance their bills in the final weeks of the 2018 legislative session. Since January of 2016, when this legislative session began, over 9,800 bills have been introduced . We are thankful the introduction of new bills will quickly dwindle as we are now on the few remaining weeks of this two-year legislative session. 
Thank you for your response in last week's poll. Here are the top results for:
"Which of these issues is the most important to you as the legislative session moves into the final month?"

1. Broadband expansion and support for economic growth in rural Georgia. 37%
2. Improvements to protect the GATE sales tax exemption program. 24%
3. Revamping ag irrigation metering program for future reliability. 19%
4. Opportunities to grow ag education in public schools. 11%
5. CUVA improvements and support for forest products in construction. 9%
What do you think is the best remedy to the federal Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate for the trucking industry?
Please select one:
Provide a 1 yr. delay to craft more specific regulations for various industries.
Issue an exemption covering those hauling agricultural products.
Pass a federal law repealing the ELD mandate for everyone.
It was a long week of candidates qualifying for elected office at the State Capitol this week. This signals the start of another important political season that will usher in many changes to the House and Senate, in addition to critical statewide races.
Thank you for the support of our Georgia AgPAC as we work to support elected officials that are friends of our industry. We welcome all company or personal contributions. 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.
Lawmakers are in session today as they wrap up the week having completed three more legislative days. After today, only eight days remain. They will return on Monday for Day 33 and we will have several bills of ag interest in play again when committees continue their work . Here is a long, but abbreviated list of issues that are important for ag interests in these final weeks.
The GATE bill continues to advance as it moved through the Senate Agriculture Committee Thursday afternoon. It remains the same as passed by the House last week and looks to have smooth sailing to the finish line. Senate Ag Chairman John Wilkinson (Toccoa) has agreed to handle it the remainder of the way and we are grateful for the work of he and Rep. Sam Watson (Moultrie) that helped secure these improvements to the GATE program. We testified at the committee meeting that these changes would strengthen the integrity of the program with the creation of a three-year card that carries a $150 registration fee, additional education initiatives, and enhanced application program. Click here to watch the footage of the full committee . We’ll keep working to get it through the Senate in the next week or two.
SB 451 , dealing with ag irrigation permitting and metering, is likely to begin moving through the House Natural Resources next week. It wasn’t up for any votes this week, but it was the subject of much conversation and revisions – here is the latest draft for your review . Language about having permittees manage the repair and replacement of meters has been stripped from the bill but others related to the annual reading of permits remain. Check out lines 157 - 162 regarding meter reading and lines 173-177 regarding tampering. Hopefully these efforts will lead to an acceptable bill in these remaining days, but we are not there yet. Please take a look at the draft bill and let us know your thoughts – good, bad, or otherwise . Stay tuned…
In current law, all surface and groundwater irrigation permits in the Flint River basin are subject to a 25 year term (lines 207-213 in draft bill). All other such irrigation permits in the state do not have a term.

Should this 25 year term be removed?
Please select from the following responses:
Yes, for deep well irrigation permits. They do not impact surface water flows.
No, if it helps protect the long-term management of the water resources.
The 25 year term is fine IF it is automatically renewed by the state.
Ag irrigation withdrawals should be equal & not limited to a 25 year term.
Broadband discussions were much improved this week as the House and Senate begin to dial in on a final product that looks very promising. HB 887 and SB 402 carry the majority of the load, thus they are our primary focus. Pictured below is a meeting with the leaders of these issues working out details in a committee meeting.
Rep. Jay Powell (center) and Sen. Steve Gooch (right) have much to agree on in their respective bills. SB 402 would create a program for the installation of fiberoptic lines along the interstate that would be used to deliver broadband across the state and generate revenue for further expansion. Federal funds for infrastructure improvements, sales tax exemptions on broadband equipment, and a streamlined permitting process would all play important roles in advancing broadband as well. The desired 25mb download speed and 3mb upload speed are minimum targets being sought in this bill. We are also encouraged that the 41 Georgia EMCs are poised to play a significant part in this initiative. Keep your fingers crossed.
Also, HB 951 by Rep. Jason Shaw (Lakeland) looks to maintain the legislature’s focus on rural Georgia by establishing the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation . The center would assume the responsibilities of the Centers of Innovation Agribusiness administered by the GA Department of Economic Development. It would also advance research and seek new ways of enhancing rural areas. It passed through Senate committee unanimously and could be up for a full Senate vote soon.
Lastly, HB 769 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (Jasper) 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. This is one of the bills looking to improve rural healthcare and the others should be advancing soon.
SB 330 by Sen. Wilkinson requires agricultural education programs in Georgia to be based on a nationally recognized three-component model for grades six through 12. The Department of Education will develop the curriculum and standards for the program with input from agricultural education teachers. 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 House Education committee.
The House is poised to pass the State’s big budget for FY 2019 today as House Appropriations Chairman Terry England (Auburn) makes his presentation on the House floor. Click here for this latest version being voted on today. It contains several boosts in funding of programs important to agriculture. These include :

