Weekly Newsletter for Georgia Agribusiness Council Members

Volume 33, No. 12 Published by the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc. March 30, 2023

SINE DIE. That's a wrap. It's Over. The fat lady has sung. You ain't gotta go home but you can't stay here. Peace out ATL. Those were some of the words heard as legislators and hundreds of lobbyists piled down the stairs inside the Capitol and towards the doors on the final day of the 2023 legislative session.

For legislators and advocates that didn't get their priority issues settled during the final hours, those words were mixed with other choice ones that we can't print here. Agriculture and forestry advocates were mostly jovial as a majority of our issues crossed the finish line and a late-night fight over truck weights ended with a compromise that allows our industry to become competitive with our neighboring states over the next two years, but keeps everyone still at the table for a larger freight and logistics push that is sure to come from legislators in the future.

It wasn't all high fives and cheers as we completed another legislative year without any major Tort reform, and some bills were stripped in secret and moved forward with language that may take several days to figure out their impact to the industry.

The Governor now has a 40-day window to review and sign or veto bills before they become law.

**Inside Agriculture is a newsletter and member benefit for GAC members that highlights the action Under the Gold Dome each week throughout the legislative session. The updates are meant to keep GAC members informed, connected, and engaged in the legislative process. Please share with other leaders within your business that may find these updates helpful.**



We are excited to extend our partnership with Southeast AgNet as they help spread the word on what is happening under the Gold Dome. This is a great tool to get a quick snapshot of the week's activities throughout the session. For a recap of the session, Click Here.


In what turned out to be one of the last votes of the year for both the House and Senate Chambers, legislators voted to increase the allowable weight variance for trucks hauling agricultural and forestry products, just beyond the midnight hour on Sine Die. The compromise deal came together around 10pm as conference committee members huddled with industry stake holders to hash out the final details of the priority legislation. According to legislative rules, the final version of the bill needed to be on legislator's desk for two hours before being eligible for a vote. A temporary suspension of the rules was needed to extend session beyond midnight in order to get the legislation passed.

We thank the bill's author Rep. Steven Meeks, and its Senate sponsor Senator Russ Goodman, for their months of hard work and tireless dedication to move this effort forward against long odds and plenty of powerful, well-funded opposition. If you ever wanted to "see how the sausage was made" or wondered what advocacy in action looked like, this was the bill to watch.

The legislation will:

  • allow a 10% variance above 80,000 lbs. for trucks hauling ag and forestry products. Essentially setting those new limits at 88,000 lbs.
  • provide a 2-year sunset on the legislation to allow lawmakers to revisit the changes as a part of a larger freight and logistics plan.
  • gives local law enforcement the ability to enforce weight violations on local roads only. And has set penalties for those that are over the new limit
  • sets a 150-mile radius from point of origin for the weight variance.
  • does not allow an increase for trucks within a 13 county "non-attainment zone" within metro Atlanta.


The Georgia State legislature fulfilled its main constitutional duty for the 2024 Legislative Session around midnight on Wednesday with the passage of HB 19. The FY24 budget process was an interesting one to say the least. There were many different views between the House and Senate on where money should be appropriated, but in the end, they finally came to an agreement in the conference committee. Some of the most notable items in the $32.4 Billion budget include full tuition for college students that qualify for the HOPE scholarship and to give all state employees and public-school teachers $2,000 raises, and also to give some state law enforcement officers $6,000 raise.

Perhaps the most interesting discussions and debates revolved around the $66 million cut to the University System of Georgia. The Senate originally proposed an $87 million cut in university teaching, as well as an $18 million reduction in university health insurance. The final agreement puts back the health insurance money but maintained a pretty significant cut to USG’s $9 billion budget. While impossible to mention all of the changes that were made, more budget details are listed below. 

Georgia Department of Agriculture

-        The $637,232 that the House added for GDA to fund the Raw Milk

program and the $260,869 for recruitment and retention were ultimately

taken out, but $850,000 was added back in for general operations.

