Weekly Newsletter for Georgia Agribusiness Council Members
Volume 30, No. 11 Published by the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc. March 26, 2021
Week eleven of the Legislative Session saw plenty of action as the heat was turned up on many of the biggest issues of the year. Democrats and Republicans battled over voting legislation, taxes, and other topics that absorbed much of the oxygen in the building.

Even amongst the chaos, several agribusiness related bills moved forward, and others are still fighting for survival. Sine Die is quickly approaching as next Wednesday will conclude the 2021 legislative session.

We've provided some highlights of the week below as well as a bill tracker with updated statuses of many of the bills still in play for this year.
WEEKLY AUDIO SNAPSHOT WITH SOUTHEAST AGNET
Don't have time to read the full newsletter? This is a great tool to get a quick snapshot of the week's activities throughout the session. For a recap of week 11, click here.
GOVERNOR KEMP SPEAKS TO GAC MEMBERS DURING VIRTUAL ANNUAL MEETING
Governor Brian P. Kemp joined GAC members Wednesday morning for our virtual Annual Meeting. We appreciate Governor Kemp taking time to speak with our group and give us an update on COVID-19 vaccination plans and other issues facing rural Georgians and the agribusiness industry.

During the business portion of the Annual Meeting, GAC members voted to accept the nomination of Mr. Phil Sutton of Kubota to join the GAC Board of Directors. Members also voted to renew the terms of the following board members: Spencer Black – Triangle Chemical, Jimmy Champion – Georgia Plant Food Education Society, Steve Crouch – Newton Crouch, Inc., Merrill Folsom – NG Turf, Terry Hollifield – Georgia Crop Improvement Association, Jim Lovett – Georgia Power, Christy E. Manning – RW Griffin, Ken Morrow – The Turfgrass Group, Donna Stewart – Hays LTI.
GEORGIA CATTLEMEN HOST STEAK BISCUIT BREAKFAST
Congratulations to the Georgia Cattlemen's Association on hosting a wonderful Legislative Steak Biscuit Breakfast outside the Capitol on Monday. The mobile dairy classroom was also on hand giving lawmakers and visitors an opportunity to get a close up encounter with a cow. We took a quick photo with Senate Ag Chairman, Larry Walker III and GAC's Will Bentley with the mobile classroom.
BUDGET PASSES SENATE AND HEADS TO CONFERENCE COMMITTEE
Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery presented the Senate version of the State Budget Tuesday morning, sending the budget process one step closer to conclusion. The House and Senate conference committee has been working all week to reconcile the differences in each chamber's plan. Several budget items of importance to agriculture have discrepancies between the House and Senate budgets and will need to be reconciled prior to final passage.
  • $565,000 for increases in salaries to key employees of Dept. of Ag ($508,000 in Senate Version)
  • $241,000 for one soil scientist and one compliance officer to administer Soil Amendment program (Not included in Senate version)
  • $333,000 for Market Bulletin funding to increase subscribers
  • $157,000 for scheduled payments to Georgia Agricultural Expo Authority
  • $2,000,000 to DNR for increased funding of Parks and Historic sites
  • $2,800,000 Agriculture Experiment Station ($2,000,000 in Senate Version)
  • $2,650,000 for Cooperative Extension Service ($2,000,000 in Senate Version)
  • $5,770,000 in 20-year bonds for the renovation to Mobley Hall at the Georgia FFA-FCCLA Center in Covington.
AGRICULTURE AD VALOREM BILL AWAITS DEBATE IN SENATE
Chairman Sam Watson’s House Bill 498 is currently held in the Senate Rules Committee and is waiting to be moved onto the calendar for debate. GAC staff continues to work with legislators on our priority issue to move this important bill forward and expect to see movement next week.

This legislation aims to align the Georgia Code with the intent of the legislature so that qualifying family farm entities will not be subject to ad valorem tax on farm equipment due to their business structure. Much like the issue we faced with CUVA three years ago, it would allow for qualifying entities that qualify separately to consolidate or merge in order to bear the costs of the extremely capital-intensive industry that is agribusiness.

The bill will require a 2/3 vote in the Senate chamber as well as a statewide referendum on the 2022 ballot.
SENATE AG COMMITTEE MOVES ON FARMERS MARKET BILL
House Bill 676 by Chairwoman Penny Houston was presented in the Senate Ag Committee meeting again this week and aims to address funding and administrative concerns of the multiple state owned farmers markets throughout Georgia. The updated version of the bill would create a legislative oversight committee to commission an independent study of the long term needs and viability of Georgia's markets. According to the bill, the oversight committee is to be made up of: the chairpersons of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Economic Development and Tourism and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Agriculture and Consumer Affairs or their designees as ex officio; The chairperson of the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee or his or her designee; The chairperson of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee or his or her designee; Three members of the House of Representatives appointed by the chairperson of the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee; and Three members of the Senate appointed by the chairperson of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee.

