(Media release from the Office of Governor Brian Kemp):

Governor Brian P. Kemp on Tuesday signed two bills that strengthen Georgia’s No. 1 industry at a ceremony in Bainbridge, accompanied by First Lady Marty Kemp, Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper, members of the General Assembly, and leaders from the state’s agriculture community. HB 545, carried by Rep. Chas Cannon and Sen. Sam Watson, creates the Agricultural Commodity Commission for Citrus Fruits, and SB 220, carried by Sen. Russ Goodman and Rep. Robert Dickey, creates the Georgia Farmland Conservation Fund.

“I am proud to sign these bills that will boost our state’s citrus production and farmland conservation efforts,” said Governor Kemp. “Georgia is home to a diverse and thriving agricultural sector, and citrus is one of our fastest-growing crops. By establishing this commission, we are ensuring that our citrus growers have the resources and representation they need to succeed in the global market. We are also investing in our rural communities by creating a fund that will provide matching grants to protect the land of farming families from development and preserve our state’s number one industry.”

Both HB 545 and SB 220 received broad bi-partisan support in the legislature.

“I want to thank Commissioner Tyler Harper and his staff for their leadership and dedication to Georgia’s agriculture industry. I also want to thank Rep. Chas Cannon, Sen. Sam Watson, Chairman Robert Dickey and Chairman Russ Goodman, Rep. John Corbett, Rep. Trey Rhodes, Rep. Penny Houston, Rep. Joe Campbell, and the various advocacy organizations that promote this thriving industry, including the Georgia Citrus Association, for their support and collaboration on these important bills,” said Governor Kemp.

HB 545 authorizes the creation of an Agricultural Commodity Commission for Citrus Fruits, which will be composed of five members appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture from a list of nominees submitted by citrus producers. The commission will have the ability to fund research, education, promotion, and marketing programs for the benefit of the industry.

SB 220 creates the Georgia Farmland Conservation Fund, which will be administered by the Department of Agriculture and will provide matching grants to certain holders or prospective holders of agricultural conservation easements.

As Georgia’s No. 1 industry, agribusiness and related fields provide an annual economic impact of over $73 billion and sustain roughly 341,000 jobs throughout the state.