Georgia Farm Bureau Faces List of Concerns Water, Rules, Prices Become Major Topics
Dickson, Terry, The Florida Times Union
BRUNSWICK -- Georgia Farm Bureau Federation delegates will gather today on Jekyll Island for their convention in which they will set policy and elect a president.
Wayne Dollar, who is finishing his second three-year term as president of the 322,000-member organization has opposition from Terrell Hudson, a Dooly County farmer.
Hudson, who raises cattle and grows cotton, peanuts and timber on a family farm established in 1894, said he has been campaigning since February at the urging of friends and fellow farmers.
"A group of my friends, I guess, saw more in me than I saw in myself," he said.
Dollar defeated Mort Ewing six years ago to win the presidency. As he seeks a third term, farmers are facing many crises not of their making, including a prolonged drought that has reduced yields and caused some fields to go unplanted.
"I think water is going to be one of the most important issues," he said.
There was a time when farmers had all the water they wanted, but Georgia's rapid development has brought more industry and people to the state, all of whom need water.
In addition to water, Dollar ticked off a laundry list of problems.
"We've still got bothersome environmental regulations. As always, you have to combat crop prices and the weather," he said. "We have deep concerns about trade issues on how we're going to deal with the European Community and China."
Many farmers in Southeast Georgia are worried about further reduction in the tobacco allotments for the third straight year, which would further deprive them of what was once a dependable cash crop, he said.
Most of those issues cannot be resolved in the farmers' interest without steady lobbying in Washington and Atlanta, something the agency has done for years, Dollar said.
"Legislation is vital to the Farm Bureau. It's always critical and will continue to be," he said.
Many laws that will benefit farmers have come during Dollar's tenure.
Among them is an exemption that will save row crop farmers more than $300,000 and poultry farmers more than $800,000 in sales taxes on electricity they use.
In 1998, voters approved a property tax exemption on livestock and commodities that will save farmers $3 million annually.
The Georgia Farm Bureau lobbied for the enabling legislation and other bills that established a Southern Dairy Compact to stabilize diary prices; for the Cotton Producers Indemnity Fund, which distributed $10 million to farmers who lost money when a broker declared bankruptcy; and for the Tobacco Community Development Board, which oversees the distribution of tobacco settlement funds. …