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Agriculture gains in budget

POSTED: April 7, 2014 2:52 p.m.

Both in legislation passed and in appropriations from the fiscal year 2014 amended and FY15 general budgets, agriculture in Georgia was strengthened by the 2014 General Assembly.

Legislation awaiting the governor’s signature
SB 213 - Amended the Flint River Drought Protection Act — Allows EPD to modify some water permits to require irrigation efficiencies and requires EPD to notify specified permit holders downstream of any state-funded augmentation project affecting flow requirements. Clarifies drainage systems not being tributaries. Puts teeth in EPD actions to enforce irrigation efficiencies.

HB 825 - Creates a new license for fruit growers already licensed as a farm winery to manufacture distilled spirits and fortified wines through licensed wholesalers, and limits each winery to one tasting room.

HB 983 - Amendments to the farm products sales tax exemption law or GATE program will tighten up the requirements of the law.
• Eliminates conservation use (CUVA) as a qualifier for GATE exemptions.
• Specifies purposes where off-road vehicles are tax-exempt and that they must solely be used for agricultural or horticultural purposes.
• Clarifies definition of “animal” and excludes domestic pets.
• Excludes from GATE real property contractors, fencing or irrigation contractors, pet boarders and kennels.
• Clarifies that ag contractors products sold to ag producers and furnished to a contractor for installation are exempt.
• Adds different tax forms besides Schedule F that can be used.

The Georgia Soil and Water Commission, earlier scheduled to be consolidated into the Department of Agriculture, was reestablished as a standing agency and its budget restored as well as a $600,000 cut restored.

Funding affecting agriculture
In FY14 amended, $26.1 million was added to be distributed to county governments and school systems for reimbursements under the Forestland Protection Act to replace ad valorem taxes lost.

FY15 general budget additions affecting agriculture
Food safety inspectors were included in a salary adjustment package focused on critical positions, and the budget also funded eight vacant positions in food safety.
• Passed authority for GATE program audits to the Department of Revenue.
• $200,000 was added for food safety education.
• $100,000 in new funds were added for the Georgia Grown program that focuses on agricultural products grown in Georgia.
• Added $150,000 in start-up operational funds for a new poultry lab.
• Added new positions at the ag experiment station for a wheat breeder specialist and the food product innovation and commercialization (FOODPIC) director.
• Added funds for a poultry nutrition specialist, poultry researcher and a beef research scientist in Tifton.  
• In Cooperative Extension, added funds for one additional county Extension agent.
• In ag education, annualized an increase in extended day/year funded in FY14.
• Expanded ag education programs in Thomas, Emanuel and Walker counties as well as for an ag facility in Murray County in bonds.
• Appropriated $150,000 to GBI to contract for a metal theft database that is key to fighting metal theft.

Bonds affecting agriculture
• Redirected $1.155 million in unspent bond proceeds for dining hall and leadership facility at the state FFA/FCCLA camp.
• $2.7 million for lab sciences building at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton.
• $11.5 million for design, construction and equipment for turfgrass research and education facilities at University of Georgia, Athens, Tifton and Griffin campuses.
• $4 million for maintenance and repair funds for Cooperative Extension facilities statewide.
• $1 million for equipment for the agricultural experiment stations statewide
• $300,000 for HVAC replacement at UGA, Tifton campus.
• $3.035 million for facility improvements, Ag Center, Perry.             
• $5 million for improvements at the Atlanta State Farmers Market.
• $1.350 million for equipment for at veterinary labs at UGA, Athens and Tift County labs.

If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly Web site at http://www.legis.ga.gov/. The state budget is also online at www.legis.ga.gov, then “Senate” and then select “Budget and Evaluation Office.”

I may be reached at
234 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-5038 (phone)
(404) 657-7092 (fax)
E-mail at Jack.Hill@senate.ga.gov
Or call toll-free at
1-800-367-3334 day or night
Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811

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