Weekly Newsletter for Georgia Agribusiness Council Members

Volume 33, No. 8 Published by the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Inc. March 3, 2023

Week 8 of the Legislative Session was the final full week to pass a bill through its respective chamber before the Crossover Day deadline arrives on Monday.

The week started with dozens of committee meetings and ended with some of the General Assembly's most controversial bills on the floor late into Thursday night. Lawmakers will use Friday as one last committee day for any bills they hope to have a chance of making it across the line on Monday.

As we go into the weekend before what is undoubtedly going to be a marathon of a Crossover Day, we will continue to strategize and lobby for those pieces of legislation that will advance our industry.

Read below for more details of an action-packed week in Atlanta.

**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.


The House Agricultural and Consumer Affairs Committee met twice this week to hear and vote on a variety of bills from managing state owned farmers markets to protecting consumers who enroll in subscriptions online.

Monday, the committee held a hearing on HB 458, relating to the rules and regulations of hemp sales in the state of Georgia. The bill would establish an age requirement to purchase CBD products and would also ensure that each CBD product had been subjected to lab testing to ensure its quality and potency. The committee voted in favor of the bill moving forward.

The committee also passed HB 305, the Farmers Market Authority Act. This bill would allow the state-owned farmers markets to operate as an Authority which would give the markets more control of their money generated on site and would also establish a board to monitor the Authority, amongst other duties.

HB 452, a bill by Rep. Clay Pirkle to prohibit foreign citizens, foreign owned companies, and governments that are considered adversaries of the United States by the secretary of commerce from purchasing and possessing agricultural land and any land within 25 miles of a military base. HB 452 passed through the committee.

HB 545, a bill to establish a commodity commission for Citrus Fruits. GAC's Jake Tench and others testified in the committee in support of both HB 452 and HB 545.

For the second meeting of the week, Chairman Dickey opened by acknowledging the new H-2A wage rate increase of 14%. The point of personal privilege was over the concern that consumers are the ones absorbing this increase and will put foreign produce at a much greater advantage as compared to domestically grown products. This increase will affect the entire industry and we are monitoring possible solutions to this new challenge.


Both the House and Senate remained in their respective chambers late into the evening on Thursday trying to bring votes on a number of bills before Crossover Day. Among the many pieces of legislation that were brought to the floor, were a few bills that will affect agriculture and forestry. The House took votes on House Bill 545 by Representative Chas Cannon as well as House Resolution 96 by Noel Williams.

HB 545 looks to create a Commodity Commission for Citrus Fruits. The citrus industry has grown significantly in Georgia and is now in 45 counties across the state. The Citrus Commission will promote and support Citrus growers and allow for critical research and education for the growing industry. This bill was Rep. Chas Cannon’s first bill, and he received some very interesting questions while presenting on the floor as is customary for a member’s first piece of legislation. The body voted unanimously to pass the bill and it will now move to the Senate.

HB 96 is a proposed amendment to the Constitution to reduce the rate of the ad valorem tax assessment of timber at sale or harvest. This amendment would not take effect until 2025, and until then standing timber will only be assessed once on the basis of its fair market value at the time of harvest or sale. This legislation also passed through the House and will be transmitted to the Senate.

The Senate calendar for Thursday was also jam packed and did not get finished until after 9:00pm. The upper chamber took up many controversial bills which included a tort reform bill, sports betting and horse racing, and a bill to make Buckhead a stand-alone city. Although the debates were long for each of these bills, all of them failed to reach the required number of votes to move forward. In the middle of all of these hard-hitting pieces of legislation, Senator Brandon Beach present SB 132. This bill is nearly identical to HB 452 which aims to ban any agent of a country that is deemed a foreign adversary by the federal government from purchasing agricultural land in the state. SB 132 passed through the senate and will now be transmitted to the House. 


Senate Agricultural and Consumer Affairs Chairman, Russ Goodman, had a bill up for vote in this week’s Senate Finance Committee meeting. SB 220 is a bill that 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 and also states that the Commissioner of Agriculture will chair the council. 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. SB 220 passed the Senate Finance Committee and has been put on the Senate Floor calendar for a vote on crossover day.