  • $1,090,000 for Dept of Ag marketing of exports & agribusiness development
  • $207,000 for Young Farmer programs
  • $574,000 for a forage specialist, peanut genomics, soil nutritionist, and a postharvest physiologist at UGA Ag Experiment Station.
  • $324,000 for 6 Extension positions
  • $325,660 for forage specialist, soil nutritionist, and a postharvest physiologist at UGA Extension.
  • $2,985,000 in bond funds to purchase ag education equipment.
  • $130,000 in bonds for UGA turf program in Griffin
  • $1,432,000 for poultry and food animal facilities and services

Meetings by Senate budget leaders are already underway, and they will soon begin making adjustments to what the House passes. While we are encouraged by the work of the House, these are a long way from being final, so don’t start counting chickens just yet…
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!
The agriculture industry and others have been bemoaning the impact of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) regulations that are poised to raise cane with many in the livestock, fruit, vegetable, turfgrass and other ag sectors. We appreciate working with ag industry allies to craft resolutions in the House and Senate to show the federal government the disdain we have for the impact it will have on our members and the entire ag industry . We appreciate Rep. Robert Dickey (Musella) and Sen. John Wilkinson (Toccoa) for leading the charge on these resolutions. The House Ag Committee passed Rep. Dickey’s HR 1397 on Wednesday and we were pleased to speak in support ( click here to view the meeting video ). We expect Sen. Wilkinson to discuss the Senate version of the same resolution during the Senate Ag Committee meeting next week.
House Ag Chairman 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 Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee on Monday.
As you’ll recall, constitutional amendment, HR 51 , and its enabling legislation, HB 85 , would create a more fair and balanced way of evaluating forestland. It would also correct the method that compensates counties for the loss in revenue from the FLPA program and create a new category of taxable property for forestland . These bills are currently in Senate Rules ready to be called up for a full Senate vote.
HB 876 by Rep. John Corbett (Lake Park) looks to correct a problem that has arisen in several areas around the Atlanta area. These localities have issued ordinances banning lumber in the construction of buildings over three stories. 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.
Lastly, a forestry license plate could be available in the near future. The unique plates will sport the slogan “#1 in Forestry” and they will generate funding for Georgia Forestry Foundation initiatives. 
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 . This bill passed the full Ways and Means Committee on Thursday combined with the language included in HB 373 . You will remember that HB 373 passed the full House earlier this year which included some changes in CUVA . It would 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.
* 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 this coming Monday from 9:00 a.m. to noon! The Georgia Peanut Commission along with Peanut Proud will also donate 10,080 jars of peanut butter to the Atlanta Community Food Bank during the event .  We are pleased to be a sponsor of this much heralded event. Other sponsors and exhibitors include: Kroger, Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia Federal State Inspection Service, Golden Peanut & Tree Nuts, Premium Peanut, The Peanut Institute, University of Georgia Peanut Team, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Conagra's Peter Pan, The Hershey Company, Peanut Butter & Co., Crazy Richards Peanut Butter Co., Georgia Grinders and Kraft Heinz Planters Peanuts. 
* 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.
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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