March 9, 2011
Vol. 29 No. 10
GEORGIA HOUSE PASSES IMMIGRATION BILL The Georgia House of Representatives passed House Bill 87 by a 113-56 vote on March 3. The bill, introduced by Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), would place the burden of immigration reform on the state’s employers. Farm Bureau maintains that immigration should be addressed at the federal level and that leaving the issue for states to handle could create additional problems. “We believe it is ill-advised for the state of Georgia to attempt to solve a national problem with state legislation. If this legislation becomes law, Georgia employers will have a whole new set of additional government hoops to jump through when they hire employees,” said Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. A similar bill in the Senate, SB 40, passed out of the Judiciary Committee on March 2. SB 40, introduced by Sen. Jack Murphy (R-Cumming), is currently in the Rules Committee and could be considered by the Senate later this week. SB40 provides exemptions to agricultural employers who are able to participate in the H-2A program. Few farmers in Georgia participate in H-2A. Both bills were introduced early in the 2011 legislative session and have drawn criticism from a variety of economic sectors. HB 87 includes a provision requiring all Georgia employers with five or more employees to use E-Verify, an Internet-based program operated by the federal government that allows employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. Farm Bureau contends E-Verify will prove difficult to use in a farm environment. The requirement will also put an additional layer of government bureaucracy on all employers in Georgia. If passed, the bill could make legal immigrants reluctant to come to Georgia to find work, diminishing farmers’ access to a legal workforce. Under HB 87, E-Verify will be mandatory for Georgia employers with 100 employees or more on July 1, 2012. For employers with 5 to 99 employees, E-Verify will become mandatory on December 31, 2012. The legislation requires that employers provide a signed affidavit guaranteeing their use of E-Verify before receiving a “business license, occupational tax certificate, or any other document required to operate a business.” In addition to the employment verification requirements, HB 87 includes provisions allowing local and state law enforcement officials to verify the immigration status of individuals in some situations and establishes penalties for individuals who use false identification to gain employment in Georgia. HB 87 now moves to the Senate for consideration.
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FUTURE OF GEORGIA WEATHER NETWORK THREATENED The statewide network of 81 weather stations that make up the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network (AEMN) will close by July 1 due to budget limitations and personnel changes, unless officials with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CAES) find a way to save the system. It costs about $300,000 annually to run the AEMN, which has been funded by grants and contracts secured by a former AEMN staffer who voluntarily left UGA, said Dr. Dale Threadgill, head of the CAES Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department that oversees the program. The AEMN stations record rainfall, air and soil temperature, relative humidity, soil moisture, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction and solar radiation. The information is available to anyone at no cost at http://www.Georgiaweather.net. Fruit and vegetable growers use the AEMN frost protection information to know when to protect their crops against freeze damage. Peanut growers can use AEMN data to determine the risk of tomato spotted wilt virus, and other row crop growers use the weather data to determine optimal planting dates for their crops and to establish irrigation regimes. Farmers also use AEMN data to verify crop insurance claims. Utility companies such as Southern Company use the temperature data for billing purposes. A formal study by the UGA Agricultural Economics Department shows that the value of weather information from the station in Camilla used to determine optimal planting date and irrigation regimes for corn, cotton, peanuts and soybeans was $847,502 per year. Blueberry growers estimate that AEMN frost protection information in three counties saved them between $40,000 to $60,000 last winter. Funding from user fees is unpredictable and insufficient to maintain the network, Threadgill says. “The user rate varies throughout the year, so we have major concerns about that approach being sustainable because we have to have these key people in place to run the system,” Threadgill explained. “You have to have their salary to run it or you don't operate at all. There was an attempt in another state to transition their system to a contract fee basis and it failed.” Threadgill says it takes one full-time staff person to travel around the state to maintain the weather stations and two more employees in the lab operating the computer system and reviewing the data. Other faculty members who voluntarily left the college secured the funding, and their positions have been frozen due to budget cuts. “We still have on board the key operational personnel who operate the system, but there’s no funding to keep them on board past June 30,” Threadgill said. “There are several groups that could come together and agree to support this, but they need to be in serious discussion with us by early April about what they can do.” Unless user groups step forward to pledge funding, the college will begin dismantling the system as early as April 15, Threadgill said, so the college has enough time to properly decommission the equipment before employee funding runs out in June. Anyone who would like to provide funding for the AEMN should contact Dr. Threadgill at 706-542-1653 or email@example.com.