-        The legislature also added in $75,000 for both Marketing and promotion

as well as Departmental Administration 

Agricultural Exposition Authority

-        Maintained the original $224,400 that was added by the House for a one

time pay bump for employees to improve recruitment and retention.

UGA Experiment Station

-        Added $520,000 for increase funds for personnel at the demonstration


-        Added money for 3 positions to serve the peach and citrus industries.

-        Also added $250,000 in support of the Peanut Breeding and extension


-        The committee report also transferred $446,413 from experiment station

to Cooperative extension.

UGA Cooperative Extension

-        Significantly cut the initial addition by the house to fund 7 county

extension agents. This was cut to $258,750 which would essentially keep

the 3 shared 4-H extension agents.

-        Maintained funding for 2 positions to serve the Blueberry and Citrus


University of Georgia Bond Funding:

-        $29,800,000 in a 20-year bond for construction of Phase

II of the Science and Ag Hill Modernization project.

Department of Education Bond Funding:

-  $1,105,000 in a 5-year bond to purchase agriculture education



As is often the case on a chaotic legislative day 40, a bill dealing with one subject matter was stripped of all of its current content and loaded up with language dealing with something completely different. This was again the case as a bill dealing with sponsorship of a life insurance plan for the National Guard, was ultimately stripped down and used for the Governor and legislators to respond to a recent settlement agreement regarding fishing and recreational rights on the upper Flint River.

The wheels were in motion and the Frankenstein bill had passed before agriculture groups had time to evaluate its impact and weigh in on the measure. We were assured by several trusted elected officials that SB 115 was meant to simply reiterate the position that the state has operated from for years regarding access to fishing, floating, and other recreational activities on navigable waterways and is not intended to strip private property rights away from individual landowners.

Our team is continuing to review and monitor this legislation to ensure it does not have unintended consequences for agriculture. If you believe this legislation will impact you negatively, please contact our staff so that we can continue to gather information about the bill prior to being signed into law. Text of the bill can be found here.


Senate Bill 220 by Chairman Russ Goodman cleared both Chambers and is headed to the Governor's desk to be signed. This Legislation establishes the Georgia Farmland Conservation Fund and Georgia Farmland Advisory Council made up of stakeholders across the state including the Georgia Agribusiness Council and Georgia Farm Bureau presidents.

This fund is being established to protect Georgia’s farmland by incentivizing families who voluntarily choose to protect their farmland in perpetuity. It also looks to provide relief for families who are under developmental pressure and give them another option to maintain their family farms. Twenty-one other states have similar programs in place, but Chairman Goodman is modelling his bill after legislation in Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. The council will review and approve award grants and the rules and regulations given to them by the GDA.

The measure now heads to Governor Kemp's desk for his expected signature.


Ahead of continued growth in electric vehicles, lawmakers overhauled how the state taxes the power used by EVs and moved its regulation of charging stations from the state's Public Service Commission to the Georgia Department of Agriculture who currently monitors gas pumps under its fuel and measures division. Senate Bill 146 would also let convenience stores and other businesses sell electricity by the kilowatt hour.

This addresses some of the longtime concern that electric vehicles receive preferential treatment with tax incentives and do not pay their fair share of "fuel taxes" that pay for the roads and bridges that they utilize.


Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) introduced the Promoting Precision Agriculture Act, a bill that Thune said “would establish a partnership between the government and the private sector to develop voluntary interconnectivity standards and prioritize the cybersecurity needs for precision agriculture technologies.”


The news release said the Promoting Precision Agriculture Act would direct the Agriculture Department, in consultation with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to support the development of voluntary, consensus-based, industry-led interconnectivity standards, guidelines, and best practices for precision agriculture to encourage the adoption of precision agriculture technology


The bill would also require USDA, the Federal Communications Commission, and NIST to consider the impacts next-generation technologies will have on precision agriculture, including prioritizing the cybersecurity needs of precision agriculture. 


