Monday, April 10, 2017
NOTES FROM THE SENATE, APRIL 10, 2017
RETROSPECT ON THE 2017 SESSION
Some things never change. The perception that the 2017 Session of the General Assembly (a) was a do-nothing session (b) moved the state forward or (c) did no harm, is all in the eye of the beholder. For some, if their one issue wasn't settled satisfactorily, then the session is a failure. For a legislator, success is measured in whether one's bills passed or failed and still may rest on the Governor's signature.
The truth is, any bill that did not pass this year is still alive back in committee and can be worked on from Day One of the 2018 Session. Another way of looking at it is if you thought you killed a bad bill, you really didn't and someone out there is already plotting and planning to try to pass it in 2018.
Over the next few weeks, leading up to the final day the Governor has to sign or veto legislation, we will look at legislation that passed in different areas and also plug in funding initiatives by area from both the FY 2018 and FY 2017 Amended budgets.
AGRICULTURE - A STRONG SESSION FOR AG INTERESTS
One of the themes of the 2017 Session was helping Rural Georgia. Agriculture has some bright spots, but row crop commodity prices are entering the 4th year of declining and dragging prices. Legislatively, the General Assembly passed legislation friendly to agricultural interests and in the FY 2018 Budget, some significant investments were made.
SB 69 - Removes registration requirements concerning organic farming interests since USDA maintains a registry.
SB 78 - Allows Agriculture Commissioner to grant a variance to a regulation if compliance has been achieved through other means and will not result in harm to the public.
SB 85 - Sorta Ag related - Permits breweries to sell beer brewed on premises for consumption in house or for carry home. Yearly limit of 26,500 gallons per brewery with a sole customer limit of 2.25 liters per day.
SB 226 - Allows Georgia Wineries to use a higher percentage of out-of-state wine to brand as Georgia produced wine. Limit was 20%, now goes to 40%.
SR 392 - Creates the Senate Rural Georgia Study Committee - Will look at rural issues including health, broadband access, lack of economic growth and transit. There is also a similar committee in the House.
HB 49 - Updates registration and bonding requirements for livestock dealers and operators.
HB 50 - Limits liability of livestock owners and sponsors of livestock shows.
HB 176 - Outlines the state Department of Agriculture's responsibility in administering the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act involving transportation and distribution of food.
HB 238 - Allows the carving out of land in a land conservation agreement for use as a solar generating plant. Ad valorem taxes are paid back for those years the land was in the covenant. Also allows carve-out for living quarters for farm workers brought in for crop harvesting.
FUNDING AFFECTING AGRICULTURE AND AG RESEARCH
$393,000 along with existing funding to add eleven food safety, plant and animal industry positions in the Department of Agriculture.
$ 232,000 for two field services clinical veterinarians at the UGA Experiment Station dedicated to food animal practice beginning Oct. 1, 2017.
$93,000 for UGA Experiment Station to fund one lab supervisor and one lab technician for the Poultry Diagnostic Lab to address disease surveillance.
Directs DNR-EPD to utilize existing funds for the agricultural water metering initiative.
$84,000 for the UGA Experiment Station to annualize the funds added last year for a ruminant nutritionist and a row crop physiologist.
$4.1 million for Maintenance and Operations for Ag Experiment Station facilities.
$126,000 for UGA Extension Service to annualize a viticulturist, grain crop agronomist and vegetable pathologist.
$2.1 million for UGA Extension Service for Maintenance and Operations of buildings and structures.
$80,000 for UGA Forestry Cooperative Extension for a network administrator for the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health to support externally funded research.
$150,000 to fund an oyster hatchery manager and an aquaculture agent for the UGA Skidaway Marine Research Center to enhance Georgia's oyster aquaculture industry.
BONDS FOR AG-RELATED ACTIVITIES
$5 million for design, construction and equipment for the renovation of the Poultry Science Research Facility at UGA.
$1 million for the Department of Agriculture for facility repairs and sustainment.
$8.78 million for design, construction and equipment for a covered equine area for the Ag Center at Perry.
$2.4 million to fund design, construction and equipment for the Georgia Grown Expansion Building at the Ag Center in Perry.
$6.5 million for the rehabilitation of flood control structures statewide by the Soil and Water Commission.
Full transcripts of bills may be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx . Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. The FY 2018 budget (H.B. 44) may be found at http://www.senate.ga.gov/sbeo/en-US/AppropriationsDocuments.aspx. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.