This bill is of high importance to GAC as it will impact members that operate from state owned farmers markets as well as many other members that utilize these markets to sell their fresh fruits and vegetables during peak harvest seasons. The committee voted to pass the bill unanimously onto the Rules Committee for consideration.
GAC BOARD MEMBER DISCUSSES TURF INDUSTRY
Mr. Ken Morrow joined the Senate Ag Committee meeting Wednesday on behalf of the sod industry to give members an update on the current status of the turfgrass industry. Mr. Morrow began his presentation by thanking the committee for their support and assistance in making Georgia the leading state for turfgrass. His report informed the committee of the UGA Tifton campus being a world leader in the development of hybrid Bermuda grasses for several decades. This was a great opportunity for new members of the committee to hear about a very important sector of Georgia agribusiness before the meeting was cut short by other meeting requirements.
HOUSE AG HEARS FROM POULTRY INDUSTRY
The House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs committee met earlier this week to take action on several bills and to discuss the poultry industry. President of the Georgia Poultry Federation, Mike Giles gave a brief presentation on the state of the poultry industry. The poultry industry is a $43 billion industry and contributes over 150 thousand jobs to the state of Georgia. Giles noted one of the biggest challenges the industry faced during the pandemic was providing safe spaces for essential workers to be able to social distance inside the processing facilities. The industry bounced back quickly by putting up glass partitions between each employee. The committee then acknowledged the President Emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation, Abit Massey. 
AG COMMIDITY COMMISSIONS UPDATE PASSES HOUSE
SB 247, by Senator Lee Anderson, dealing with agricultural commodity commissions passed through the House on Monday and now heads to the Governor for signature. The bill was carried by Rep. Steven Meeks in the House and will modernize the way Georgia commissions release announcements and update other public notice requirements. Commissions will be able to send news and announcements out through the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s website, the Market Bulletin, and other local options.
RESIDENTIAL BURN PERMIT BILL PASSES HOUSE
Senate Bill 119, by Senator Tyler Harper, passed through the House and will allow Georgians to burn yard waste without obtaining a permit. Prior to the burning, the forest ranger of the county should be notified of the time and location of the burn or to an employee of the forestry unit. Unless there is a local ordinance that says otherwise or the EPA has a burn restriction, people will not be required to obtain a permit for hand piled debris. The burn must be 50 feet away from any structure and 25 feet away from any woodlands to follow the guidelines of SB 119.  
DC UPDATE - FARM WORKFORCE MODERNIZATION ACT
Last week, the U.S. House voted 247-174 to pass the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 (H.R. 1603). The act would establish a program for farmworkers to earn legal status through continued agriculture work, giving farmworkers who have worked at least 180 days in the last two years temporary status. The bill also makes changes to the H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program by setting up a pilot program to allow visa holders to change jobs without a new application and develops an e-Verify system for agricultural employers.

President Biden released a statement on the bill, through which he emphasized the importance of farmworkers to the wellbeing of the U.S. and its economy and stated his support for the bill. The bill has now been sent to the U.S. Senate for consideration. Text of the legislation may be found here.
BILLS OF INTEREST

SENATE BILLS THAT CROSSED OVER

SB 6: Sen. Albers - This bill would provide for independent economic analyses to be procured by the Office of Planning and Budget for certain tax break benefits upon request by the chairpersons of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee. Passed through the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

SB 67: Sen. Walker III - A bill requiring the documentation of a Georgia driver's license number or the elector's personal identification card number when submitting an absentee ballot. Assigned to the House Special Committee on Election Integrity.

SB 86: Sen. Walker III - A bill aimed at fighting unwarranted solicitations. Any written solicitation for services relating to corporate filings must include a header that reads, "THIS IS A SOLICITATION. THIS IS NOT A BILL OR OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT AND HAS NOT BEEN SENT BY THE GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE." Passed through the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

SB 98: Sen. Beach - Relating to highways, bridges, and ferries, so as to provide for eligible expenditures for the Georgia Freight Railroad Program of the Georgia Department of Transportation. Bill will provide procedures, conditions, and limitations for public and private financing of projects. Bill will amend the composition of the Georgia Ports Authority. Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

SB 100: Sen. Watson - To provide that this state shall observe standard time year-round until such time as Congress authorizes the states to observe daylight savings time. Assigned to the House Committee on State Planning & Community Affairs and the Committee Favorably Reported.

SB 102: Sen. Kennedy- SB 102 would prohibit governmental entities from adopting any policy that prohibits the connection or reconnection of any utility serviced based upon the type or source of energy or fuel. Passed through the Senate.

