Newton County Farm Bureau members traveled to Atlanta recently to participate in the Georgia Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol.
Newton County Farm Bureau members Keith Mitcham, Chuck Berry, Chase Berry, Brent Galloway, Kevin Mitcham, Richard Jolley and Julius Hays attended the event, where they had they visited with Gary Black the Commissioner of Agriculture.
The Newton County delegation was among more than 450 Farm Bureau members from across the state to participate in the event. Participants were encouraged to raise legislators’ awareness of GFB’s 2013 priority issues - water, taxes and the state budget, supporting cattle producers’ opportunity to vote in a referendum to create a state commodity commission for beef, reducing thefts of ag supplies/equipment from farms, merging state and federal commercial drivers license regulations and pursuing a reliable Ag workforce.
"Georgia Farm Bureau members who participated in Farm Bureau Day at the Capitol showed the people in Atlanta the strength of Georgia agriculture and the strength of Georgia Farm Bureau. Our members brought the heart and soul of rural Georgia to Atlanta," GFB President Zippy Duvall said. "It’s important that farmers take the time to come to Atlanta to talk to their legislators about the issues we’re facing on the farm."
While speaking at a luncheon GFB hosted for its members, state officials, and legislators at the Georgia Freight Depot, Gov. Nathan Deal discussed the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE) program, budget allocations he has made for agriculture, and the Flint River Drought Protection Act (FRDPA).
"As I told rural legislators recently, we have to be careful that we do not abuse the provisions of this [GATE] legislation. We can’t afford abuses because if it becomes apparent that they are happening then we will see action, I think, to retract what has been done on a good faith basis. It will require all of us to act in good faith to make sure the system is not abused," Deal said.
The Georgia Department of Revenue has released a list of agriculture inputs eligible for sales tax exemptions, for which a summary is available at gfb.org/legislative/documents/GFB%20Report%202-8-13.pdf.
Deal also outlined funding he included in the fiscal year 2014 budget proposal he presented to the General Assembly in January. Deal’s budget includes $500,000 to support the implementation of local water plans proposed by the regional water councils; a $25 million bond package for water supply projects, mostly in the form of reservoirs; $2.85 million in funding for the veterinary diagnostic labs in Athens and Tifton and significant money for the new veterinary school being built at the University of Georgia.
Deal mentioned work the Environmental Protection Division is doing to reform the FRDPA including studies to improve stream flow and protect the river while providing adequate water for farmers. "I think if we all work together towards this common goal good things will happen," Deal said.
GFB members also heard about Senate Bill 97, introduced by Sen. John Wilkinson, chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, which would allow Georgia beef producers to hold a referendum to decide if they want to create a state agricultural commodity commission for beef.