The Gordon County delegation was among more than 500 Farm Bureau members from 100 counties across the state to participate in the event. While meeting with their state legislators, the Farm Bureau members discussed issues impacting Georgia agriculture. Georgia Farm Bureau has identified priority issues for this session of the General Assembly that include monitoring any impact the state water plan and tri-state water negotiations may have on agriculture, state budget and tax legislation and defending animal agriculture.
Gov. Nathan Deal addressed Farm Bureau members during the luncheon the organization held at the Georgia Freight Depot for state legislators and state constitutional officers, giving an outline of his plan for addressing Georgia’s water issues. Deal said the state continues to appeal the 2009 U.S. District Court ruling that said Atlanta has no legal right to withdraw water from Lake Lanier. In addition to appealing Judge Paul Magnuson’s ruling and working to conserve water, Deal is proposing the state budget $300 million over the next four years to assist local governments in developing reservoirs to capture rainwater. Deal said he considers water to be a local issue but that state funds to help local governments build reservoirs and water storage facilities are warranted due to the magnitude of the costs associated with building reservoirs.
Deal has asked the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) to spearhead his proposed Georgia Water Supply Development Program that will include a task force consisting of representatives from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, the Georgia Departments of Natural Resources and Community Affairs, the Georgia Financing and Investment Division and the Georgia Properties Commission. He has also asked Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black to work with the task force to represent Georgia agriculture’s water needs.
“No industry in our economy is more sensitive to this issue of water than agriculture because you depend on it for the vitality of your crops and the livestock and the poultry we raise in this state. Agriculture is a vital component of what we do about water,” Deal said. Deal also commended Georgia farmers for installing about 9,000 meters on their irrigation systems since 2003, which has provided the state with scientific data to show Alabama and Florida how much water agriculture really uses.
During the luncheon, GFB President Zippy Duvall issued a statement outlining the organization’s position on immigration in response to queries stemming from immigration bills being considered by the General Assembly. “Georgia Farm Bureau maintains that the enforcement of immigration laws and border security is a responsibility of the federal government and reform of the law should be a high priority. We encourage the state of Georgia to assist farmers to obtain legal workers instead of threatening them with fines and imprisonment because the federal government has failed to handle its responsibility.”
Duvall pointed out that all immigrant farm workers are not illegal and said legal immigrants might be fearful of working in Georgia if the state is seen as anti-immigrant, which could cause major economic consequences within large sectors of agriculture.
Commissioner of Agriculture Black also addressed the group, describing work his department is doing to make the Georgia Department of Agriculture a tour stop for school groups visiting the capitol where they can learn how Georgia farmers grow food and fiber. Black also encouraged subscribers of the department’s Farmers & Consumers Market Bulletin to send in their $10 subscription fee by April 20. Subscription forms are available at the Gordon County Farm Bureau office.
Founded in 1937, the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization. Its volunteer members actively participate in local, district and state activities that promote agriculture awareness to their non-farming neighbors. GFB also has 20 commodity advisory committees that give the organization input on issues pertinent to the major commodities grown in Georgia.