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U.S. HOUSE PASSES REPEAL OF 1099 REQUIREMENT The U.S. House passed a bill on March 3 that would repeal the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 1099 reporting requirements included in the health care reform law passed last year. The bill, H.R. 4, the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011, was sponsored by Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.). The Senate previously passed Form 1099 repeal as an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization but the two chambers must resolve a difference in how to pay for the repeal before it can become law. “Our farmers and ranchers need to focus on feeding a growing global population; our small businesses need to focus on growing our economy and creating job opportunities,” House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said in a release. “They can’t afford any more irrational and unreasonable paperwork burdens from bureaucrats in Washington who know neither how to grow food nor grow our economy.” H.R. 4 would do away with requirements for the reporting to the IRS “payments of $600 or more to corporations that are not tax-exempt and of gross proceeds paid in consideration for any type of property.” The health care reform law has provisions, effective in 2012, that will require businesses to file a 1099 for each non-employee supplier of goods and services valued at $600 or more in a calendar year. To comply with the 1099 requirement, businesses will face additional administrative costs in order to reconcile expenditures with their suppliers. Farm Bureau supports the passage of H.R. 4, maintaining that agricultural producers are already overburdened with tax paperwork and reporting obligations. GEORGIA SENATE PASSES RESERVOIRS BILL The Georgia Senate last week passed a bill that would allow local governments to partner with private parties to finance, build, operate, and maintain water infrastructure projects, including reservoirs. Senate Bill 122, the Georgia Public/Private Water Supply Act of 2011, sponsored by Sen. Ross Tolleson (R-Perry), passed by a 49-1 vote and now moves to the House. “This bill is entirely about local control. It simply gives local governments another tool to finance an infrastructure project to meet that community’s water needs,” said Tolleson, chairman of the Georgia Senate Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment. “The Water Supply Act compliments the conservation bill we passed last year, and puts Georgia on the path to ensuring we can maintain the water resources needed to keep up with a rapidly growing state.” The process outlined in the bill is similar to a public/private procurement code that has been implemented by the Georgia Department of Transportation. Under SB 122, local governments are given authority to contract with private companies or individuals to build reservoirs, create water treatment plants or perform repairs on existing infrastructure components. According to a senate press release, the bill would provide a new option for financing as local governments and the state continue to face significant budget challenges. Tolleson also sponsored the Water Stewardship Act of 2010, a water use bill that established permit categories, protected water use permits by statute and protected agricultural irrigation from watering restrictions.
Leadership Alert page 4 of 5 FARM MOM CONTEST March 3- May 8 Your favorite farm mom could win up to $7,500 in the 2011 America’s Farmers Mom of the Year Contest. Visit www.AmericasFarmers.com until May 8 to nominate her by explaining in 300 words or less how your nominee embodies the caring, values and hard work that make up the family farm way of life. Five regional winners – Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, West and Southwest – will be selected and posted on the Web site where voting will determine one national winner. Each regional winner will receive $5,000. The national winner, to be announced on May 27, will get an additional $2,500. The contest is sponsored by Monsanto and the American Agri-Women. Entries will be judged on how nominees contribute to their families, farms, communities and industry. To be eligible, a mom must be at least 18 years of age and work on a farm within the United States that produces at least 250 acres of corn, soybeans, cotton, vegetables and/or specialty crops (canola, sorghum, wheat or alfalfa); and/or at least 40 acres of fruits and vegetables; and/or raise at least 100 head of cattle or hogs; and/or maintain at least 50 head of dairy cows and/or at least 20,000 broilers or layers. GEORGIA FARM BUREAU EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE March 11 is the deadline to register for this annual conference to be held March 26 at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center. The conference will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. Workshops will cover the organization’s commodity promotion for 2011-2012, building a membership program and being a more effective leader. Registration is $45 per person. Contact your county Farm Bureau office for more information. 4TH ANNUAL GEORGIA FFA BLUE & GOLD GALA March 11 200 Peachtree Atlanta This is a fundraising event hosted by the Georgia FFA Foundation. All proceeds support the activities of Georgia FFA. The Gala includes cocktails, dinner, and silent and live auctions. Information about the gala can be found on the Georgia FFA Foundation website, www.georgiaffafoundation.org or by calling the foundation at 1-800-323-0124. CENTRAL SAVANNAH RIVER AREA FARM TOURS March 16 Tilmanstone Farms:Practicing Conservation Tillage Jenkins County March 17 Dendera Farms:Wildlife & longleaf pine management Jenkins County March 23 Moore Cattle Company: NRCS benefits for beef farms Wilkes County March 24 Steed’s Dairy Farm:Agritourism, NRCS programs Columbia County Registration deadline is March 10. A variety of professional speakers will discuss issues including forest management, beef cattle and dairy grazing, conservation tillage, wildlife management, government conservation programs for landowners and more. Cost is $15 for one farm tour, $20 for two, $25 for three tours and $30 for all four tours. Lunch will be provided at each event. Transportation will be available for each tour from a central location. Contact Gregg Jameson at at 706-547-4045 or firstname.lastname@example.org to register or for more information. GEORGIA AG HALL OF FAME NOMINATION DEADLINE March 15 The University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences is seeking nominations for the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame. This hall of fame recognizes individuals who have made unusual and extraordinary contributions to Georgia’s agriculture and agribusiness industries. Guidelines and a nomination form can be found at the following link: http://www.caes.uga.edu/alumni/fame/nominate.html or by calling the UGA CAES Alumni office at 706542-3390. BOLL WEEVIL ERADICATION FOUNDATION OF GA, INC. ANNUAL MEETING March 16 2 p.m. Ramada Conference Center Perry Call 229-263-9366 for more information.
