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Friday, May 03, 2019

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, MAY 3, 2019

AGRICULTURE LEGISLATION AND FUNDING VITAL TO STATE

Sometimes it takes a tragedy like Hurricane Michael to show us the value of agriculture. The astounding values of the crops and timber lost only graphically demonstrates what an important role agriculture plays in Georgia's economy.

This week, we will look at legislation passed during the 2019 General Assembly affecting agriculture and list some of the budget items dedicated to supporting Georgia's agriculture industry.

LEGISLATION AFFECTING AGRICULTURE

-- HB 213- Authorizes the growing and processing of hemp in Georgia
-- Legalized by Federal Farm Bill in 2018- Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018
-- Limited to .3% THC
-- Grower must be qualified agricultural producer (farmer)
-- Requires criminal background check-farmers, employees and processors-farmer nor employee can be convicted of misdemeanor or any felony drug offense
-- One License per person
-- Rules by the Georgia Department of Agriculture due July. Public comments follow
-- Farmer license $50 per acre-limited to $5,000 annually
-- Processor license-- $25,000 first year, renewal $10,000

--HB 512-- Creates an Agriculture Commodity Commission for propane-would issue marketing orders, conduct referendums and conduct assessments after a referendum of up to four tenths of one cent

--SB2-- Authorizes Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs) to provide broadband services. Some restrictions on keeping the electricity and broadband services separate

-- SB 17-- Authorizes telephone co-ops to expand their authority to broadband services. Expands allowable area of co-op to areas outside municipalities of up to a 15,000 population size

--HB 324-- "Georgia's Hope Act" makes legal the growing, production, manufacturing and dispensation of low THC oil
--Creates Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission
-- Can issue six production licenses
-- Two classifications of production licenses
Class I-- 100,000 sq. ft.
Class II-- 50,000 sq. ft.
Pharmacy Dispensaries, other retail dispensaries and the commission will dispense to registered patients. There are currently 8,400 patients with cards.

--HB 314-- Requires boats and watercraft to be titled. Includes motors 25 horsepower and above
--Title fees: up to 16 ft. - $25, up to 26 ft. - $60 and up...
-- Renew on owner's birthday
-- Sale or transfer of ownership- must be reported to DNR
-- Effective July 1, 2020
-- License valid for three years

-- HB 446-- Hurricane Michael timber tax credit
--provides additional avenue for claiming the income tax credit on timberland damaged by Michael
--allows for restoration or cleaning up the land and not necessarily replanted as presently written
--SB 72 Conference Report-removes the requirement to have a hunting license for hunting in wildlife management areas
--allows use of air guns and air bows for hunting big game in season
--removes prohibition against baiting feral hogs within 50 yards of property line if it does not prevent hunting on adjoining property
-- Allows DNR to modify hunting seasons on bag limits on deer, raccoons, opossums and bears

STUDY COMMITTEES ON AG ISSUES:

--SR 367- Senate Gaming and Pari-mutuel Wagering on Horse Racing and Growing Georgia's Equine Industry Study Committee
--SR 442- Senate Study Committee on Creating a Georgia Agricultural Marketing Authority
--SR 460- Senate Agriculture, Forestry, and Landscape Workforce Access Study Committee

BUDGET ITEMS ENHANCING AGRICULTURE

--$235,000 to UGA experiment station for two precision agriculture and one vegetable breeder faculty positions in conjunction with $406,000 to Cooperative Extension Service for the same shared positions at the University of Georgia
--$204,000 to annualize Program Manager Position and associated operations for GATE program
--$110,000 to Soil and Water Commission for one erosion and sediment control plan reviewer and one watershed dam support position
--$299,000 to DOE Agricultural Education for camp personnel and operations and $83,000 for local law enforcement security at youth camps when students are present
--$656,000 to Cooperative Extension Service for 12 educator positions
--$747,000 for local law enforcement security at 4-H facilities when students are present
--$1.195 million in bonds for security improvements at Camp John Hope, Fort Valley, Peach County and the FFA/FCCLA Center in Newton County
--$150,000 in bonds to fund security improvements at 4-H centers statewide
--$2.5 million in bonds to UGA for half the cost of a multidisciplinary greenhouse complex
--$1.1 million in bonds to the Department of Agriculture for test trucks and mail and courier trucks
--$1.3 million in bonds to Department of Agriculture for improvements for farmers markets statewide
-- $1.0 million in bonds to the Soil and Water Conservation Commission for rehabilitation and maintenance of flood control structures statewide

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