Friday, May 04, 2018
NOTES FROM THE SENATE, MAY 4, 2018
DO WE TAKE AGRICULTURE FOR GRANTED?
The arrival in grocery stores of delicious sweet Vidalia Onions in the last week or so only serves to remind us of our wonderful ability to grow food on our farmlands. I wonder if we take for granted sometimes that we can walk into a grocery store and find a bounty of fresh vegetables. For a good bit of the year, we can find vegetables grown locally.
Agriculture remains the number one industry in Georgia with a Farmgate value of some $14 billion. In 2015, Georgia ranked first in production of blueberries, broilers, peanuts, pecans, spring season onions and second in rye, cotton, cucumbers total pullets and watermelons...also third in bell peppers, peaches and sweet corn.
So legislation affecting agriculture in Georgia is a high priority and the Legislature continues to fund ongoing research to improve production and hopefully insure farmers are profitable.
LEGISLATION AFFECTING AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMERS
-- HB 886-- Changes criteria for issuance of the GATE sales tax exemption card for farmers. Increases the minimum amount of revenue a farm must produce to qualify for a card from $2500 to $5000 yearly. Also increases the amount a farm must project it will produce to $5000 to receive a card before the farm actually begins to produce.
-- HB 956-Veterinary Update bill allows the State Board of Veterinary Medicine to perform inspections of premises and equipment and creates a continuing education requirement for veterinary technicians. The bill limits the number of technicians who can work with a veterinarian and brings the code in line with federal law.
-- SB 458-Lays out farm land owners rights in dealing with tax assessors. Exempts land owner for a bona fide conservation use from being required to submit additional proof of qualified use if they can provide proof of qualified expenses or proof of bona fide conservation use for a qualified property to the tax assessor.
-- HB 85-Changes the methodology for forest land conservation use property. Removes the provision tying the forest land valuation to the 2008 value. Now will be assessed at 40% of its forest land conservation value as will timberland property. The bill calls for the value of local assistance grants to any county to be increased by an amount equal to a percentage of the value of the difference in the amount the county received in 2018 and the amount the county is eligible to receive in the given year.
-- HR 51-Constitutional Amendment pertaining to HB 85.
-- HB 885-Prohibits state agencies from limiting or restricting burning over any agriculture tract, lot or parcel greater than five acres for agricultural purposes providing that the burning is consistent with the federal law and limited to vegetative material.
FY 2019 GENERAL BUDGET EXPENDITURES AFFECTING AGRICULTURE
-- $1.102 million to the Agriculture Department for domestic and international marketing to include positions of Expansion and Growth Director, Domestic Sales Coordinator, International Trade Coordinator and Business Specialist.
--$225,000 for Young Farmer programs in Polk County, Wilcox County and Pataula Charter Academy (serving five counties).
--$100,000 Partial funding for Young Farmer Executive Director position.
--223,823 Whitefly Management Research at the Agriculture Experiment Station.
--$402,740 for specialists in Pasture Weeds and Forage, Crop and Soil Sciences, a Distinguished Investigator and Professor in Peanut Genetics and Genomics, a Soil Nutritionist in Crop and Soil Sciences and a Postharvest Physiologist in Horticulture at the Agriculture Experiment Station.
--$171,400 for a Turfgrass pathologist to develop disease- resistant grass and forage cultivars also at the Experiment Station.
--$324,000 for the Cooperative Extension Service for six educator positions to support Agriculture and Natural Resources, 4-H Youth Development and the Family and Consumer Sciences educational program.
--$325,660 for the Cooperative Extension Service for Pasture Weeks and Forage Specialist in Crop and Soil Sciences, a Soil Nutritionist in Crop and Soil Sciences and a Postharvest Physiologist in Horticulture.
--$160,000 for a Poultry Clinical Services Veterinarian to address Avian Influenza at the Veterinary Medicine Experiment Station.
--$52,000 for a technician to support applied research at Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic and Investigational laboratory.
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 2019 budget (H.B. 684) may be found at http://www.senate.ga.gov/sbeo/en-US/AppropriationsDocuments.aspx. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.