Georgia’s number one industry, Agriculture, has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 crisis our state is facing, while still dealing with the continuing effects of 2018’s Hurricane Michael. This Session, we passed legislation that will support and protect our farmers, and I am excited to share those with you this week, along with some other good news for Georgia’s agriculture industry.
House Bill 1057 protects our farmers and other adjacent landowners by preventing the application of a fertilizer or soil amendment that contains domestic septage. Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources is allowed to set the minimum standards for applying soil amendments derived from industrial by-products through rules and regulations, with House Bill 1057 protects our farmers and other adjacent landowners by preventing the application of a fertilizer or soil amendment that contains domestic septage. Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources is allowed to set the minimum standards for applying soil amendments derived from industrial by-products through rules and regulations, with exceptions for forest products, slates, clays, shells, gypsum, and lime.
We also passed House Bill 1093, which creates an Agricultural Commodity Commission for Wine and Grapes. This new commission will continue to promote the reputation of the continually-growing Georgia wine industry. According to the Georgia Wine Producers, Georgia’s wine industry has an economic impact of $4.1 billion a year. Its continued growth is an asset to our state, particularly in the agritourism industry.
To protect Georgia consumers from false or misleading advertising, we passed Senate Bill 211. SB 211 prohibits labels and advertising related to food that does not come from an animal as “meat” without further explanation. Labels must also include one of the following: “lab-grown,” “lab-created,” or “grown in a lab” if the product is made of cell-cultured materials.
If the product is vegetarian or plant-based, the label must include “vegetarian,” “veggie,” “vegan,” “plant-based,” or other similar terms.
Under the leadership of Commissioner Gary Black, our Georgia Department of Agriculture continues to update Georgia farmers on COVID-19 and its effects on the agriculture industry at its website: http://www.AGR.Georgia.gov.
In addition to the legislation passed this Session and the great work done by our Georgia Department of Agriculture, our representatives in Washington DC have supported the agriculture industry through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”).
An increase in unemployment and a decrease in commodity prices have reduced farm revenues, making it increasingly difficult for farmers. Fortunately, the CARES Act allocated $9.5 billion to the US Department of Agriculture (“USDA”).
At the direction of US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the USDA has partnered with suppliers whose workforces have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. This partnership further supports both farmers and those who may have lost their jobs during this time. The USDA is purchasing up to $3 billion of fresh produce, dairy, or meat products. These products will be packaged and distributed to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving those in need. The USDA has ordered over 80 million food boxes since May 15!
As we continue to move through these challenging times, I hope that you all are remaining safe and well. Thank you all for allowing me to represent Georgia House District 159. It is truly an honor to work for you and this great state. If you have any feedback, do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), email, or engage on Facebook. If you would like to receive email updates, please visit my website to sign up for my newsletter or email me.
Jon Burns represents District 159, which includes parts of Bulloch County in the Georgia General Assembly where he serves as the House majority leader.