Weekly Newsletter for Georgia Agribusiness Council Members
Volume 30, No. 3 Published by the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc. January 29, 2021
Week three of the Georgia Legislative Session saw more than just the security wall outside the Capitol under construction as appropriations sub-committees hammered out final details and the House passed the amended budget on Thursday. The "little budget" is now in the hands of the State Senate as they work to meet the funding needs of state agencies and the constituents that they serve.

New bills are being introduced each day and we are keeping a close watch on those of interest to agribusiness. Legislation impacting agriculture, the business community and rural development initiatives should continue to surface in the next week or two, so stay tuned. 

We’ve provided a quick summary of action for you below, but there is much more to come in the weeks ahead.
WEEKLY SNAPSHOT WITH SOUTHEAST AGNET
We appreciate our partnership with Southeast AgNet as they help spread the word on what is happening under the Gold Dome. This is a great tool to get a quick snapshot of the week's activities throughout the session. For a recap of week 3, click here.
GAC HOSTS RURAL CAUCUS MEETING
The Georgia Agribusiness Council was proud to sponsor the first Rural Caucus meeting of the 2021 legislative session. The Rural Caucus, which is made up of legislators that represent Georgia’s rural communities, showed up in large numbers to attend the luncheon. GAC President, Will Bentley, had the opportunity to address the group and thank them for leading on issues facing Georgia agribusinesses underneath the gold dome.

In the times in which we find ourselves, it is refreshing to be able to speak face to face with lawmakers about the industry's concerns and the possible solutions that could strengthen it. GAC is happy to sponsor a luncheon that is filled with some of our strongest allies within the legislature. 
UGA CAES DEAN VISITS GOLD DOME
New UGA College of Agriculture Dean Nick Place was in Atlanta on Thursday meeting with legislators and other state leaders. Dean Place joined the University of Georgia as dean and director of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences on Jan. 1, 2021.

Place previously served as dean and director of the Florida Cooperative Extension Service and a professor in the University of Florida Department of Agricultural Education and Communication from 2012 through 2020.

Prior to speaking before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Dean Place took time to visit with our legislative interns to discuss their experience.
AMENDED BUDGET PASSED IN HOUSE
The House of Representatives passed House Bill 80, the Supplemental Appropriations State budget for the fiscal year 20-21 during this week's legislative session. Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Terry England, led the discussion regarding the fiscal changes to the State budget. The balanced budget was amended, and funding was added predominately to areas in education, one-time expenditures, and emergency needs.

Highlights Include:
  • 50% of the budget pertains to K-12, higher, and technical education
  • $20 million for rural broadband initiatives 
  • Includes additional funds for the Hemp and medical cannabis programs 
  • $748,448 Vehicle Replacement within the Department of Agriculture 
  • Funding for State farmers markets in south GA including Savannah and Thomasville
  • $2,851,620 for the Agriculture Experiment Stations
  • $2,652,325 to Cooperative Extension Service received for operations
  • Full restoration for Ag education and technical education funds
COVID LIABILITY BILL INTRODUCED
Majority Whip, Trey Kelley - Cedartown, submitted HB 112 to extend the extremely important COVID-19 liability protections for Georgia businesses and hospitals that was passed last year. This legislation was a priority issue for GAC in 2020 and has continued to be as the pandemic rages on. The new protections would be extended until July 14, 2022, under the bill that has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. 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. To read the full legislation, click here.
HB 150 - FUEL CHOICE FOR GA CONSUMERS BILL OFFERED
Rep. Bruce Williamson dropped a fuel choice bill that is supported by GAC, GFB, GA Poultry Federation, GA Chamber, and other business minded organizations in the state. The legislation is needed as local governments in states like California, Washington and Massachusetts are banning natural gas and propane in new construction in a misguided attempt to reach future “carbon free” goals.

A few cities in GA also have “carbon free” targets and may be at risk of adopting similar bans on natural gas, propane and other fuels.

While these goals are well intentioned, local ordinances banning these fuels ignore:
  • Natural gas and propane are clean-burning fuels that have been a critical part of lowering carbon emissions in the U.S.
  • Natural gas and propane are cost-efficient fuels which provide families heat and energy at a competitive price.
  • Restaurants, hotels and other small businesses depend on low-cost natural gas, propane and other fuels to run their businesses.
  • Large sectors of Georgia’s agricultural community like poultry farms as well as manufacturers rely on these fuels for their operations.
  • Efforts to create renewable natural gas supplies from waste, which offer significant environmental benefits, require a robust natural gas distribution system to be successful.

Preserving fuel choice for Georgians will:
  • Help keep energy costs low for families, restaurants and other small businesses.
  • Ensure Georgia has a diverse energy supply which increases reliability.
  • Make Georgia even more competitive in job creation and economic development.
  • Put Georgia on a level footing with states like Tennessee and Oklahoma that have already passed similar laws.
AG CEO COUNCIL MEETS WITH INCOMING TRADE REP
President Biden’s choice for U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, talked online with more than 20 members of the Ag CEO Council, leaders of farm groups from across the industry.