Join us for our First Annual Agribusiness Clay Shoot on Friday, April 28th at the Meadows Clay Sports in Forysth, GA. We are looking forward to a great day outdoors! To be a Team Sponsor or a Station Sponsor please click on the link below. THANK YOU to the below Sponsors for the continued support to GAC!




SB 2 - Sen. Greg Dolezal

A bill to extend the COVID-19 liability protections for businesses permanently. These protections were first put in place during the COVID pandemic to release businesses from claims that their customers contracted COVID-19 at their place of business.

Status - Did not pass.

SB. 3 - Sen. John Albers

A bill that requires state departments, agencies, boards, bureaus, offices, commissions, public corporations, and authorities to assess education, experience, and training requirements for positions of employment. Specifically, to reduce the number of positions for which a four-year college degree is required.

Status - Passed

SB. 22 - Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick

A bill that prohibits the purchase of, sale of, or offering samples of hemp products to anyone under the age of 18. The bill will provide rules and regulations for these offenses and any other related matters.

Status - Did not pass.

SB. 34 - Sen. Elena Parent

A bill to prohibit third-party food delivery services from committing unfair, unsafe, and unhealthy practices in the state.

Status - Did not pass.

SB. 39 - Sen. Kim Jackson

A bill to allow persons convicted of a misdemeanor, or certain felonies, to grow industrial hemp.

Status - Did not pass.

SB. 60 - Sen. Bo Hatchett legislation to address concerns raised by secondary metal recyclers whose business practices are restricted in their methods of payment for deposits. Under current law, recyclers may only pay using a check, electronic funds transfer, or a voucher. Status - Passed

SB. 115 - Sen. Josh McLaurin A bill to address the state's control of fishing, floating, hunting, and other recreational activities on navigable waterways. Bill stripped a National Guard bill and replaced with this language to address a recent agreement. Status - Passed

SB. 126 - Sen. Billy Hickman

to provide for a limitation on interchange fees charged by payment card networks for credit or debit card transactions at retailers. This legislation will have a second hearing in the Senate Banking committee. Status - Did not pass.

SB. 132 - Sen. Brandon Beach

A bill relating to agriculture prohibits the acquisition of a possessory interest in certain land by certain nonresident aliens. Status - Passed by Senate Chamber on March 2. House Agricultural and Consumer Affairs Committee favorably reported.

SB. 145 - Sen. Shawn Still

A bill to prohibit the local regulations that create differing standards for or distinguish gasoline-powered leaf blowers from similar equipment in applicable counties and municipal corporations Status - Passed

SB 146 Sen. Steve Gooch – moves the regulation of electric vehicle chargers to the Department of Agriculture and establishes a framework for taxing electricity used to charge vehicles. Status - Passed

SB. 158 - Sen. Randy Robertson

A bill to provide an insurance premium discount or rate reduction for property owners who build a new residential or commercial property located in Georgia that better resists catastrophic windstorm events. Status - Passed

SB. 165 - Sen. Russ Goodman

A bill to provide for an allowable variance for weights and limitations upon a vehicle or load and to repeal certain exceptions which allow for excess weight limitations upon a vehicle or load. Status - Did not pass.

SB. 177 - Sen. Harold Jones

A bill to enact the "Food Insecurity Eradication Act", and to create the Georgia Food Security Advisory Council. Status - Passed by Senate Chamber on March 6. House Agricultural and Consumer Affairs Committee favorably reported. Did not pass House before Sine Die

SB. 186 - Sen. Greg Dolezal

relating to liability of owners and occupiers of land generally, to limit landowner liability regarding invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Status - Did not pass.

SB. 191 - Sen. Shawn Still

A bill relating to motor vehicles and traffic, to repeal provisions authorizing joinder of motor carriers and their insurance carriers in tort and contract causes of action. Status - Did not pass.

SB. 196 - Sen. Ben Watson

A bill to provide for the failure to wear a safety belt or safety restraints for children as admissible evidence in civil actions. Also, to prohibit the failure to wear a safety belt or safety restraints for children as a basis for cancellation of insurance coverage. This measure failed to pass through the committee. Status - Senate Lost.