Leadership Alert page 5 of 5 GEORGIA AGRICULTURE DAY CELEBRATION March 22 Georgia Depot (beside Underground Atlanta) Atlanta Gov. Nathan Deal and Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black will host this event. Exhibits, food and entertainment will begin at 11 a.m. The program will start at 12:30 p.m., during which the state winner of the Environmental Stewardship Award for Agriculture and the grand prize winner of the Flavor of Georgia Food Contest will be named. For more information contact Donnie Smith or Sarah Cook at 229391-6882. 3rd ANNUAL PEANUT PROUD FESTIVAL March 26 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Courthouse Square Blakely The theme for this year’s event is Proud-N-Peanut Country. Join the fun with a 5K Run, peanut parade, food vendors, recipe contest, educational exhibits, antique farm equipment display, arts and crafts and a street dance featuring the Fabulous Expressions from 6-10 p.m. A beauty pageant will be held March 19. Applications to participate in the pageant, parade or to be a vendor are available at www.peanutproud.com along with more information about the event or call 229-723-2802. 2011 SOUTHEAST HAY CONVENTION March 29-30 GFB Home Office Macon Formerly known a the Hay Production School, this event will begin at 8 a.m. on March 29. The registration fee of $125 per person and $50 for each extra person from the same farm covers the convention notebook, a weed identification guide, reference materials and lunch for both days. Conference is limited to 100 participants. Visit http://www.georgiaforages.com for information or to register or call 1-800-ASK-UGA1. BOLL WEEVIL ERADICATION FOUNDATION NOMINATION MEETING March 30 Emanuel County Farm Bureau Office 10 a.m. Swainsboro This meeting is intended to fill the District 5 seat on the Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation (BWEF) of Georgia held by Farris “Buddy” Wren until his recent resignation. Each nominee and person making a nomination must grow cotton and reside within the BWEF District 5, which includes Appling, Bacon, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Candler, Chatham, Dodge, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Jenkins, Johnson, Laurens, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Montgomery, Screven, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Twiggs, Wayne, Wheeler and Wilkinson counties. For information about the foundation or the nomination meeting call Don McGough at 1-800-342-1196. GEORGIA PECAN GROWERS ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE March 30 Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter Perry Event begins at 8 a.m. and runs to 5 p.m. Will include a trade show and research presentations from pecan specialists and promotion updates from the Ga. Pecan Commission. For additional information or to register visit http://www.georgiapecan.org or contact Janice Dees at 229-382-2187. 50th ANNUAL GA CATTLEMEN’S ASSOC. CONVENTION & BEEF EXPO March 31-April 2 Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter Perry The Georgia Cattlemen’s Association will celebrate 50 years of success with more than 60 trade show vendors, five Pfizer sponsored Cattlemen’s Colleges, CattleWoman meetings, junior cattlemen contests and events and a Friday night Cattlemen’s Ball. Pre-registration is required for meals at http://www.gabeef.org/gca/conventionregistration.htm or by contacting the GCA office at 478-474-6560. SUBSCRIBE TO THE MARKET BULLETIN! The Georgia Department of Agriculture is urging readers of its Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin to pay their $10 subscription fee by APRIL 20 to ensure the biweekly publication continues to be printed. Subscription forms are available at every county Farm Bureau office. You may pay with cash, checks or money orders made payable to: Market Bulletin.