HB 1303 amends Part 3 of Article 6 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 to transition an agricultural pilot program to a permanent educational program. Representative Dickey mentioned that the pilot had tremendous success and is working to tackle food deserts while educating children on STEM and agriculture. Representative Dickey noted that one change provided in the substitute changes a shall to a may in line 29.
Senator Kim Jackson (D-Stone Mountain) asked about the change made on line 29 regarding employing an agricultural education teacher. She further asked how many teachers Georgia had to properly teach students on agricultural education. Representative Dickey noted that many of the teachers were in upper levels and often take a period during the day to go to elementary school. Senator Tyler Harper chimed in and noted that many of the schools were churning out agriculture curricula to their educational schools. He added that he was not concerned about meeting this requirement.
Senator Lee Anderson (R-Grovetown) was curious what the youngest grade would be to start this curriculum. Representative Dickey mentioned this was for K-5 in elementary schools and that the schools would be the ultimate decider. Joel Mackey from the Georgia Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association noted that many of the teachers were in middle and high schools as Representative Dickey earlier mentioned. Mr. Mackey added that certified elementary school teachers would only need nine additional hours of certification for agricultural certification.
A DO PASS motion was made, and the bill passed unanimously and is headed to Senate Rules. It will be carried by Senator Max Burns (R-Sylvania).
HB 1150, also known as the “Freedom to Farm Act”, amends Code Section 41-1-7 of the OCGA. The measure attempts to change Georgia’s nuisance laws specific to farms. It removes the definitions of agricultural area, changed condition, and urban sprawl.
Senator Kim Jackson asked a hypothetical about a farm that already exists, and a new neighbor moves in. They cannot file a suit against the current farmer. The second hypothetical was if she was not a farmer, and in year one, there is no issue with the neighboring farm, but in year two, it became a nuisance. Would the pre-dating neighbor be able to sue? Representative Dickey was unsure and felt that what would be happening the first year or different the second. Senator Jackson mentioned she had chickens and that the first year and second year are different, which does accumulate. Senator Jacksons is concerned about this. Chairman Walker directed these questions to Legislative Counsel.
Senator Sheikh Rahman (D-Lawrenceville) asked if an example could be given for a small family farm which this bill would help. Representative Dickey mentioned this happens through intimidation tactics and has a friend in his district going through this.
Senator Freddie Powell Sims (D-Albany) asked how many nuisance lawsuits have happened in the state and referenced her experience that complaints come from family farmers and non-farmers. Representative Dickey felt that this is an ongoing issue that people do not discuss it.
Senator Russ Goodman (R-Cogdell) asked if the intention of this bill was to invest in the stability of farms so we can keep up with the food requirements of the world. Representative Dickey noted that yes, it was.
Senator Max Burns noted that the current law had not been changed regarding the one year more and appreciated the carve-out for CAFOs and followed up about the definition of improper. Representative Dickey felt that the local laws and rules and regulations would have the proper definitions and felt that locals would know better.
Senator Carden Summers (R-Cordele) wanted to ensure that farmers would be getting more protection. Representative Dickey firmly answered that this was not giving more protection but providing clarity.
Senator Bo Hatchett (R-Cornelia) wanted clarification on how the laws were to protect farmers from neighborhoods from coming in that had been there for a year. He noted that the definition is being removed and is concerned over the changed condition language that has been misinterpreted in other states. He further noted that the farmer must be operating lawfully. All points made, Representative Dickey agreed.
Senator Kim Jackson noted that the author had frequently been mentioning that farmers are being brought into court and asked if this would help because it does not prohibit a frivolous lawsuit in her reading. Representative Dickey noted that it was explicit but felt this would be a great deterrent. Senator Jackson noted that traditionally the time clock had been tied to the nuisance beganring, not when the activity began. The Senator wondered if the author was amenable to the change. Representative Dickey expressed concern that it would continue too long, which had been a problem in the past.
Senator Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) provided history on previous legislation and amendments which passed the Senate.
Chairman Walker noted this was a hearing only on the measure, and no committee action was taken. The next meeting public testimony will be allowed.