“Noting the essential role of agriculture to the economy and the recovery, USTR-designate Tai reiterated her commitment to ensuring that farmers and agriculture have a seat at the table as we rebuild, and that they remain a focal point of U.S. trade policy,” according to a readout of the meeting from the Biden transition.
BILLS OF INTEREST

SENATE BILLS

SB 6: Sen. Albers - to provide for independent economic analyses to be procured by the Office of Planning and Budget for certain tax benefits upon request by the chairpersons of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee; to provide a short title; to provide for limits; to provide for summaries to be attached to related fiscal notes; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

SB 29: Sen. Anavitarte - Bill would require citizens who want to vote in a Georgia election by absentee ballot to include a copy of their driver's license, voter ID card, passport, or other official form of US identification when they apply for the absentee ballot and at the time of submittal. Assigned to House Ethics Committee
 
SB 30: Sen. Beach - SB 30 would provide for pari-mutuel horse racing in Georgia and would establish Georgia Horse Racing Commission. Assigned to House Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee

HOUSE BILLS

HB 3: Rep. Allen, Wilkerson, Anulewicz, Bruce, Jones - The bill would require facilities that release more than 50 pounds of ethylene oxide annually to allow the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to install monitoring equipment, and allow for the department to continuously monitor emissions and keep daily records for the term of the permit. Reports would be required to be available and updated twice a year on the EPD website. The legislation would also set further off-gassing requirements. Additionally, it would require facilities emitting ethylene oxide to submit an ambient air monitoring plan by January 1, 2022. Assigned to Natural Resources and Environment Committee

HB 90: Reps. Williamson, Burns, Dickey, Hatchett, Morris, Watson - 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. Assigned to House Judiciary Committee

HB 98: Rep. Eddie Lumsden - 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 where not met because of health concerns of in person meetings. Assigned to Government Affairs Committee.
 
HB 104: Rep. Stevens - relating to specific, business, and occupation taxes, so as to levy and impose a tax on persons who enter certain rental agreements with certain equipment rental companies within a certain period of time; to require such equipment rental companies to collect such taxes and remit them to county tax commissioners for credit against such company's ad valorem tax liability for certain equipment; to provide that county tax commissioners shall retain excess fees; to provide for the reporting of certain statistical data related to such tax; to provide for rules and regulations; to provide for definitions; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes. Assigned to Ways and Means

HB 112: Rep. Trey 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. Assigned to Judiciary Committee

HB 139: Rep Mainor - This bill would prohibit trains from restricting traffic crossing for longer than 15 minutes except in emergency situations. Assigned to House Transportation Committee
 
HB 150: Reps. Williamson, Hatchett, Kelley, Frazier, Parsons, Smith - HB 150 would prohibit local government entities in Georgia from banning the connection of any utility service based on the type or source of fuel. Assigned to House Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee

SEC. PERDUE OFFERS FAREWELL ADDRESS TO FARM BUREAU MEMBERS

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue thanked farm bureau members for their support of the nation’s agricultural policies over the last four years and encouraged members to continue to advocate for what’s best for American agriculture in his virtual address given during the annual American Farm Bureau Convention meeting on Tuesday evening, per Feedstuffs.
Bagwell Insurance Group, Inc.
Beaver Creek Plantation
Brooksco Dairy, LLC
Camp Family Farms LLC
DeWitt Produce Co. Inc.
Doerun Gin Co. Inc.
Georgia Cotton Commission
Georgia Young Farmers Association
Hattaway Farms Partnership
International Forest Company, Inc.
Jones Cork, LLP
Kelley Manufacturing Co.
Market Grocery Company
Mixon Seed Services Inc.
Mobley Greenhouses, Inc.
SafEnvirons, Inc.
Striplings General Store - Bogart GA
The Turfgrass Group, Inc.
USA Poultry & Egg Export Council
WDairy LLC
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.
Embry Farm Service/ Embry Transport
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 Vocational Ag Teacher Association
Greene County Fertilizer Co.
Greg Leger Farms, LLC
Greg Sikes Farm, LLC
Hazel Creek Cider, Inc. / Yearwood Farms, Inc.
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
Northeast Georgia Livestock
Oglethorpe Power Corporation
Peebles Timber, Inc.
Quality Gin, Inc.
Sconyers Gin & Warehouse Co.
Southern AGCOM Inc.
Southern Seed Company, Inc.
Swainsboro Stockyard
Sweetbay Farm, LLC
Sylvania Peanut Co. Inc.
The Satsuma Company, LLC
Three Brothers Trucking, LLC
West Georgia Processing, Inc.

Special thanks to all of our Star Sponsors. Please call our office at 706-336-6830 for details. Thank you!
Sec. Perdue, a strong advocate of trade and expanding agricultural market access during his tenure at USDA, says moving forward, “We need more markets abroad to sell the abundance of American agriculture.” He says this includes more trade deals such as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and holding China to their trading commitments. “These deals would not have happened if it weren’t for the near universal support from the agricultural community.” He added that sights should also be set on southeast Asia, the booming markets of Africa as well as the United Kingdom.

Reflecting on all the happenings of the past year, he said, “We have done what is necessary to ensure the American agriculture economy remains strong, independent and a global leader in production.”
CHINA APPROVES IMPORT OF GM TRAITS
DTN Progressive Farmer reports that China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs published import approvals for five GM (genetically modified) corn and cotton traits on Jan. 11.

Some were approvals for new traits, namely MZIR098, a glufosinate-tolerant corn trait with two rootworm proteins from Syngenta, and MON 87411, Bayer's SmartStax Pro corn trait that has waited for five years for this move from the Chinese regulatory authorities.

The rest were renewals of past biosafety certificates issued for GHB614 (BASF's GlyTol cotton trait), LL Cotton 25 (BASF's Fibermax Liberty Link trait) and COT102 (Syngenta's VIPCOT cotton trait).

All five traits are now approved for import for the next five years, until December 2025.
Thank you to all our member companies that were 2020 sponsor, we appreciate the outstanding support during a difficult year! 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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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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