SB. 220 - Sen. Russ Goodman

A bill to establish the Georgia Farmland Conservation Program, Georgia Farmland Conservation Fund program, and the Georgia Farmland Advisory Council. Status - Passed

SB. 228 - Sen. Sheikh Rahman

A bill that creates the Director of Outdoor Recreation position in the Department of Natural Resources. Status - Did not pass.


HB. 14 - Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick

A bill that provides a tax credit to employers who hire workforce-ready graduates, and the Department of Labor will establish the criteria.

Status - Did not pass.

HB. 16 - Rep. Mandisha Thomas

A bill to extend the sunset provision relating to the use of sick leave to take care of immediate family members.

Status - Did not pass.

HB. 26 - Rep. Mandisha Thomas

A bill to require the Department of Community Affairs to include certain indoor air quality provisions in applicable state minimum standard codes.

Status - Did not pass.

HB. 31 - Rep. Debbie Buckner

A bill to dedicate the proceeds of certain hazardous waste fees to the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund.

Status - Passed by House Chamber on March 2. Tabled by Senate Chamber.

HB. 33 - Rep. Beth Camp - A bill to provide for the State Board of Veterinary Medicine to be an independent state agency attached to the Department of Agriculture for administrative purposes only and to provide for contracting with the Department of Agriculture for licensing and other services.

Status: Did not pass.

HB. 34 - Rep. Bruce Williamson

A bill that will expand credits allowable for purchases and acquisitions of qualified investment property for manufacturing and telecommunications facilities to include mining facilities.

Status - Did not pass.

HB. 53 - Rep. John Corbett

A bill to provide the State Board of Registration for Foresters is an independent state agency attached to the State Forestry Commission for administrative purposes only. This will require a confirmation from the Senate for State Board members appointed by the Governor. This bill also gives the State Board of Registration for Foresters the ability to issue cease and desist orders and issue additional penalties for violations, and other related matters that may arise.

Status - Did not pass.

Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College

Bagwell Insurance Group, Inc.

Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation

Georgia Electric Membership Corporation

Georgia Power Co.

Osage Farms Inc.

Premium Peanut

Southwest Georgia Farm Credit

Ag Technologies LLC

Albany Dougherty Economic

Development Commission

Brooksco Dairy LLC

Carroll EMC

Color Burst

DeWitt Produce Co. Inc.

Fort Valley State University

Georgia Cotton Commission

Georgia Crop Production Alliance

GA Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association

Georgia Green Industry Association

Georgia Peanut Commission

Georgia Young Farmers Association

Green Fern Enterprises, LLC

Greg Sikes Farm, LLC

Growers Gin & Warehouse, Inc.

Growers Supply Inc.

Hattaway Farms Partnership

Hillside Orchard Farms, Inc.

J & B Irrigation Inc.

Kelley Manufacturing Co.

Leatherbrook Holsteins LLC

Mixon Seed Services Inc.

Mobley Greenhouse, Inc.

SafEnvirons, Inc.

Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition

Terra Chula Property Holdings

The Turfgrass Group, Inc.

U.S. Poultry & Egg Association

USA Poultry & Egg Export Council

WDairy LLC

Woodruff & Howe Environmental Engineering, Inc.

Agri-Business Technologies, Inc.

AgLanta Grown

American Peanut Shellers Association

American Peanut Trailers, LLC

Barrington Dairy, LLC

Boston Gin Co.

Broken Antler Farms

Bulloch Gin Inc.

Burriss Law Group, LLC

C.M. Tanner Grocery Co. Inc.

Calhoun Stockyard Hwy. 53 Inc.

Centurion Poultry Inc.

Circle C Farms Inc.

Coley Gin & Fertilizer

Cotton Partners LLC

Curry Farm Supply Inc.

Easterlin Pecan Company

EGA, Inc.

Emanuel Peanut & Grain LLC

Embry Farm Service

Feeding Georgia

Food Safety Net Services

Funston Gin Co. Inc.

