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Farm Bureau hits Jekyll Island for convention

POSTED: December 16, 2013 8:44 p.m.
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Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall addresses the 76th annual Georgia Farm Bureau Convention at Jekyll Island.

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JEKYLL ISLAND — More than 1,500 Georgia farmers and agribusiness leaders from across the state met on Jekyll Island Dec. 8-10 for the 76th annual Georgia Farm Bureau Convention.


The three-day event included a tradeshow and commodity conferences where farmers heard updates on policy and production issues impacting Georgia’s major commodities. During the general session on Dec. 9, convention attendees had the pleasure of hearing U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah), Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black and American Farm Bureau Federation policy experts. Gov. Nathan Deal addressed GFB members Dec. 10.


Kingston, whose district includes Jekyll Island, welcomed GFB members to Georgia’s coast. He expressed cautious optimism that Congress will pass a farm bill.


“It’s possible a farm bill will be done. I’d handicap passage of the farm bill right now at 55 to 45 percent,” Kingston said. “As you know, the ag production part of the farm bill has not been the controversy but rather the nutrition program, which I don’t think we’ve spent enough time trying to reform.”


Kingston also addressed immigration reform, predicting that if Congress passes legislation it  will happen before the end of the first quarter in 2014.


“I think we can have immigration reform with a guest worker program, and I think it will have an electronic verification component,” Kingston said. “I think we’ll have some sort of immigration legislation in the first quarter of next year if it’s going to happen.”


Kingston expressed concern that the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have on-farm experience or employees who understand agriculture as it implements the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is requiring farmers to adopt new production practices in an effort to increase food safety.


“It looks like they are putting more emphasis on food grown and produced in the U.S. than imported food,” Kingston said.


Kingston praised Farm Bureau for its efforts to represent farmers saying, “Farm Bureau is a leader. It rises to the occasion, and it is one of those few organizations in Washington that everybody likes and trusts. It has a golden reputation.”


Duvall urges Congress to pass farm bill, recounts GFB’s legislative successes
While delivering his annual address to GFB members, GFB President Zippy Duvall addressed the pressing need farmers have for a new farm bill that establishes federal farm policy.


“The inability of Congress to pass a farm bill has been disappointing. The country needs a farm bill, and we call on Congress to pass a version that can be signed by the president,” Duvall said.  Duvall also recounted legislative efforts and successes the organization has made on behalf of Georgia farmers during the past year.


“When we look back at the issues we were facing a year ago, it is very clear we’re winning on many fronts,” Duvall said. “In spite of a tough economy, uncertainty in government, smaller numbers of farmers, and a host of other challenges, we were successful on some important issues.”


A year ago federal estate tax law was set to revert to an outdated $1 million exemption and the tax rate was set to increase to 55 percent, which would have threatened farm families and small business owners from being able to pass their farms from one generation to the next. Getting Congress to pass a permanent estate tax law on Jan. 1 that maintained the $5 million exemption rate per person, indexed to inflation with a top tax rate of 40 percent was a major victory for farmers, Duvall said.


Other legislative successes that Farm Bureau achieved this past year included blocking federal legislation that would have restricted farmers’ use of antibiotics in livestock production and blocking federal legislation that would have allowed the federal government to regulate livestock enclosures.


GFB also worked with members of Georgia’s U.S. Congressional delegation to get language removed from the Water Resources Development Act that would have severely restricted Atlanta’s use of Lake Lanier. Duvall said the proposed restriction could have caused a major impact to farmers.

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