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Georgia Farm Bureau President Long speaks at 82nd annual convention

Georgia farmers and agribusiness leaders from across the state met on Jekyll Island Dec. 8-10 for the  82nd Annual Georgia Farm Bureau Convention. The three-day event included a trade show and educational sessions that briefed farmers on policy and production issues affecting Georgia’s major commodities.

GFB President Gerald Long delivered his annual address during the general session on Dec. 9.  U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Dist. 1) and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black also addressed convention attendees.

While delivering his annual address to GFB members, GFB President Long discussed the many ways the organization is working on behalf of Georgia farmers and rural residents.

Farmers and small business owners have long struggled to obtain affordable health care. Long said the organization is now able to offer health insurance for small businesses with 50 employees or less and sole proprietors.

“For decades our members have asked for reasonably priced health insurance, but that goal was elusive. Now, through a partnership with Anthem, formerly Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Georgia, we can offer it,” Long said.

Farm Bureau’s motto has long been “The Voice of Georgia Farmers” as it has advocated for farmers in the legislative arena.

Long noted that Farm Bureau secured a victory in September for landowners when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers repealed the “Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS)” rule it first issued in 2015. Farm Bureau opposed the rule on grounds that it constituted regulatory overreach and deviated from two Supreme Court rulings in regard to defining federally regulated waterways versus waters that are solely under state authority.

“A new WOTUS rule is currently being developed which is more respectful of private property rights,” Long said.

GFB is currently working to ensure that Georgia farmers maintain the “Right to Farm,” as urban development moves into rural areas. “Right to Repair” is another issue GFB is addressing to secure the rights of farmers to work on farm equipment that has high-tech features.

With the 2020 U.S. Census set to begin soon, Long urged farmers and rural residents to participate.

“Every ten years, the census determines funding for federal agencies and programs important to rural Georgia. This count also determines the number of seats Georgia will have in Congress and other important positions,” Long said. “In the coming months we will activate the ‘You Farm. You Count’ campaign to make sure rural Georgia is properly counted, represented and funded.”

Long also encouraged farmers and rural residents to educate all candidates running in 2020 elections about the issues that impact agriculture and rural Georgia.

“When the November 2020 election is upon us, all the candidates, whether they are Democrat or Republican, must have a strong understanding and appreciation for the importance of agriculture,” Long said. “That’s the challenge before us. We must educate these candidates before the election.”

Long also discussed three ways GFB is investing in Georgia agriculture. After Hurricane Michael, GFB created a Hurricane Michael Relief Fund that collected $665,000. In April, GFB distributed all of the donations to Georgia farmers who submitted applications demonstrating they suffered damages or losses that wouldn’t be covered by traditional disaster aid.

In 2018 and 2019, GFB has invested $150,000 in agricultural research addressing production issues Georgia farmers are facing on their farms. Long announced that GFB will invest another $125,000 in ag research in 2020.

The GFB Mobile Ag Classroom that Long announced at last year’s convention is in the process of being constructed and is expected to be unveiled at next year’s convention, Long said.

“For many years, county Farm Bureau across the state have urged our organization to start a Mobile Ag Classroom. The unit is under construction right now, so it is going to happen. Our organization will make its way across the state educating children about agriculture.”