Georgia 4-H Foundation

GA Assoc. of Conservation Districts

GA Assoc. of County Agricultural Agents

GA Assoc. of Professional Ag Consultants

Georgia Cattlemen's Association

Georgia Christmas Tree Association

Georgia Crop Improvement Assoc.

Georgia Federal-State Inspection Service, Inc.

Georgia FFA Association

Georgia Foundation for Agriculture

Georgia Milk Producers Inc.

Georgia Peach Council

Georgia Pecan Growers Association, Inc.

Georgia Pork Producers Association

Georgia Poultry Federation

Georgia Seed Association Inc.

Georgia Vocational Ag Teacher Association

Georgia Watermelon Association

Georgia Women in Agriculture Association Inc.

International Forest Company

Israel Farm Supply, Inc.

L. R. Land & Cattle Company, Inc.

Lenox Peanut Company

Longleaf Land LLC

Majors Electric & Mechanical Company, Inc.

Moultrie Colquitt County Development Authority

National Peanut Buying Points Assn.

Northeast Georgia Livestock

Oglethorpe Power Corporation

P.G.C. Farms

Pike Creek Turf, Inc.

Quality Gin, Inc.

Red Clay Ranch Equine Rescue & Sanctuary, Inc

Samara Plantation, LLC

Shealy Farms, Inc.

South GA Ag & Fertilizer

Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association

Southern Crop Production Association

Southern Livestock

Southern Seed Company, Inc.

Southern Specialty Equipment

Sweet Corn Co-Op

The Satsuma Company, LLC

Three Brothers Trucking, LLC

Vidalia Onion Business Council

Special thanks to all of our Star Sponsors. Please call our office at 706-336-6830 for details. Thank you!

HB. 71 - Rep. Darlene Taylor - A bill to prohibit the director of the Environmental Protection Division of the Natural Resources Department from issuing, modifying, or renewing any permit or accepting any bond to conduct surface mining operations on Trail Ridge for future permit applications and amendments. Status - Did not pass.

HB. 73 - Rep. Joseph Gullett - A bill to require sellers of electrical services provide a written disclosure statement with any agreement for the sale of distributed energy generation systems or for the financing of such systems through leases or solar energy procurement agreements.

Status - Passed by House Chamber on Feb. 28. Referred to Senate Regulated Industries Committee. Did not pass before Sine Die

HB 78 - Rep. Kimberly Alexander - A bill to require all employers to implement paid sick leave for employees and to specify purposes for which paid sick leave may be taken and the rate at which paid sick leave accrues and to prohibit discrimination against an employee for inquiring about or using paid sick leave.  Status - Did not pass.

HR 96 - Rep. Noel Williams - A resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution so as to provide for a reduction in the rate of the ad valorem tax assessment of timber at sale or harvest; to require state appropriations to each county, municipality, or school district affected by the such reduced rate of taxation; to provide for related matters; to provide for the submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes. Status - Did not pass.

HB. 189 - Rep. Steven Meeks

A bill to provide for an allowable variance for weight limitations upon a vehicle or load, and to repeal conflicting laws. Status - Passed .

HB. 246 - Rep. Martin Momtahan - A bill to prohibit China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, their citizens, and companies owned and operated by them to acquire title to the property in this state. Status - Did not pass.

HB. 260 - Rep. Kim Schofield - A bill to require all state entities to consider and report on environmental justice concerns prior to taking certain state actions and to create the Environmental Justice Commission. Status - Did not pass.

HB. 262 - Rep. Regina Lewis-Ward - A bill to establish the Office of Equity in Agriculture, and to establish and provide requirements for the Georgia Farmers Council. Status - Did not pass.

HB. 305 - Rep. Robert Dickey - A bill that creates the Georgia Farmers Market Authority, and repeals existing provisions relating to farmer's markets. Status - Did not pass.

