Georgia Governor Nathan Deal spoke to the state’s Farm Bureau members Dec. 3, and gave them an overview of tax reform legislation, House Bill 386, passed by the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year.

In addition to eliminating sales taxes on energy used in manufacturing and the “birthday tax” Georgia residents have been paying when they renew their car tags each year by their birthday, the bill also expands existing sales tax exemptions on products used to produce farm commodities.

Deal acknowledged the role Georgia Farm Bureau played in securing expanded sales tax exemptions for farmers saying,

“Your Farm Bureau leadership was critical in making the importance of your case known to the General Assembly. Without Farm Bureau’s voice being added, this particular part of the tax reform package probably would not have been included.”

Deal said the ag sales tax exemptions will be good for Georgia.

“If we can make your crops less expensive to produce, that will make you more competitive when you sell your commodities, and I think you will help us create jobs, and that, of course, is one of our main needs,” Deal said.

Deal also highlighted other bills beneficial to agriculture that the General Assembly passed this year and he signed into law. He noted legislation that increases the punishment for metal theft and makes metal buyers more accountable for verifying that metal they buy is not stolen. 

“I know irrigation systems and poultry houses have been targets of metal theft, so hopefully this bill will lessen the incidence of these occurrences,” Deal said.

He also noted that the minimum acreage to qualify for the Conservation Use Valuation Assessment program that taxes farm and timber land on its current use rather than its fair market use was reset to 10 acres.

Another provision was added to allow landowners who purchase land adjacent to property currently enrolled in a CUVA covenant to add the new purchase to the existing covenant if the newly acquired land is less than 50 acres.

“I think this is important for us to be able to continue to preserve our productive agriculture land which helps us to remain a state where agriculture is the number one industry,” Deal said.

Deal commended agriculture for the contributions it makes to Georgia’s economy and the success of the Port of Savannah.

“Agriculture exports are a major part of the overall economy of our state and are one of the reasons our Port of Savannah remains one of the very few in the United States that has more exports than imports,” Deal said, noting that Georgia pecans have been discovered by the rest of the world and are now being shipped to China and India. 

Deal said Georgia’s ag export markets are one of the reasons it is crucial that the Port of Savannah be deepened to accommodate the larger ships that will come through the expanded Panama Canal expected to be completed in 2014 or 2015.

“If the ships can’t stop at our port, they will be forced to continue up the East coast, and we will lose out on that business. We will lose out on the efficiency and the economy of reduced shipping costs, and as a result, our state will suffer,” Deal said.