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How agriculture fared in the session
Hill Jack
State Sen. Jack Hill

This session was a good one for the future of agriculture. With the problems facing the agricultural community, declining farm income, commodity prices and other issues… policy and research take on a new importance. So this week, we will look at legislation that affects agriculture and how the state budget will assist long-term agricultural success.

Legislation affecting agriculture in the 2016 session

• HB 579— A worker 16 years old or older involved in farm work can operate a farm use vehicle on all public roads and highways, to include all terrain vehicles or personal use vehicles. Use includes transporting equipment or commodities. Driver has all rights and responsibilities of other drivers and vehicle must have a properly affixed emblem. Municipalities may restrict on city highways and streets.

• GATE legislation did not pass. Eligibility for a card and cost will remain the same. But a budget addition will bring some changes.

• HB 779— Sets up state regulation of drones and limits how much local governments can regulate drones. Creates Georgia Unmanned Vehicle Systems Commission, which will analyze various issues like the different types of drone, aerial drones, aquatic drones or driverless cars.

• HB 987— Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA) law changed to allow for non-profit rodeos to be located on CUVA property without breach. Also gives a homeowner 24 months to build and occupy a home built on CUVA property.

• HB 1030— Membership on the Georgia Seed Commission may now include a person involved in production, conditioning, or marketing of crops, seed, turf grass or horticultural plant breeder.

FY17 budget plants seeds for future development

The Conference Committee resolved all conflicts between the two budgets with all Agricultural additions to the Regents B Budget surviving. Additionally, the Conference Committee appropriated $200,000 to the Department of Agriculture for the department to hire and put on the road “Inspectors” filled by part-time retirees who will travel the state and check on retailers to insure they are keeping the correct records and administering the program according to the GATE law. Also, they will visit individual GATE users as necessary.

• Cooperative Extension gained 12 additional county agents costing $720,000 and $378,000 in research for three specialists: a viticulturist, a grain crop agronomist and a vegetable pathologist, starting in October.

• The Agricultural Experiment Station gained a ruminant nutritionist and a row crop physiologist, costing $252,000 starting in October.

Soil and Water to keep watering program

• The Soil and Water Conservation Commission water metering program was returned to the Commission and the $150,000 cut restored.

Bonds for ag-related activities

• $650,000— Athens and Tifton Vet Labs— third year of three-year plan to provide new and replacement equipment for the veterinary labs in Athens and Tifton

• $4 million— For major repairs and renovations to Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station facilities

• $1 million— For equipment for the Agricultural Experiment station

Department of Agriculture

• $1 million— For major repairs and renovations at state farmers markets

• $500,000— For vehicle replacement for those over 175,000 miles

FFA camp/Rock Eagle

• FFA Camp— Covington— $635,000 for equipment for the Leadership Center and Dining Hall

• FFA Camp— $2.0 million for construction of an Agricultural Center in collaboration with Newton County

• FFA Camp/Camp John Hope— $2.3 million for building construction and historic preservation and cabin construction

• $2.5 million— For new cabins at 4-H Camp Rock Eagle Full transcripts of bills may be found at Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. The FY 2017 budget (HB 751) may be found at As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

I may be reached at
234 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-5038 (phone)
(404) 657-7094 (fax)
E-mail at
Or call toll-free at
1-800-367-3334 day or night
Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811