HB. 374 - Rep Brad Thomas ·    A bill to establish that any local prohibition or regulation shall not create differing standards for or distinguish gasoline-powered leaf blowers from any other gasoline-powered, electric, or similar such equipment or any other type of leaf blower. This bill was necessary as a vehicle for the LEAF Act after legislators tweaked the earlier version of the act. Status - Passed

HB. 413 - Rep Noel Williams - A bill to provide for a second round of funding and period applications to the "Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act" Status - Did not pass.

HB. 439 - Rep Penny Houston - A bill that establishes the Farmers' Markets Trust Fund within the state treasury. Status - Did not pass.

HB. 452 - Clay Pirkle - A bill, related to agriculture, that prohibits the acquisition of a possessory interest in certain land by certain nonresident aliens. Status - Did not pass.

HB 477 - Rep Rob Leverett - A bill to require notices be made when applying soil amendments in certain counties. Status - Did not pass

HB. 458 - Rep Clay Pirkle - A bill that prohibits the purchase, sale, or offering of samples of hemp products to any person under the age of 21. Status - Passed by House Chamber on March 6. Did not pass out of Senate before Sine Die

HB. 533 - Rep Carl Gilliard - A bill to provide for a tax credit for the cost of doing business with Georgia Grown hemp owners and suppliers. Status - Did not pass.

HB. 545 - Rep Chas Cannon - A bill to create an Agricultural Commodity Commission for Citrus Fruits. Status - Passed

HB. 566 - Rep. Regina Lewis Ward - A bill to require the Commissioner of Agriculture to spend no less than five percent of the marketing and promotion budget for agricultural producers on minority or women-owned agricultural enterprises and to protect against discrimination against these groups. Status - Did not pass.

HB. 570 - Rep. Mike Cameron - A bill to establish the Healthy Food Development Program. Status - Did not pass.

HB. 583 - Rep. Leesa Hagan - A bill to authorize the production and sale of homemade food items with certain exemptions, requirements, and disclosures. Status - Did not pass.

HB. 827 - Rep. Tyler Paul Smith - A bill to increase the penalties on livestock theft. Making livestock theft a felony with a punishment of 2 to 15 years in prison and by a fine of $10,000. For offenses where livestock are valued at less than $100.00, the person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Status - Assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.


The 2023 GAC Star Sponsor program registration is now underway and it's not too late to be apart of it. This program helps with events during the legislative session along with building support for a variety of projects and initiatives that cannot take place without the added participation. Star Sponsors are reflected in each of our newsletters, as posted on this page, along with the weekly legislative reports throughout each session of the Georgia General Assembly, monthly newsletters, and more. Click here for 2023 Star Sponsor registration form or for more information email Jill Hansard or call the GAC office at 706-336-6830. Click Here for Online registration. Thank you!


In a policy environment that is rapidly changing, supporting state political leaders that understand and support agribusiness has never been more important than it is today.

The Georgia Agribusiness Council was created for the purpose of advocating for agricultural interests in the legislative and regulatory arenas. This lofty initiative continues to get harder and harder each election cycle. In our efforts to advance these activities, the Council formed the Georgia AgPAC several years ago that utilizes member's donations to:

* Financially support the campaigns of political candidates who are supportive of agriculture;

* Educating elected officials and key decision makers on issues important to agribusiness;

* Advocacy of issues that advance our industry and rural communities

We ask for your financial support so that we can continue to fight on behalf of Georgia agribusiness interests. Campaign contributions from Georgia AgPAC is restricted to non-federal candidates in races for legislative and statewide offices. Georgia AgPAC needs your contribution to advance this initiative. 

Your corporate or personal commitment will help us prepare today. All donations are welcome. Please call our office at 706-336-6830 or click here to download the donation form to be a partner in this effort. 



April 28th: First Annual Agribusiness Classic Clay Shoot - located at Meadows Clay Sports in Forsyth, GA - Registration begins at 8:30am - Limited Space - register today! Email Rebekah McDowell for more information.

This information is intended for members of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc. No part of this document shall be copied, edited, or redistributed in any form without express written consent from the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc.

Georgia Agribusiness Council | 706-336-6830 | WWW.GA-AGRIBUSINESS.ORG


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