GAC President Will Bentley was on hand to speak to the Walker County Young Farmer Organization for their Annual Banquet this week. Bentley spoke about the impact that agriculture has on the state of Georgia and the work that GAC is doing at the State Capitol. It is always great to be with farmers and other ag leaders to fellowship and talk about the future of agriculture.


The Senate Transportation Committee heard testimony regarding Senate Bill 165, by Chairman Russ Goodman, a bill that allows for a variance of weight limitation upon a vehicle or load of 12.5% on 80,000 pounds. Chairman, Greg Dolezal, wanted to focus the meeting on specific points of information, including federal and surrounding state's laws, infrastructure capabilities, and business impact, among other things. Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner, Russell McMurry, was there to defend DOT’s opposing view of SB 165. Andres Villegas, President and CEO of Georgia Forestry Association and Mike Giles, Georgia Poultry Federation President, spoke about how the posting of bridges would affect the industry, and Alexander Samoylov, Georgia Tech Research Institute of Space Transportation and Advanced System Labs, came to speak about the impact to infrastructure and their recent research showing how Georgia roads and bridges could support the changes in law. 

This is a top priority for GAC and many other allied industries.


Representative Steven Meek’s HB 189, the House version of the truck weight bill, was back in the House Transportation Committee this week to make a critical amendment that will hopefully get the bill through rules and on to the House floor. The purpose of this meeting was that the "third time is the charm". The original language of the bill allowed all freight in the state to carry loads at a 12.5% variance on 80,000 pounds which would put a maximum gross vehicle weight of 90,000lbs. The second form of the bill that passed was the increase would only apply to agriculture and forestry products but was again recommitted to the Transportation Committee. The third and hopefully final version was heard in committee on Thursday. With the new amendments to the bill it changed the proposed 12.5% variance to a 10% variance which will equate to 88,000 pounds. This new amendment to HB 189 keeps Georgia in competition with Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee. Representative Meek’s addressed several concerns from committee members including safety and effects on rural roads. Ultimately the bill passed out of committee once again with a vote of 14 to 6 and will move back to the House Rules Committee in hopes to ultimately get on the House floor Monday.



The Biden Administration published a final rule this week, amending its regulations governing the certification of agricultural labor or services to be performed by temporary foreign workers in H-2A nonimmigrant status (H-2A workers). The rule is effective on March 30, 2023.


Among other things, the final rule will continue DOL’s use of the USDA’s Farm Labor Survey as a basis for determining wage rates in the H-2A Program for the existing six job categories surveyed. These six categories include: graders and sorters; agricultural equipment operators; farmworkers: crop, nursery, and greenhouse; farmworkers: farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals; agricultural workers, all other; and packers and packagers. In addition, the Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey will be used to set the AEWR at the mean wage for the occupation in the state if a job order has duties outside those primary six jobs.

The Agriculture Workforce Coalition issued the following statement:

Washington, D.C. (February 28, 2023) --“The Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) is deeply concerned about the Department of Labor’s publication of the new methodology to calculate the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) for the H-2A program. The new calculation dramatically increases costs for producers utilizing the program and will place an undue burden on family farms which are already facing a multitude of challenges, including the impact of high input costs, foreign competition, market volatility, and adverse weather. It will make it difficult for farmers to remain competitive and will serve only to further increase costs for domestically produced agricultural products.


“The AWC urges Congress to act without delay on ag workforce reform legislation. Farmers are committed to paying their employees a fair wage. The way the wage has and continues to be set is flawed and needs to be revised through provisions to reform the H-2A guest worker program, including the wage calculation.”

Team Spots are Almost Full!!




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 - Referred to Senate Judiciary

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 Senate Referred to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.

SB. 14 - Sen. John Albers

A bill relating to evidence, provides for the presentation and addressing of issues concerning the admission or exclusion of evidence, and provides court rulings on these issues.

