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Kemp, state leaders signs farming legislation

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Governor Brian Kemp and other leaders signed legislation to support locally grown food, farming, and farming education.

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Governor Brian Kemp and other state leaders joined to sign farming legislation.

Governor Brian P. Kemp, joined by First Lady Marty Kemp, legislators, and other special guests, signed his administration’s Georgia Grown Farm to Food Bank legislation (SB 396), the Freedom to Farm Act (HB 1150), and a bill to expand the elementary agriculture education program (HB 1303).

First Lady Marty Kemp joined Governor Brian Kemp and other state leaders in signing farming legislation.

An excerpt of Governor Kemp’s remarks from the bill signing ceremony is featured below.

HB 1150 – The Freedom to Farm Act
I will be signing three bills into law this afternoon. The first of these is HB 1150, often referred to as the Freedom to Farm Act.

Since the very founding of Georgia centuries ago… agriculture has been the foundation of our economic success. Even after all these years of new economy job growth here in the No. 1 state for business, agribusiness continues to be our No. 1 industry. That will always be one of the defining traits of the Peach State.

As the global marketplace continues to react to Russia’s unprovoked and unjust war in Ukraine – Europe’s breadbasket – the importance of the ag sector here in America, and especially here in Georgia, will only continue to grow. Our farming families are more important than ever, and that’s one of many reasons why its so crucial we protect their way of life.

That’s why I’m thankful to the many partners who put years of study and hard work into what ultimately became HB 1150.

This legislation increases and clearly defines protection for both farmers and property owners while still addressing bad actors.

For three years, concerned parties on all sides have worked on this issue, and today we can finally bring their concerns to an end.

I want to thank Tom McCall and his team at the Georgia Farm Bureau for helping us get this legislation across the finish line. Tom originally carried this bill in the state House of Representatives in 2019, and now as president of the Farm Bureau, along with his public policy team led by Alex Bradford, he has seen it come to fruition.

I also want to recognize and thank Will Bentley and Jake Tench of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, Andres Villegas of the Georgia Forestry Association, Mike Giles and Abit Massey of the Georgia Poultry Federation, and all the many stakeholders who contributed their insight and support during the legislative process and the years that were put into this bill.

HB 1303 – Expansion of Elementary Agriculture Education

Next, I will proudly sign another of Chairman Dickey’s bills, HB 1303, which expands the elementary agriculture education program first established in 2018.

As I said earlier, this field has never been more important, and that importance won’t go away any time soon, even after the war in Ukraine eventually ends, inflation recedes, and new generations of farmers are where we’re standing now.

Farming is the oldest and some would say the most important of professions, because without it none of the other professions would exist. Food is one of the most basic of human needs. When that need isn’t met, very little else matters.

That’s why we need not only to support and protect today’s farmers, we also need to cultivate the generations of farmers that will follow them.

Both the physical and economic wellbeing of all Georgians depends on it.

Former Senator John Wilkinson understands this well, which is why when he was in the legislature he carried the bill that established the pilot program at six elementary schools in our state four years ago. It has been incredibly successful, and today we make that program permanent.

So, let me thank the men and women who made this bill possible, recognizing the need to inspire the next generation of Georgia farmers: Chairman Dickey; Chairman England; Superintendent Woods and his team at the Department of Education; including the Agriculture Education staff members Billy Hughes and Crista Steinkamp (unfortunately, Superintendent Woods couldn’t be with us today, but we’re appreciative of his efforts on this bill and his service); State Board Chair Jason Downey, who we’re honored to have with us today; and other state school board members; the Georgia Vocational Agricultural Teachers Association; Joel McKie, who spearheaded much of the advocacy for this bill; former Senator John Wilkinson; Dalton and Emily Greene; and especially our hardworking agriculture educators across the state.

SB 396 – Farm to Food Bank

Lastly, but certainly not least, I am happy to sign SB 396, which was one of my legislative priorities this session.

In a time when the country is facing sky-high inflation due to policies coming out of Washington and after two years of battling the pandemic and its economic challenges, more Georgia families are facing food insecurity.

Our farmers are also facing rising costs and new economic hurdles, some of which prevent produce from making it to market due to high picking, packing, and shipping costs. SB 396 lays out a framework and helps cover those costs to provide more Georgians with fresh produce and protein. This benefits and strengthens both farming families and foodbanks.

The Farm to Foodbank legislation does something I’m always supportive of, it makes state government more efficient. By updating the code section of this program – first established in 1998 and both underutilized and never funded until now – we are connecting foodbanks in need directly with farmers who will benefit from being able to bring more products to market.

This program also helps food banks by giving them more resources to purchase Georgia Grown fresh produce, opens the market to stretch program funding, and enables them to better serve their clients.

I also want to thank those in the General Assembly who ensured proper funding for this program made it into the coming fiscal year’s budget. As I mentioned, this program had never been funded before. Now, we are investing $800,000 to bring new life into the program and combat food insecurity.

As someone who day in and day out addresses the concerns of Georgians in need, Commissioner Candice Broce of the Department of Human Services has also been a strong partner in this endeavor, and we appreciate all she has done to see this through. Unfortunately, she couldn’t be with us today, but we thank her for her continued support and service.

And before I sign this bill into law, I also want to thank Danah Craft of the Georgia Food Bank Association, the Georgia Farm Bureau, the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, and the Georgia Agribusiness Council for their support and for all they do to put quality food on Georgians’ tables.

Together, we are doing our part to fight hunger and chronic disease by increasing access to wholesome, nutritious foods while supporting the farm families that our state relies on.

With these bills and others that I will sign into law in the coming weeks, we once again underscore the importance of Georgia’s No. 1 industry; we further support the hardworking men and women who help to make our state the best place to live, work, and raise a family and put food on our tables, in our grocery stores, and at our farmers markets; and we strengthen the values embodied by our farming families.

Thank you, and let’s make some law!