MACON, Ga. — Gov. Brian Kemp showed his support of Georgia farmers and timber growers by signing eight bills into law pertaining to agriculture and forestry. Georgia Farm Bureau hosted the bill signing ceremony this morning, May 7, at its home office in Macon. A group of about 100 Georgia ag and forestry leaders attended the event along with the state legislators who authored and secured votes for the bills in the Georgia General Assembly.
“Georgia Farm Bureau is the largest ag organization in the state of Georgia. Our purpose is to represent farmers and agriculture in the legislative arena. We represent everything from apples to zuchinnis, and I want to welcome all of y’all here today as Governor Kemp signs these bills into law that will help Georgia farmers and timber growers,” Georgia Farm Bureau President Tom McCall said. “GFB thanks all of the legislators who wrote and introduced these bills and got them passed through the Georgia Legislature this session.”
Senate Bill (SB) 247, which updates how state commodity commissions can communicate with producers, was among the bills Kemp signed. Sen. Lee Anderson authored this bill supported by GFB, Georgia Cattlemen’s Association, Georgia Milk Producers and multiple ag commodity commissions.
SB 247 modernizes how Georgia Commodity Commissions serve notices to producers, hold hearings, and vote on new commodity assessments. SB 247 allows notices to be published in the Farmers & Consumers Market Bulletin and online, and allows for online public comment periods, ensuring the target audience of these notices are reached. State statute previously required commodity commissions to advertise proposed changes in Georgia’s official legal organ – the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Gov. Kemp also signed House Bill (HB) 498, which will let Georgia voters decide in the 2022 election if family farms that have merged may have the same ad valorem tax exemption on farm equipment that they qualified for before merging. Rep. Sam Watson introduced this bill for which GFB, Georgia Agribusiness Council, and other ag organizations advocated.
“I want to thank Georgia Farm Bureau and its members and other ag organizations, the Georgia Forestry Association, Georgia Forestry Commission and Department of Natural Resources for the input they give at the capitol every day of the session,” Gov. Kemp said. “There’s no more generational business than a family farm. Marty and I know how important small business is to Georgia’s economy and that’s what Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Agribusiness Council are fighting for in the capitol every day.”
Other ag bills Kemp signed at GFB included HB 336, which aligns Georgia’s hemp laws to match federal standards, increases surety bond requirements and outlaws hemp from being grown in residential structures.
Forestry legislation that Gov. Kemp signed included HB 90, supported by the Georgia Forestry Association, which updates a 1939 statue to accommodate modern forestry practices with regards to mill purchases of cut timber and liability for these transactions.
HB 282 updates the Qualified Timber Property program to define parameters for contiguous property, specify how the appraised value of timberland is calculated based on fair market value and in income approach & clarifying the documentation landowners must submit to the revenue commissioner for certification.
Other forestry and natural resource bills Gov. Kemp signed included House Bill 355 and Senate Bill 119.
HB 355 updates Georgia’s Carbon Sequestration Registry and allows building materials that sequester carbon to qualify for carbon credits and adds stands of timber to the list of items that qualify for credits.
SB 119 removes the requirement homeowners previously had to notify the Georgia Forestry Commission when burning small piles of backyard debris. It outlines allowed times, locations and precautionary requirements for burning backyard debris and does not override any local ordinances that counties or cities may have in place regarding such fires.
Gov. Kemp also signed HB 575, for which the Macon-Bibb County Government and community leaders advocated. This bill allows Macon-Bibb County to increase its Other Local Option Sales Tax from 1% to 2% if the governing authority passes a resolution and Macon-Bibb voters pass a referendum to do so. Local government and community leaders who supported the bill participated in the bill signing.
–Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau