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Georgia Cattlemen’s Association Legislative Update
Today marked Day 24 of the 40 day legislative session as lawmakers completed another 4 day work week under the Gold Dome.
GCA would like to invite all cattlemen to join us for the 2017 Legislative Steak Biscuit Breakfast to be held March 3rd at 7:30am in Room 216 of the State Capitol. This is a great opportunity to spend time with your local representatives and talk to them about the economic impact the cattle industry has on Georgia and how their legislation affects our daily lives. Please make plans to join us for one of the most popular events on Capitol Hill.
GCA has been actively engaged on several pieces of legislation that will directly impact our industry. We have also monitored several other bills that are important to private land owners and rural Georgians. Below is a recap of our highest priority legislation to date.
HB 50 – Livestock Liability Protection. Rep. Clay Pirkle, drafted legislation which will reduce liability for cattle owners and cattle show/sale facilities. We are hoping to amend the current legislation that offers protection to horse and llama owners to incorporate all livestock owners. This bill will provide needed protection for farmers and ranchers and increase opportunities for FFA/4-H students to experience on farm learning in their communities. It is currently assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and is scheduled to be heard in Rep. Trey Kelly’s sub-committee on Monday, February 27th. This is a priority issue for GCA and several other farm organizations and we ask that you contact your representative and ask for support for this legislation in its current form without harmful amendments which would change the positive impact of the bill.
HB 49 – Livestock Dealers. This legislation implements a licensing structure for livestock dealers and auction barns and creates a list of dealers to ensure producers and barns are aware of any buyer that is acting outside of the law to protect themselves and their livestock. The GA Dept of Ag pushed for this legislation to ensure that dealers and barns are properly bonded and their surety matches the P&S levels required. GCA took an active role in ensuring that any fee required be held to a minimal level to avoid hampering a business from operating. We also worked to ensure the definition of “dealer” be narrowed to avoid catching up someone who is purchasing livestock for their own operation. HB 49 passed the House and now waits to be taken up by the Senate.
HB 238 – Solar Panels – This bill would allow the use of solar panels to be installed on land entered into a Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA) or Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA) covenant without a breach of the covenant. The land where the solar panels are installed must be removed from the covenant and placed on the tax digest and valued at fair market value for tax purposes. The possibility of impacting a farm’s CUVA & FLPA property covenants has been a concern of property owners who have interest in installing these sources of renewal energy.
HB 290 – Lease-Purchase Agreement of Farm Equipment. This bill amends the definition of “agricultural equipment” to include lease-purchase agreements, so as to clarify that these arrangements are exempt from ad valorem taxation.
GATE – Abuse of the Georgia Agriculture Tax Exemption card continues to be a topic that is being discussed in the hallways of Atlanta. At this time, no major legislation has been presented regarding changes. As we speak with legislators, we continue to stress the importance of keeping this program available for both large and small size cattle producers.
Budget – the House finalized their version of the FY18 budget last week. Here are a few of the budget items that were supported by GCA. We will continue to ask that these remain in the Senate version of the budget as they take up the issue.
– $310,000 for two field services clinical veterinarians dedicated to food animal practice
-$378,051 for 11 food safety, plant, and animal industry positions in Dept. of Ag
– $4,120,000 for UGA Ag Experiment Station maintenance and operations
– $84,000 increase in personal services to ruminant nutritionist and row crop physiologist positions