SB 119: Sen. Harper - Relates to permits required for burning woods, lands, marshes, or other flammable vegetation. Passed through the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

SB 195: Rep. Mullis – Bill relating to the specifies of Hemp farming. SB 195 more strictly defines the term “process or processing” to exclude packaging raw or dried materials, shucking, bucking, sorting, trimming, and curing. Adding specified language clarifies that traditional farming practices would not be considered processing and would not require a processing license. Passed through the House and Senate

SB 222: Sen. Summers - A bill to designate the pecan as the official state nut. Assigned to the House Committee on State Planning and Community Affairs.

SB 247: Rep. Anderson - would modernize the way Georgia commodity commissions release announcements. Instead of the commissions releasing announcements through the AJC, they will be able to send news and announcements out through the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s website and GDA's Market Bulletin. Virtual meetings, as well as a simplified voting process, will be implemented. Passed through the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.
 
SB 260: Rep. Harper - Relating to soil amendments so that no local government shall be prohibited or impaired from adopting or enforcing any zoning ordinance, including the adoption of buffers and setbacks; provided, further, that no such buffer or setback shall exceed 100 feet in width. Passed through the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee awaiting Rules calendar.


HOUSE BILLS THAT CROSSED

HB 44: Rep. Cantrell - This bill would require Georgia to observe Daylight Savings Time year-round instead of falling back and moving forward as is currently the tradition. This would become effective only if the U.S. Congress authorizes states to observe daylight savings time year-round. Passed House and assigned to Senate Government Oversight Committee

HB 90: Rep. Williamson - The bill seeks to address a conflict in law between an outdated law from 1939 and the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) regarding timber transactions. Georgia law is clear that the UCC supersedes if there is a
conflict. If left unaddressed, the conflict would leave the forest industry exposed to unnecessary liability and encumber transactions of timber. Passed through the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor to be signed into law
 
HB 98: Rep. Lumsden - This bill would authorize counties and cities to conduct “public hearings” by teleconference during emergency conditions (e.g. pandemics). The policy would acknowledge that participation by teleconference would be equal to full in-person participation as if those conducting the public hearing are physically present and members of the public must be afforded the means to participate fully in the same manner as if they
were physically present. The legislation comes from several instances around the state where local municipalities struggled to conduct the business of their boards as quorums were not met because of health concerns of in-person meetings. Passed through the House now assigned to Senate Science and Technology Committee.
 
HB 112: Rep. Kelley - COVID-19 liability protections for Georgia businesses and hospitals would be extended until July 14, 2022, under a bill introduced in the General Assembly. Since August, the liability protections have shielded businesses and health-care facilities in Georgia from lawsuits brought by people who contract COVID-19 in all but the worst negligence or recklessness cases. The bill only calls for a one-year extension. Passed through the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor to be signed into law

HB 139: Rep Mainor - This bill would prohibit trains from restricting traffic crossing for longer than 15 minutes except in emergency situations. Passed through the House.
 
HB 150: Rep. Williamson - This bill would prohibit local government entities in Georgia from banning the connection of any utility service based on the type or source of fuel. Passed through the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

HB 169 Rep. Corbett - would remove the 180-day extension hurdle and grant a CDL instruction permit for a period not to exceed 365 days. Georgia's current law requires a CDL instruction permit not to be issued for a period to exceed 180 days and can be renewed one time for an additional 180 days. Passed through the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.
Bagwell Insurance Group, Inc.
Beaver Creek Plantation
Brooksco Dairy, LLC
Camp Family Farms LLC
Carroll EMC
DeWitt Produce Co. Inc.
Doerun Gin Co. Inc.
Georgia Cotton Commission
Georgia Development Authority
Georgia Power
Georgia Young Farmers Association
Hattaway Farms Partnership
International Forest Company, Inc.
Jones Cork, LLP
Kelley Manufacturing Co.
Market Grocery Company
Mercier Orchards
Mixon Seed Services Inc.
Mobley Greenhouses, Inc.
SafEnvirons, Inc.
Striplings General Store - Bogart GA
Superior Pine Products Co.
The Turfgrass Group, Inc.
USA Poultry & Egg Export Council
WDairy LLC


Ag Technologies LLC dba Vantage Southeast 
AgSouth Services, Inc.
Bay Branch Farms, Inc.
C. M. Tanner Grocery Co. Inc.
Coley Gin & Fertilizer Co.
Cotton Partners LLC
Cromartie Agricultural Chemicals Inc.
CSA Farms, Inc.
Curry Farm Supply Inc.
Drexel Chemical Co.
Durden Banking Co. Inc.
Embry Farm Service/ Embry Transport
Emanuel Peanut & Grain LLC
Esparza Enterprises, Inc.
Farmer's Best Fertilizer
G & H Harvesting Inc.
Garcia Family Harvesting, Inc.
GA Assoc. of County Agricultural Agents
Georgia Christmas Tree Association
Georgia Food Bank Association Inc.
Georgia Seed Association Inc.
Georgia Vocational Ag Teacher Association
Greene County Fertilizer Co.
Greg Leger Farms, LLC
Greg Sikes Farm, LLC
H. T. McLendon Co.
Hazel Creek Cider, Inc. / Yearwood Farms, Inc.
Hulsey Farm Service
Israel Farm Supply, Inc.
Joe Boddiford Farms
KAKEGA LLC
L. R. Land & Cattle Company, Inc.
Leatherbrook Holsteins LLC
Lenox Peanut Company
Longbridge Peanut Co.
McCorkle Nurseries, Inc.
McIntyre Golf Development
Moultrie Colquitt County Development Authority 
Northeast Georgia Livestock
Oglethorpe Power Corporation
Patrick Family Farms
Peebles Timber, Inc.
Quality Gin, Inc.
Red Clay Ranch Equine Rescue & Sanctuary, Inc
Sconyers Gin & Warehouse Co.
South Georgia Produce, Inc.
Southern AGCOM Inc.
Southern Seed Company, Inc.
Swainsboro Stockyard
Sweetbay Farm, LLC
Sylvania Peanut Co. Inc.
The Satsuma Company, LLC
Three Brothers Trucking, LLC
Vidalia Onion Business Council
West Georgia Processing, Inc.











Special thanks to all of our Star Sponsors. Please call our office at 706-336-6830 for details. Thank you!
HB 282: Rep Meeks - This bill redefines a contiguous property in order to include tracts that are divided by a public boundary such as a road. Also aims to limit the determination of fair market value to a weighted market and income approach to valuation, Passed through House, moved through the Senate Finance Committee awaiting rules.

HB 336: Rep. Corbett - Relating to hemp farming. The bill provides legislation in compliance with federal laws and regulations, requiring history reports, disposal techniques, and sampling and testing. Passed through the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

HB 355: Rep. Wiedower - a long-time priority of our friends at the Georgia Forestry Association was introduced by Representatives Wiedower of the 119th this week. The bill would create the nation’s first carbon registry for sustainable buildings that they hope will encourage developers to utilize mass timber and other materials that sequester carbon in more construction projects. This effort was embodied in House Bill 1015 last year, which passed the House with nearly unanimous support, but did not move in the Senate after the COVID epidemic upended the legislature’s work. Passed through the House and passed through the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee

HB 498: Rep. Watson - Rep. Watson - HB 498 will expand property tax exemptions for agricultural equipment and certain farm products. Bill will add dairy products and unfertilized eggs of poultry to be considered farm products in respect to the exemption. Passed through the House and assigned to the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee
HB 647: Rep. Smith - HB 647 provides groundwater monitoring in areas where coal combustion residual impoundments reside and have recently closed. HB 647 passed through the House and assigned to the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee


HB 676: Rep. Penny - Establish a Georgia Farmers' Market and Produce Terminal Development Authority. The creation of an authority will allow markets to function more independently and manage retained earnings. The authority will have ten members including the Commissioner of Agriculture, to represent the state’s agricultural, business, and consumer interests and from all geographic areas of the state. Passed through the House and moved through the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. Awaiting Rules Committee

HB 693: Rep Meeks - tractors to operate on state and local roadways with the right of way. General vehicles must give way to tractors and assume responsibility to safely move and drive within the presence of a tractor vehicle. Passed through the House and Senate and will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

HR 185: Rep. Ralston - reauthorizing the House Rural Development Council. Chairman Sam Watson presented the resolution and noted that rural communities face various challenges in social, educational, technological, and economic spheres. This resolution re-establishes a council composed of 15 members of the House of Representatives to be appointed by the Speaker of the House. Beginning May 1, 2021, the council will continue to study the conditions, needs, issues, and problems within these areas recommended action or legislation that the council deems necessary or appropriate. Passed through the House
GAC DIRECTORY ADVERTISEMENT OPPORTUNITIES
The Georgia Agribusiness Council has chosen to partner with Naylor Association Solutions on the 2021 GAC Membership Directory. By purchasing advertising space in the GAC Directory, you are making an excellent investment in your business and brand. We are confident that our partnership with Naylor will continue to increase networking and promotional opportunities already included in your membership. Be on the lookout for contact from a Naylor representative.
THERE IS STILL TIME
The 2021 GAC Star Sponsor program registration is now underway and off to a great start. 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 2021 Star Sponsor registration information and email Jill Hansard or call the GAC office at 706-336-6830. Thank you!
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