Georgia farmers will have the opportunity to reduce their tax burden and gain equality with growers in surrounding states by working for passage of Referendum A in the upcoming general election, according to officials with the Georgia Farm Bureau.

House Bill 1416, which exempts most farm equipment from ad valorem property taxes, passed by an overwhelming majority in this year's session of the Georgia General Assembly. Gov. Roy Barnes signed the bill into law in April. However, for it to become Georgia law, Georgia voters must approve Referendum A on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

Passage of Referendum A would create an ad valorem property tax exemption on farm equipment such as tractors, combines, livestock, poultry equipment and other farm equipment (other than motor vehicles) used directly in the production of agricultural products by family-owned farm-products users.

The term "family-owned qualified farm products producer" already exists in Georgia law and means an individual or family-owned farm entity, primarily engaged in the direct cultivation of the soil or production of farm products, including livestock and poultry production, row-crop production, soil removed from the land and placed in pots or containers and other operations of land for the production of qualified farm products.

Approval of Referendum A would put Georgia producers on equal footing with farmers in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia - the states with whom Georgia directly competes in the marketing of farm products.

The Georgia Department of Revenue estimates that the fiscal impact to the state, if the referendum is approved, will be more than $12.9 million. If voters agree, the exemption is slated to take effect on Jan. 1, 2001.