Status - Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee

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 - Recommitted to the Senate Rules Committee

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 - Passed out of the Agricultural and Consumer Affairs Committee.

SB. 39 - Sen. Kim Jackson

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

Status - Passed out of Senate Ag Committee

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 Senate Chamber referred to House Judiciary Non-Civil.

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.

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 the Senate Veterans, Military, and Homeland Security Committee. 

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 out of the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee. 

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 - Referred to the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee

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 - Referred to Senate Transportation Committee

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 the Senate Agriculture Committee

SB. 186 - Sen. Greg Dolezal

relating to liability of owners and occupiers of land generally, to limit landowner liability regarding invitees, licensees, and trespassers.

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.

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 committee.

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 - Referred to the Senate Financing Committee

SB. 228 - Sen. Sheikh Rahman

A bill that creates the Director of Outdoor Recreation position in the Department of Natural Resources. Status - Referred to the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee


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 - Referred to the Ways & Means Committee

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 - Referred to the Industry and Labor Committee

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 - Referred to the Public Health Committee

HB. 31 - Rep. Debbie Buckner

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

Status - Referred to the Ways & Means Committee

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: Passed through the Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee.

GAC is actively engaged in supporting this effort to provide better licensing and support for Georgia Veterinarians.

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

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

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.

American Peanut Shellers Association

American Peanut Trailers, LLC

Barrington Dairy, LLC

Boston Gin Co.

Broken Antler Farms

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

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. 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 - Referred to the Ways & Means Committee.

HB. 53 - Rep. John Corbett

-A bill to provide that 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 - Passed through the Natural Resources & Environment committee.

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 - Referred to the Natural Resources & Environment Committee

HB. 73 - Rep. Joseph Gullett

A bill to require that 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 the Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee

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 - Referred to the House Industry and Labor Committee. This bill is not expected to receive action but GAC will track as it would be of impact to our membership.

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 - Referred to the House Ways & Means Committee

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 House Transportation Committee.

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 - Referred to House Judiciary Committee.

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. Referred to Natural Resources Committee

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 - Referred to Agriculture Committee

HB. 305 - Rep. Robert Dickey - A bill that creates the Georgia Farmers Market Authority, and repeals existing provisions relating to farmer's markets. Status - Referred to House Agriculture Committee

HB. 413 - Noel Williams

A bill to provide for a second round of funding and period applications to the "Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act" Status - Referred to House Ways and Means Committee

HB. 439 - Penny Houston

A bill that establishes the Farmers' Markets Trust Fund within the state treasury. Status - Referred to House Agriculture Committee.

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 - Referred to the House Agricultural and Consumer Affairs Committee.

HB. 458 - 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 - Referred to the House Agricultural and Consumer Affairs Committee

HB. 533 - Carl Gilliard

A bill to provide for a tax credit for the cost of doing business with Georgia Grown hemp owners and suppliers. Status - House First Read

HB. 545 - Chas Cannon

A bill to create an Agricultural Commodity Commission for Citrus Fruits. Status - House First Read


The 2023 GAC Star Sponsor program registration is now underway and its not to 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 information and email Jill Hansard or call the GAC office at 706-336-6830 or 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. 



March 1, 2023 - GCIA Annual Meeting The 78th GCIA Annual Membership Meeting is set for March 1, 2023 at The Hyatt Hotel (412 North Thomas Street, Athens, Georgia 30601). Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the meeting will conclude by 4:00 p.m. Please register for the meeting by calling the GCIA office at (706) 542-2351 or email leslie.wright@georgiacrop.com.

March 1: PB&J Day at the Capitol

March 6: Georgia Cattleman's Steak Biscuit Day at the Capitol

March 7-8: American Peanut Shellers Association Spring Meeting– Click Here for more Information!

March 29: Georgia Department of Ag Clean Up Day Event. From 8:00am - 3:00pm The Georgia Dept. of Agriculture is hosting a Pesticide Clean Day Event. This program gives everyone an opportunity to discard old, unusable, or cancelled pesticides to a hazardous waste contractor for disposal. Click Here for more Information


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 at the office 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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