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Lawmakers finalize $20.8 billion budget
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The House and Senate agreed to the conference committee’s report on HB 744 – the FY 2015 budget on Tuesday. Of particular interest, funding was restored to Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission as well as leaving GSWCC as a stand-alone agency. GSWCC Executive Director Brent Dykes said, “The Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission appreciates GA Farm Bureau’s strong support of conservation during the 2014 Legislative Session. GFB has been a great partner. The state’s 40 conservation districts remain committed to protecting and improving our natural resources”. This was a GFB priority issue and one in which we were heavily engaged, and we appreciate the legislature’s support.

Also included in the final version was $150,000 for a metal theft database. GFB worked on the creation of the database in prior sessions, and this funding is the fruition of it. This was one of our priority issues to attempt to curb metal theft on farms. A wheat breeder, beef specialist in Tifton, poultry nutritionist, and poultry researcher positions also made it to the final budget.

Other areas of interest include $14 million in Forestland Protection Act grants for county reimbursement and funding for an additional county extension agent. There were several bond projects of interest including two bonds for the Georgia Forestry Commission. The first was a $6 million bond for replacement of firefighting equipment and a $1 million bond project for facility improvement and renovations. There was also a bond issued in the amount of $1.3 million for Athens and Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic Labs.

The General Assembly concluded on Thursday after a fast-paced legislative session that proved positive for Georgia Agriculture. Several priority issues were addressed including funding for GSWCC, GATE rules, Flint River water issues, and timber theft issues.